Technically, the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo doesn't begin until Tuesday, but as usual, Sunday and Monday have their own presentations and press conferences from companies looking to jump the gun a little bit. This morning was Microsoft's big presentation, and while there were no real surprises, there were still some crowd-pleasing announcements. And much to my delight, there were quite a few Kinect games showcased. In fact, Kinect was all over Microsoft's 2011 press conference.
There are plenty of games that are adding Kinect support, like Mass Effect 3's use of voice controlled squadmates (and the odd ability to speak the next line of dialogue in the conversation tree instead of selecting it with the controller) to Ghost Recon's motion-controlled weapon customization (which while it looked cool, seems ultimately useless).
But as for games using the Kinect fully, there were many, but few standouts. Ryse looks intriguing; It's set in ancient Rome, and there was Kinect-controlled sword and shield battles in the trailer. Then there was Fable: The Journey, which is a first-person Fable game where you cast spells against your enemies with hand gestures that looked really fun and cool. The Star Wars Kinect game was a little bit of a letdown (to me, anyway) as it appears to be set in the Clone Wars universe with slightly more realistic graphics. Swinging your lightsaber looks cool, but the guy demoing the game activated his weapon by actually saying "Lightsaber, on!" which was kind of awkward. What, they couldn't let you activate it with the flick of a wrist or something? The problem with all of these kinds of games are that while they look cool, you have to remember that they're all going to be on-rails shooters. Because while you can wave your arms around to cast spells or wield weapons, you can't actually move around your living room to move in the game. So what you're left with are a bunch of on-rails shooters with motion controls. We'll just have to wait and see how those end up playing when the games come out. (Or when I get a chance to play them on the show floor, hopefully!)
There were also a couple of kids games that included a virtual Disneyland that you could explore and instead of rides, play mini-games, and a Sesame Street game that looks like another mini-game collection, but since it comes from the mind of Tim Shafer, could actually be a diamond in the rough of licensed properties. But again, these motion controls aren't doing anything we haven't seen before.
It's sad when the only Kinect game announced that I got more than a little bit excited about was Dance Central 2. And that was mostly because they announced they're going to let you import all your songs from DC1 and they're adding simultaneous multiplayer. The Kinect is a really amazing piece of technology, but I just feel like developers haven't really explored the possibilities. While I didn't see the "Milo" demonstration from Lionhead, that felt to me like the kind of creative use of the tech that could revolutionize things. Now all we're left with are a glut of exercise games and on-rails shooters. Where's the adventure game where you can reach out and touch and manipulate objects in real time? Where's the motion-controlled puzzle game like Picross 3D or something? I know I shouldn't judge until I've actually had a chance to play some of these games, but I can't help but feel a little disappointed.
I feel like it was very telling when Microsoft referred to them as "Kinect Experiences" instead of "Kinect Games."