In 2006, Nintendo released the Wii. The prospect of flailing your arms around, knocking over nearby lamps, small children and severely endangering the lives of family pets was evidently more excitement than the game-buying public could handle, and they immediately began exploding into piles of cash at every counter at every games retailer up and down the country. At which point Ninty looked pleased, shook each other’s hands, sat back and opened the flood gates for several million cases of unrelenting shovelware titles, perhaps in an attempt to drown its user base. Repeat process using games starring rehashed characters that are over 20 years old and baffling interactive fitness videos and BANG, welcome to 2010, and they’re still sitting comfortably at the top of the table, launching a copy of Big Beach Sports at any straggler who tries to claw their way up their unattainable podium. Good old Nintendo eh.
Of course, those four years didn’t go by without our other two favourite squabbling children noticing. Sure they had bigger, louder, more frequently malfunctioning console’s, but they were still sat eating Nintendo’s kart-produced dust. Finally the two amalgamated the idea that THEY COULD DO IT TOO, and frantically started rooting through Nintendo’s bins in an attempt to scrape something together. Microsoft came out of the dumpsters holding a prosthetic hand aloft, while Sony stood staring blinkingly at a light bulb they’d stuck in the end of a bike handle. Four years later, and here we are, Move and Kinect, Sony and Microsoft’s valiant market lassoing attempts. It’s like watching a child’s What I Made in Class Today show and tell. But with more bickering.
When we tried Move at the Playstation Beta Rooms in August, it was clear the hardware was a functioning bit of tech, rather than just a stick with a fancy light bulb on top, as we sort of presumed it would be. Whilst the software wasn’t at all up to scratch, the few that exemplified the idea that the camera knows exactly the whereabouts of that controller, which way up it is and which way it’s facing, did just that pretty impressively. It mainly suffered in communication to the user as to what it wanted (by the end of the Heavy Rain demo, I had my eyes closed and was wind milling the controller around wildly in the hope of it finally recognizing my actions) and getting across the player’s perception of depth in the games (I lost at table tennis lots).
Whilst Move spiralled into commercial existence last month, to an allegedly lukewarm reaction from gamers, that only leaves Kinect to drop in November. At EuroGamer, after all these months, we finally got a go with Kinect.
We were shocked.
Regrettably, we only got to try Joyride, Microsoft’s token racing title for launch. You don’t accelerate, you steer using an imaginary steering wheel, and boost by pushing the imaginary steering wheel away from your chest… straight through the imaginary dashboard. Our first hurdle was navigating the menus. Now, in fairness, Guesty got to be player one, (much to my, and no doubt the on-looking Kinect representatives’ combined dread) so we have to allow Kinect a little leeway here, as Guesty often finds door handles a challenging obstacle. However it was clear the sensor wasn’t quite picking up his hand movements. As we went to select the re-race option, the cursor moved with his hand initially, but then suddenly stopped, catching up seconds later and shooting off screen, as if it had seen a pretty lady cursor floating around the adjacent pod. Eventually we got the game going.
When it worked well, it was a bizarre sensation. Not necessarily a bad one, but weird nonetheless, managing to successfully steer a car using nothing other than a child-like interpretation of driving. However the accuracy simply wasn’t there. I tried to vary my actions to see how large ones worked against smaller gestures. I tried positioning my shoulders differently. I even tried leaning. But it simply couldn’t do what I wanted it to instinctively. I ended up veering off the course on several occasions, or taking shortcuts I’d never actually intended to do. As mentioned to boost, you have to pull your arms back toward your chest, and then push them out forward. Interestingly, it recognized this motion pretty much dead on every time. Aside from this, we spectated many others playing Kinect Adventures, and the table tennis game from Kinect Sports. We both noticed a good half a second to a second delay in the actions being replicated on screen. Something that left us feeling a little worried.
Now, I wouldn’t play Family Games Night on the Wii and judge it solely on that (although admittedly I might as well) so I don’t want to condemn Kinect in such a way. There are also a number of environmental factors to include. It was relatively dark in the Kinect booth, there was plenty of movement going on behind me, and Lady Gaga’s Pokerface was repeatedly blaring out of the Dance Central stage on the opposite side. Loud, incessantly annoying noises. With all these things in mind and our relatively short time with the device, it’d certainly be a shame to write off Kinect right now. Safe to say though, if on release, the sensor is anything like our playtest, we’re looking at the biggest disappointment this side of the entire British Government.
Respawn In 5 will get another chance to play Kinect roughly two weeks before its 9th November release, at which time we’ll update, and let you know whether you should really be touching one this holiday, or if you’ll be sticking with those trusty thumbs instead.
Respawn bitches. We out.