Microsoft’s Kinect for the XBOX 360 launched this week with the kind of fanfare that you would expect from one of the world’s biggest games console manufacturers, but does this latest gadget actually live up to the hype.
The Kinect is Microsoft’s answer to the Nintendo Wii, which has stolen a march on the family gaming market in recent years by offering family friendly games, innovative ideas and a style of gameplay that had never been seen before.
Microsoft have decided that they want to claw some of that market back from their Japanese rival and, after a recent shift towards family games, Kinect represents their latest weapon in the fight with Mario, Luigi and co.
Kinect will set you back £129 for the sensor and a copy of Kinect Adventures alone, whilst gamers looking to get their first XBOX console or to upgrade their existing one can pick up Kinect with a 4GB XBOX 360 console for £249.
So what makes Kinect different to the established, and cheaper, Wii? Well, it is more about what you don’t get, rather than what you do get, that makes the Kinect unique.
With the Wii, you rely on the movement of the wireless controllers which, depending on the game you are playing, require a variety of accessories and combinations, some more elaborate than others. With Kinect however, you don’t need any of that. All you need is your own body.
Kinect relies purely on your own body movements. When your arm moves, you character’s arm moves. When your hips swing, your characters hips swing. Throughout the game, the Kinect sensors are constantly scanning your body so that when, for example, you are playing Boxing on Kinect Sports, the punch that you make with your body will be replicated exactly by your character. No wires, no controllers, no fuss.
The lack of controllers means that players won’t experience the frustration that they may have experienced with other controller-based systems when the console fails to accurately read the signal from the user. Here, the Kinect is pointing its sensors directly at you and you alone, meaning no missed commands.
At the moment, the range of games is limited to Kinect Adventures, which comes in the box, as well as Kinect Sports (featuring boxing, football, beach volleyball, track and field, table tennis and bowling), the racing game Kinect Joy Ride and Kinectimals, a game based on the classic ‘cyber pet’ craze.
So, has the Kinect done enough to dethrone the Wii? Well, it’s early days yet. The launch games for Kinect are promising and if the titles continue to hit the shelves in the coming weeks and months, it could be the Kinect that is sat beneath most Christmas trees this December.