Kinect, the motion-sensing peripheral for the Microsoft Xbox 360, hits store shelves this week. The device, originally known as Project Natal, will go head-to-head against the Sony PlayStation Move, which is already reportedly selling well. (For a full run-down of how both devices could affect the video game market, check out our September report on the Kinect and Move.) So how does the Kinect stack up? Let's go to the scoreboards.
The Kinect, he gushes, "is an absolute pleasure to have in the home. Much more importantly, it's a reliable one. Within an hour of messing about with the Kinect Dashboard, any nagging question marks over lag and unresponsiveness are snuffed out. Your on-screen hand icon matches your real-life movements near-perfectly, whilst the voice commands.... are an absolute revelation."
So the Kinect works. But is it fun to play? Luke Westaway of CNET UK has a simple answer: "In a word: absolutely. In more words: absolutely, so long as you don't mind sacrificing all of the dignity you've spent your whole life accruing. We've spent several days playing our way through the launch titles and concluded that it's impossible to maintain any sense of self-respect while playing."
Playing the Kinect is embarrassing, he continues, "but that's a big part of the fun. Similarly, watching your friends flailing around like loonies is a treat not to be missed." Of course, not all reviewers are enamored with the Microsoft Kinect. Criticism of the peripheral tends to center around three main problems: The Kinect can be a pain to set up; the Kinect needs a whole lot of living-room space to work; and the Kinect needs some better titles.
"The first time I ran Kinect ID, it took about 20 minutes," Joystiq's Randy Nelson writes of the Kinect set-up software. "I was constantly being prompted to keep my face visible and, several times, had to dismiss a warning that the sensor couldn't see my face at all. When it was finished, my console could not recognize me when I stood in front of it and waved (the gesture used to tell it you want to start using gestural input). I was puzzled by the situation."
"If I had to pinpoint Kinect's one major source of problems," writes Jason Chen of Gizmodo, "it's that the camera's viewing angle is too narrow. Not only does this restrict the play area to a 6 – 8 foot block in front of the TV but it can barely hold two wildly gesticulating people on screen without one of the players being cut out and told to step back into frame."
Similarly, Gieson Cacho, of the Contra Costa Times, had trouble making enough room to really get things going. Kinect players, Cacho writes, "will have to rearrange their living room to properly use the sensor. Having a heavy coffee table won't help because the Kinect needs six to 10 feet of open space in front of it most of the time."
We'll give the last work to Stephen Totilo of Kotaku, who points out that the Kinect has launched "the way a new console does: with raw potential and some half-baked execution. At launch you can discover wonderful details, like the fact that Dance Central and Kinect Joy Ride pause when you step away from your TV. But you can also find frustration at games that don't share the same methods for skipping cut-scenes or advancing through menus."
"It's confusing to be using a Kinect on day one," he continues. "You may fall in love with the voice control, as I did, but then switch from ESPN to Zune and discover that the former doesn't use the same voice controls as the latter. These wrinkles need ironing."