Around a year ago, we got our first look at Microsoft’s latest innovation for their Xbox 360 console, their motion controller; Project Natal and a lot of people have been wanting to see just how well this works, well I recently got the chance to have a hands-on (so to speak) preview!
Ever since Project Natal (or Xbox Kinect as it’s now known as) was announced, I’ve been very keen to see quite what it’s capable of because the potential it holds for future games could be substantial as shown in the videos at E3 2009, especially the Milo interactive artificial intelligence that Peter Molyneux’s developers created in just a short time of having access to this in-development Xbox motion controller accessory.
Anyway, here’s what I thought of my preview session…
Party Gaming With Xbox Kinect Instead of Nintendo Wii?
Having played a fewgames in the past, I’ve never been hugely impressed by them to be honest, however I’d perhaps be more inclined to play party-style games (such as the one I played at the demo) using Kinect since it means you don’t need to hold a controller like with the Wii Remote. Why do I say this? Well at least you don’t need to buy several more controllers to use with your console and if nothing else, you no longer have the risk of throwing your motion controller straight at your TV.
The sports/party demo game seems to involve or force whole body movement so will probably make for a better exercise system than the similar Nintendo Wii games that you can ‘trick’ with simple motion controller movements. The system does kind of remind me of the Playstation EyeToy kind of concept, just taken to a much better level — at least in terms of this one particular game. Will this help to seal the end of the Nintendo Wii?
The party-style game I played also has social networking integration (which many if not all Kinect games will feature), which basically means you are able to share your gaming scores or simply showing people pictures of you playing Kinect…that make you look like you’re doing a weird dance!
Xbox Kinect Motion Tracking
During my Xbox Kinect preview, I only got to play with a single game (the one shown on stage at last year’s E3 demo) in which the outline of your body is shown on screen and you move to hit a ball against blocks, however I was quite impressed by the actual motion tracking software seemed pretty good. It looked to me as though it was tracking one-to-one and seemed very accurate, certainly in terms of the dimensions I was using for the game I got to play.
How does it work in 3 dimensions? Well, the game I played meant I was mainly moving left, right, up, down, so it will be interesting to see quite how well Kinect picks up on movements towards and away from the screen. Although, during the menu screens, it did seem to pick up the fact that I was reaching forward with my arm/hand to select options, so that bodes quite well for dealing with picking up when you move backwards and forwards from the stereoscopic camera hardware.
That said, it’ll be interesting to test the depth of field with games that don’t rely on just 2-axis movement. How would it fair with a golf or bowling game? Hopefully, we’ll find out soon!
Xbox Kinect Connectivity
What I was able to see during my preview session with this Xbox 360 motion controller was that it was connected to an Xbox console using one of the front USB ports. Also, there shouldn’t any need to have plus it into a power socket as it should get enough power from the USB port, especially since it was announced that Xbox Kinect (Project Natal) will be software-based, so there are no specific hardware chips that require large amounts of power.
Xbox Kinect Games Set For Release
Along with the official name, a few games were announced that will be released with the Xbox 360 motion controller:
- Kinectimals — This is a game that will let you play and train your pet cats, which will include Lions and Tigers. Not one I’m interested in, but I’m sure those who were Nintendogs fans will love it.
- Kinect Sports — This will be Microsoft’s answer to Wii Sports-style games. Games like bowling, boxing, track and field, football, beach volleyball and table tennis. It’ll be interesting to see if this raises the bar for motion controlled sports.
- Kinect Adventures — This is an ‘on-rails’ game which will include river rafting and mine carts.
- Joyride — A racing game where you’ll use your hands for the steering wheel which requires you to use your whole body for controls. Move your hands forwards and backwards to accelerate and break and your body to pull off tricks. Could be some interesting YouTube videos from this one!!
- Dance Central — This one leaves little to the imagination. I’m guessing it will be involved dancing to a beat and making sure you pull off the right moves! I’d rather pull my fingernails off, but I’m sure a lot of people will find this one fun.
There’s even been a Star Wars game that has been shown off, with the user wielding a lightsaber and facing off against Darth Vader! Put anything that can break away for this one. With no controller limiting gamers, this could get out of hand quicker than a bar fight on Mos Eisley. But great fun none the less.
Hopefully, the AI Milo character interaction will be making another appearance soon as I was very impressed with it last year and it was nowhere near completion, presumably it’s gone through a lot more development, perhaps we’ll see it featured in Peter Molyneux’s Fable 3 game?
Overall, I think that Microsoft’s Xbox 360 motion controller has some interesting potential and look forward to finding out more about it, hopefully, this system will be used for more than just “party games” though.
Xbox Kinect has a release date of November 2010, right around the time for Santa to start getting orders. There’s still no definite price, but it’s looking like ‘Kinect’ will be around £100 but at that price, it could still be worth it.
So are you looking forward to the release of the Xbox 360 motion controller formerly known as Project Natal, now officially named ‘Xbox Kinect’? Are you still a bit sceptical about the concept? What do you think to the new name?
Simon Barker is the founder and editor of Zath and has over 25 years’ worth of experience of using computers and technology in general. He can normally be found researching or testing the latest in technology products.
He has provided IT consultancy services to both home and small business users for over 15 years, building PCs, fixing hardware/software problems and providing comprehensive training.
Simon always likes to get the best out of the technology products he is using, by both making informed purchasing decisions and also optimising how they are used to get the most benefits possible.