Hindsight can be a vicious and fickle bitch- so here at Dealspwn, we like to subject the hottest gaming properties to an in depth analysis after the hype and honeymoon period have died down. Playstation Move, Halo Reach and Black Ops haven't escaped our critical retroactive gaze... but a little hindsight is absolutely crucial for a brand new concept like Kinect. A number of important issues and limitations have arisen after a two weeks of testing, so consider this an important supplement to our full review. Does the novelty wear off? Is it really worth your money at this stage? Let's find out!
Kinect Hub: Integration Fail
As I stated in the full review, a wave of the hand whisks you away from the dashboard into the Kinect Hub: a selection of large inviting panels that can be activated by hovering the cursor over them for a period of time. This was undeniably good fun during the honeymoon period... but after a fortnight, it's imperative to discuss this feature in greater detail. The hub only lets you play a disc, deck out your avatar and engage in some housekeeping apps... but what if you want to quickly browse the marketplace between gaming sessions? Or look at your games library? Or do anything beyond the simplest of activities? You'll have to quit back to the dashboard and pick up a regular controller. It's a basic flowbreaking flaw that feels incredibly bizarre as you'd rightly expect Kinect to be integrated into every aspect of day-to-day operation.
The same is true for voice control. Rather than being able to use vocal commands as a timesaving device, you can only interact with options that are already on the screen. It's profoundly bewildering that you can't use it to leap from menu to menu with merry abandon- and it nerfs the incredibly powerful tool into little more than an entertaining novelty.
Microsoft's segregation of hub and dashboard represents nothing less than a complete failure to integrate Kinect into the core Xbox experience. It's a basic and unfortunate example of software failing to utilise the excellent hardware to a fraction of its potential- which I fear will become a familiar theme in future Kinect game reviews. Subsequent updates and patches will hopefully start to merge Kinect functionality into the dashboard- but for now, it's an annoying oversight that rankles after a only couple of weeks. Get it fixed, Microsoft.
Space Odyssey And Facial Recognition
Does Kinect really need all that space to function properly? Yeah. However, singleplayer and hotswap games can be carried out in a long and narrow space, meaning that deep lounges can be used at a pinch. Simultaneous multiplayer, on the other hand, consistently requires at least 6 feet of width. Many prospective players will need to consider positioning their televisions at an angle and mounting the sensor on the leading edge of the stand.
Facial recognition can also be a little hit-and-miss. Despite regularly using the Kinect ID app, the peripheral has trouble recognising me after relatively minor growth of facial hair and my signature buzz cut. Bizarrely, Kinect also seems to work better in dim to moderately lit conditions. Uplighting and indirect illumination is absolutely perfect.
What Games Should I Get?
It's important to continually stress the fact that Kinect is an absolutely wonderful piece of hardware... but it's useless without games to back it up. With little in the way of exciting new titles being released before Christmas, it's important to pick the right software to make the most of the experience. We'll link to our reviews for your convenience.
- Kinect Adventures is fun as far as it goes. It's little more than a tech demo, but provides an excellent diversion with fun multiplayer, deceptively deep solo modes and some nifty avatar awards. You'll soon need to bolster your library, mind.
- In terms of raw quality, Dance Central is Kinect's killer app. No question. Everyone from hardened gaming veterans to will have an absolute blast (and shed a few pounds) with Harmonix' energetic masterpiece. Having said that, it's uniquely poor for demonstrating motion capture to other people due to its passive and reactive gameplay.
- Kinect Sports and Kinectimals should be your next port of call. They're both capable minigame collections- so users with younger children should consider the cutesy Kinectimals as being an investment in wholesome family fun. Kinect Sports is genuinely inclusive for all ages and abilities- and is one of the best pieces of software for showing off Kinect's motion capture capabilities to your mates.
- To guarantee genuine long-term value from the peripheral, I'd strongly suggest investing in Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. It's a joy to use for half an hour every day, with cumulative achievements netting you gamerscore as you burn calories and get fitter. It's also a lot of fun.
As far as the rest of the lineup is concerned... use caution. Sonic Free Riders is extremely disappointing, though Joy Ride is actually a surprisingly solid kart racer that would actually benefit from a regular controller. Demos are available on Xbox Live marketplace and I'd urge you to try before you even think about buying.
Does The Novelty Wear Off... And Should I Buy It?
This is the million dollar question. Does the novelty wear off? Of course it does... but there's a catch. After several days of gleeful exercise and endorphin-producing shenanigans, the thrill of controller free gaming subsides and forces players to judge each title on their own merits. However, unlike most 'novelty' items, Kinect doesn't slide into disappointment and resentment; rather, the experience plateaus into a base level of imaginative fun that's still an absolute blast for a couple of hours a day.
As far as buying the peripheral is concerned, our prognosis remains unchanged. If you're already sold by the idea of controller-less motion capture then Kinect will not disappoint. But if you're sitting on the fence or can't quite see the point, the current games lineup will do nothing to persuade you. For most consumers, the smart decision would be to hold off until the new year... when a slew of hardcore titles from veteran developers will be hitting the platform as well as improved firmware. Naturally we'll keep you informed about the latest developments.