So... Kinect Part II

Fate moves in mysterious ways. Usually behind you, grinning like a large convict who's just asked you to pick up the soap. After my previous rant on Kinect, I went off to my Xbox 360 to fire up a DVD while I ate dinner. Much to my dismay, the drive refused to spin up. After several attempts I finally got the damn thing working again, but this 360 elite is a good few years old now, and I resigned myself to the fact I'd need to upgrade to one of those swanky new 360 slims with the built in wi-fi that I'd been coveting.

So I took my old elite down to the game shop and traded it in for £80 towards my new Xbox 250gig. That same morning I had just seen this awesome video, and it got me thinking what the future may hold now the Kinect was capable of running on Windows. So I dared the question “How much for a Kinect bundle?” The clerk's eyes lit up like Christmas. “That'll be an extra fifty quid. You don't get the game though.” Fifa or MoH? Two games I'll never play anyway. I thought about it for a moment and then decided to go for it. I'd been toying with the idea all day, so really my mind was already made up. What was an extra £50, when the only game being released in this pay period was AC: Brotherhood?

Ten minutes later I walked out of the shop, new Slim 360 in hand. I'd just like to talk about this machine for a brief moment before moving onto the Kinect as it bears mention. It's much smaller, much quieter and looks the biz. The piano black finish is going to attract grime though, so be warned. The touch sensitive buttons are a nice feature, but purely bling with no real function. Don't be in a huge rush to upgrade if you have an Elite, but the quieter running is very nice. One thing though, the fucker doesn't have a memory card socket on it. Which means unless I can somehow get the data off my memory card, I've lost ALL my hard earned saves. That, REALLY pissed me off. EDIT- I have since discovered that you can use any USB Flash drive as a memory card. Sorry, that one passed me by.

So, Kinect. Setting it up is a pain in the ARSE. It took me about an hour of updates, waving cards around and being forced into ludicrous positions before it was ready to rumble. The problems people have been reporting about space? No joke. I have a pretty sizeable living room, and I had to push my TV right back into the unit, jostling for every inch for that little bloody sensor to use. Do not buy this item unless you have at least seven foot of space in front of your TV. That is the bare minimum- six foot works, but you won't have room to step backwards (the backs of my knees where grinding the futon for the first half hour), so avoid that if you can.

I played around with the Kinect hub for a little while, but honestly it's useless. It's far slower than using a controller, except for the speech commands. These will only be useful to you though if you're using things like the Zune service on a frequent basis. Further compounding my irritation was that the Kinect hub didn't contain my most used feature- the marketplace. Plus the sensor was really starting to creep me out. There's something downright disconcerting about an oblong piece of black plastic with a luminous red eye, turning to look right at your face. You know what I mean.

So far, I was impressed by the technology, but the implementation was a joke. A £50 joke. There was nothing here that couldn't be done more quickly with a controller.

So I sighed and put in Kinect adventures.

What happened next can only be described as a mental regression to the state of a five year old, on a sugar high, in a playhouse. Fun doesn't even begin to describe it. I've become far more mature in recent years with my approach games, I appreciate them for their narrative, their game play mechanics, their characters, use of new ideas and so forth. I now realize I've missed the whole point of videogames- they are supposed to be fun. They exist to be enjoyed, be that through overcoming a challenge for a sense of achievement, tugging at emotional strings, or the satisfaction of just doing something totally stupid and getting away with it.

After sitting though a toe curlingly family friendly intro I jumped (no pun intended) into my first game, which is best described as 3D breakout. Your body is the paddle. After mere seconds I was hooked. I then realized that simply moving my body in the way of the ball wasn't enough- I could slap the ball with my hands to give it speed so it would break the blocks more easily. The fun increased as I started to punt the bloody thing with all my might. The five year old in the back of my head downed his last tube of sherbet and stirred, ready to take the back the body he had so long been barred from. Then came the moment of glory, the moment he broke out.

The ball hit me in the face, and bounced off. Up until this point I had just been using my arms and sometimes my legs. I wondered... I tried. The ball sailed towards my head again. I arched my back backwards and carefully lined up to give it an almighty Geordie kiss- a headbutt to you. With the force or an arcing whip I drove my face towards the screen and blam! The ball was sent hurtling back to the blocks and broke several of them, finishing the round.

Everything from that point on became a mess of grinning, laughing, smiling and occasionally shouting WTF. The laughter only got more raucous when I got my first living statue. Suffice to say, it was a fat hamster that mimicked my movements. So I did what any five year old would do in that situation- took a recording of it doing my whitest possible disco dance. It was very, very white.

Three hours passed, including some time on the multiplayer on Xbox live. Eventually I grew tired. I'd been plugging leaks in an underwater lab with my hands, jumping up and down on an inflatable dingy, and floating though zero G popping water bubbles. Even as I write this I am still grinning, the warm glow of being reduced to a five year old for a few hours still lingers behind my eyes.

I stand by many of my initial assertions about Kinect. It's still far too expensive to appeal to most casual gamers, but the 'bored spouse' crowd is now definitely a real target for this thing. I'd say Kinect is worth owning, but only if purchased cheap as part of a bundle, or second hand. Technically, the only real problems it has are the huge space it needs, and the fact there is a lag before your actions appear on screen. You eventually get used to this though, and it's not so bad it's game breaking. For Kinect to really shine though, this does need be resolved. Overall, it's not the wisest purchase I've made (yet at least), but it's certainly got hours of amusement potential.

I was wrong about a lot of my claims in my previous rant, but like I said- some things still stand. I wouldn't say I've become a Kinect supporter, but I certainly won't be speaking out against it again any time soon. I am still very worried just how many games can be made with this tech though- it could get old very fast.

Even hardcore gamers will enjoy Kinect, but only, and I mean only if you can suspend your maturity, stop taking yourself seriously and just have fun. Booze helps, as will other people. If you have your head up your arse though, and are unwilling (or unable) to pull it out, you will not have fun here. Which is a shame, because feeling like a little kid again is possibly the greatest feeling an adult can ever have. Outside of orgasm of course.

I'm not sure how long it will take for the novelty wear off, but until then I intend to enjoy every moment of Kinect, every jump, every stupid pose, every God awful photo, and of course; every round of breakout I win using my face.

1 Response to "So... Kinect Part II"

  1. Alan says:

    Interesting. This is the first opinion I've read from someone who's actually used Kinect. I won't buy one but, like you, I might consider it over another option if I have to replace my Xbox.

    I suppose the solution to your memory card woes (if you haven't done this already) is to move your hard disc to a different Xbox that does have a memory card slot and use that to copy the data.

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