Kinect Review
Kinect box art
System: X360 (KINECT) Review Rating Legend
Dev: Microsoft 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Microsoft 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Nov. 4, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: N/A 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
The great leap forward
by Andrew Groen

For the last year or more, gamers have been waiting for Kinect (or Natal as it was previously known) to arrive at the end of 2010. Nobody really knew what to expect. Motion-controlled gaming is old hat at this point, but controlling a game without any buttons at all is very new territory. No matter what the mass populace thinks of Kinect, I think we can all agree that it's going to be interesting to watch the system develop over the next couple of years.

Kinect screenshot

Four years have now passed since the Nintendo Wii first captured the public's attention by exhibiting the immense possibilities of motion controls. Kinect and Sony's PlayStation Move have made the Wii seem positively antiquated at this point. The technology behind Kinect is far beyond what Wii was capable of in 2006, and it has the price tag to prove it. Kinect retails at $150, and it's only a peripheral whereas Wii debuted at $250 and was a full console in its own right. So Kinect had better be capable of some amazing things to justify its high price tag without any computing components whatsoever.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to say whether Kinect lives up to its price tag just yet. I can tell you for sure that its capabilities are exciting and interesting, but apart from a couple cases, the execution thus far is lacking. Normally, that would be a pretty damning statement, but in Kinect's case, the successes are so great that I have to believe the problem lies with the current crop of software not with Kinect itself.

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Dance Central, for instance, is practically worth the system's price all on its own. Harmonix really nailed it with this rhythm dancing game and it is by far the best reason to purchase the Kinect camera. I don't think many people saw it coming before E3 2010, but Kinect could be the savior of the ailing rhythm genre that has seen huge sales drops in its biggest franchises, Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

Kinect screenshot

But many of the other games are poor exhibits for this potentially powerful new piece of equipment. Kinect Joy Ride, for instance, is a generally frustrating arcade racer that struggles with controls. Adrenaline Misfits is a bland snowboarding game, and many other titles just barely exceed mediocre levels. Most serve the purpose of being an interesting tech demo for future installments in the genre, but often fail to be compelling as a standalone gaming experience. Others simply aren't considerate to the needs of the gamers playing them.

It's hard to tell whether these issues stem from sloppy software or inadequate hardware. In Dance Central, your moves are registered nearly flawlessly and the camera works great, but in some other games, the control isn't as good. Is it that Dance Central found ways to work around the junky hardware? Or were the other games just rushed? It's tough to say, but I'm leaning towards the latter. There are enough successes that I'm willing to say the failures probably aren't Kinect's fault. Besides, launch games are notorious for being buggy and lacking in quality. Both Wii and PlayStation Move had their fair share of those.

Kinect screenshot

Even if most Kinect games aren't "Game of the Year" worthy, many of them still have interesting qualities. Fighters Uncaged isn't a high-quality fighting game by any measure, but it features impressive move recognition that gives me hope for future efforts in the fighting genre. Adrenaline Misfits was mentioned before as bland and uninspired, but (bizarre as it sounds) its menu system is really great and works far better than most other Kinect games.

Screenshots / Images

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