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Microsoft Kinect Review

DT Recommended Product

Highs

  • Just plain fun
  • Limitless potential, could move beyond gaming.
  • New, innovative technology will only get better

Rating

Our Score 8
User Score 0

Lows

  • $150 price on top of Xbox 360 console
  • Half-second of inherent lag
  • Fairly basic games
  • Only handles two players at a time
Microsoft’s Kinect add-on for Xbox 360 eliminates the need for controllers – and edges in on Nintendo’s Wii – with full-body gesture control.

Ditch the controllers and have a party

While the Kinect might not appeal to most players who want to be engrossed by a game, the Kinect should be a perfect addition to families looking to spend time together, as well as fans of party games. It does not have the four-player-at-once functionality that the Wii offers, but it is something so fresh and new that it is hard not to want to continue to see what it can do.

The Kinect will likely be defined by the games, especially the way that developers find to push the current system to its limitations through new and inventive ways. It will happen, it just needs a bit of time. If the Kinect manages to sell even half of the 5 million units that Microsoft is boasting it will move over the holiday season, it should encourage more third-party developers to consider developing for the niche market.

One of the most interesting games released with the Kinect is Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. While it might sound like a copy of Wii Fit, it is slightly different in a few important ways. Consider the massive industry that has spawned over fitness tapes that show people things like proper stretching techniques, how to try yoga, Pilates, and so on. Now imagine that the video you bought was actually able to see your form and correct you on it. If you are a workout buff but doesn’t have the time to take activity based classes at a gym, this game alone might justify the purchase price of the Kinect.

This brings up so many possibilities that would expand the Kinect beyond gaming. The dance-based game Dance Central is more of a rhythm game than anything, but it could also teach some people dance moves. The possibility of the Kinect moving beyond just gaming and into some form of education is fascinating, and the potential is only limited by the imagination of developers.

The true appeal to the Kinect is simply that there has never been anything quite like it before. It is a first of its kind, and as with all things brand new, it is fascinating and appealing. It could easily become the hot ticket item of the holiday season for this reason alone. Assuming that Christmas Day sees the introduction of several Kinects into households around the world, by that evening, expect a whole new audience of gamers to be born as they run and doge, or jump and dance in front of the TV with their friends and family looking on. The Kinect may not be the deepest piece of technology on the market, but when you get a group of people together to all try it out, expect people to have fun.

Although it is odd to list a limitation as a benefit, the slight delay in the Kinect will make it so that most people playing a party game with other people will not have a huge advantage. Your reaction times will help, but they are not going to give anyone a dominant edge. For long time gamers this might be a source of frustration. For everyone else it will make the Kinect an incredibly accessible device.

So is it worth it?

The Kinect is what it is, and it does not try to be anything else. The launch titles all seem to understand this, and most of them are designed for parties, families, or kids, with a few notable exceptions, such as Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. Hardcore gamers will probably quickly tire of the games, but casual gamers, and fans of new technology should gravitate to the Kinect.

The true appeal of the system is the potential it holds — not just for gaming, but as a tool that can lead us into new and unexpected directions. The technology itself is sound, although it is still in its infancy, so you can expect countless updates over the next few months and years which will tweak and improve the motion sensing capabilities. The inherent lag will get better through software as well, but it will never be one-to-one without a processor built in, which to be fair would significantly raise the price.

The Kinect is poised to be the monster item this holiday season, and if it can build on the momentum, then expect great things from the Kinect. It isn’t for everyone, but it should appeal to enough new fans to make up the difference. The technology is young, but interesting, and it is unique. But most importantly, beyond all the technical specs and the fresh approach to gaming, the Kinect is simply fun, and fun always wins out.

Highs:

  • Just plain fun
  • Limitless potential, could move beyond gaming.
  • New, innovative technology will only get better.

Lows:

  • $150 price on top of Xbox 360 console
  • Half-second of inherent lag
  • Fairly basic games
  • Only handles two players at a time

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