Posted by moonhead on Dec 9, 2010
Hardware Review: Kinect / Xbox 360

Hardware Review: Kinect / Xbox 360

Are we going to say hello or wave goodbye to Kinect?

A lot’s been said about Kinect and most of it not very nice, even we here at G4A have had it in for Microsoft’s motion control gadget. But being the broad-minded gaming geeks we are, we will always give something a chance and that is exactly what we are doing here.

Amongst the negatives levelled at the motion sensing device are that flatly it does not work, it only works whilst standing, it only works in well-lit rooms and its effected badly by sunlight, you need a mansion to play it in, its to expensive, the games are inaccurate suffer with lag and that all the launch titles are casual Wii rip-offs. Well it turns out only the last few of those accusations have any truth in them. In fact as much it pains me to say this but I have really enjoyed my time with Kinect so far. I know this may make me sound hypocritical having written my rant titled The Motion Against Notion but gaming is about having fun and the bottom line is me and my family have all had tremendous fun with Kinect.

Before we deal with the accusations Kinect has received, we will  give you a quick run down of what you get in the box for your £130 as well as explaining exactly what the Kinect sensor is.  In the box you get the Kinect Sensor itself, a copy of Kinect Adventures and a variety of leads to use dependant on what version of the 360 you own. If you own the 360 S you will not need any of these leads as it has its own special socket for Kinect. If you own any of the older machines you will need the power adaptor and you will also need the USB extension cable if you use Xbox’s wireless adapter so it can be plugged in at the front of the machine.

So what is the Kinect Sensor and how does it work. The sensor has two different cameras and an array of 4 microphones. The first camera is a bog standard RGB video camera whilst the 2nd is a Infra Red depth sensor that allows Kinect to read the dimensions of you room and whereabouts you are standing in this 3D space.  The software side of the device uses the cameras and microphones to allow Kinect to read up to 50 different joints in the human body allowing  for motion and gesture control, as well as facial and voice recognition. Also the camera is on top of a motorised mount allowing it to tilt up and down and track left and right. Microsoft now literally can watch your every move!

So after all the accusations and negative press from games journos does it actually work. The answer is a resounding yes and I kid you not the second you boot your Xbox up with Kinect connected and start controlling your Xbox with your hands and voice your jaw will hit the floor in amazement. You first have to go through the Kinect setup wizard which is a relatively pain-free process and once done you are away. With a wave of your hand up pops the Kinect Dashboard which is a trimmed down version of the full dash. Hold up your right or left hand and you will see a hand on-screen a little like a mouse pointer. Move your hand about and the pointer hand moves with you, and if you hold it over one of the on-screen option tiles for a few seconds that option will open. Want to go to the next page of tiles hold your hand over the left and right tiles for a second or two and swipe your hand or left and the screen goes with it. If only the new dashboard looked more like the one millionaire midget Tom Cruise used in Minority Report and less like a Wii rip-off it may have been a reason to buy Kinect on its own.

The voice recognition stuff also works a treat. Say the word Xbox and the bottom of the screen changes and you see TV legend Roy Walkers catchphrase from the programme of the same name ‘if you see, say it’. This means if you can see it written on-screen say the words after saying Xbox and away you go. For example commanding “Xbox open tray” and your machine will oblige.

Kinects facial recognition also works incredibly well but you will need to go through the setup process at least 3 times in different lighting conditions. It’s a breeze to do and once setup works a treat with my Xbox now capable of recognising me and my little Princess just by walking in front of Kinect and waving. All of these features work whilst sitting down to so the myth about having to stay standing all the time has already been blown out of the water.

So we know it works but we haven’t dealt with all of those accusations. The first and most important one is the space required to play. If you are planning on buying this for use in your bedroom then forget it. Kinect needs at least 6ft square (1.8 m2) clear space for one player action and 8ft (2.43 m2) for two player. Fine if you have a large house in mid-America not quite so ideal if you own a bedsit in Clapham. Any less than the required 6ft and it will just not work so make sure you get the tape measure out before purchasing. I have just about got the required space for single player games and with a bit of furniture rearranging  can squeeze in enough space for two player action. So it’s definitely not ideal and something to give serious consideration before purchasing.

I have already dealt with the standing issue as I said earlier it works perfectly well sat down for navigating the dashboard but all the games designed so far do require you to be standing. The rumoured lighting problems have not been an issue at all, my living room has a massive window that lets in a lot of sun light and Kinect has worked in a whole variety of different lighting conditions. Obviously it’s not going to work in the blackness of night as it is a camera but from what I have seen it works well in most lights.

We now come to the thorny issues of lag and the games themselves. Let us start by saying there is no issue of lag at all when it comes to navigating the dash but there are some issues when it comes to some of the games. Nothing rendering the games unplayable in any of the games tried so far and with some clever design and programming it’s barely noticeable. As for the games it is not inaccurate to say that most of them are Wii rip-offs. However, just because something is a rip-off does not make it a bad game and that is definitely the case with Kinect Adventures (Wii Play), Kinect Sports (Wii Sports) and Dance Central (Just Dance). Although all three of these games have their issues such as a lack of content, they are good solid enjoyable games that show flashes of brilliance and considering they are launch titles, and  that is no mean feat. But also these three games are an exception to the rule that  in general the 19 games launching in Kinect’s first month are universally terrible. Avoid at all costs the absolute horror of the likes of Joy Ride or Sonic Riders as they complete crap.

So Kinect definitely has its issues of that there can be no doubt and at £130 it is expensive. But if compared to Playstation’s Move in terms of price it actually works out about even. How come we can say that I hear the fanboys cry ‘Move is cheaper’. But is it to get the same two player experience you get out of the box with Kinect (if you have the space) you will need to lay out a minimum of around £120 (this = 1 move and Playstation eye bundle £49.99 + 1 move controller £34.99 and 1 game £39.99). So that is only a £10 difference and that is before you start to figure in a more expensive console in the PS3 itself and the extra Move Navigation Controllers needed for certain games and it starts to look better value.

In summing Kinect up I would have to say that as a piece of technology it is absolutely rock solid. We defy anyone not to be blown away the first time that you control your Xbox with just your hand and voice with nary a controller in sight. We also have no doubt that most will get enjoyment out of the trio of games we mentioned earlier. But the jury is out on whether this is a new dawn in gaming control. We think that before we get the answer on that one we will need to see what more established designers come up with in the second wave of games but we are now interested which is more than we was a month ago and that is saying something.

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2 Responses to “Hardware Review: Kinect / Xbox 360”

  1. two macks says:

    where is the video daz of you playing connect?come let me see,i need cheering up.two macks

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