Crispy Gamer

Kinect-ing with Microsoft

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Remember the good ‘ol days when our flat panel TV’s only had to fear surprisingly aerodynamic Wiimotes cracking Mach 2 from an overly aggressive Wii-Tennis serve (What! Hit that grandma!)? Well on November fourth, another threat lopes out from the motion control dimension paralleling our own. It’s Microsoft’s Kinect, the peripheral formerly known (much more badassly) as Project Natal. Now, our TVs have to deal with us looking like we’re playing Simon Says at a lobotomy jamboree.

We all remember the first demonstrations last year, where we saw that our bodies are the control; the sight of the demonstrator gasping as he waved like a recovering meth addict not exactly inspiring me to enthusiasm, an individual who thinks left over cheesy double beef burritos are the core of a balanced breakfast. Thoughts of Wii miming and shovelware instantly bubbled up, but our collective interest was piqued nonetheless. Full body motion controls? Hey, maybe the Kinect can really bring a new dimension to gaming, or it might join the Virtuaboy in hardware purgatory.

I consider myself a pretty Spartan gamer. Let me shoot, let me punch, let me run , jump, stab, blow stuff up and compel me with some good story and writing every so often, and you know what, I’m happy, hell, exhilarated. Games in HD? Sweet, I won’t say no to that, just make sure my gaming is still enjoyable. Personally, and I feel others were as well, I was afraid that in what was clearly an attempt to tap the casual gamer market, the games I love would get watered down in order to accommodate the use of motion controls. Fortunately, the past year has shown us this isn’t the case. The gamepad is still going to be that rusty old first car we still keep around, and Kinect will rightfully remain as its function suggests, a peripheral. Not to say that I’m a pedantic neophobe, but videogames, gamepad and all, have been one of those unwavering comforts a lot of us have grown up with. A lazy afternoon, slumped on a couch, your thumb spazing out in Marvel vs. Capcom as you try to pull off that special you never really knew how to pull off. What beats that?

Now that we really understand the Kinect’s role as a supplement, we can start guessing at the long-term direction of the peripheral. It can be successful. And by successful, I don’t just mean in strictly creating a casual-gamer following for Microsoft. Integrated correctly with traditional games, Kinect could be pretty enjoyable. There’s a perfect scenario I could see it complimenting an FPS. There have been plenty of times online where I’ve been looking down my sights just to get jumped on, and while pressing R3 to knife, I’ve swung my arms as well. Maybe I’m just hyperactive, but it would be pretty satisfying to see that natural reaction actually work and preserve my killstreak. Integrated in manners like this, Kinect could work seamlessly with all sorts of traditional games.

In its more niche role for full body control, Kinect can be successful if it has learned from the Wii’s shortcomings. I’ve always criticized the Wii, for not fully delivering on its motion control corner stone. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been frustrated by a not so seamless or fluid sense of control in the Wii. I honestly have an easier time pulling a head shot with a gamepad. And then to have the gall to charge consumers for the Wii motion plus when the Wii should have delivered on such an integral element? That’s beyond me. Early reports of Kinects performance seem good. There’s the slightest delay noticeable form the videos, but we have to see how the thing performs in homes. If it does deliver on quality motion control, then I definitely see it funneling in disgruntled Wii customers.

My other great concern is software. It’s well known that there’s a deficit in quality motion control games. Not to say that there aren’t any but there isn’t exactly a library, not in the way that I can recall several great PS3 or 360 games. The initial Kinect lineup is mediocre. I do hope that some really awesome, game-changing titles will eventually appear, but if the shelves are bending under the weight of shovelware, we’re going to have to wait until the next generation of consoles to see something new.

It’s still day one of E3, so only the coming months will be able to shed more light on Kinect’s long-term direction. Callused and bruised knuckles aren’t going away anytime soon, and hell, it’s always great to have a new crowd enjoy something I’ve cherished for years. Maybe Kinect will eventually be the forerunner of a motion-control golden age, but for now, it’s a curiosity. But at least it gives us another reason to yell at the TV.