Right Twiddler’s if you have not already picked up Kinect or you are still uncertain if you should fork out the amount needed, then you will want to read this review before you make any decisions. I managed to get one on launch, which I suspect was possibly slightly over hyped and have spent the last few weeks trying it out. Anyway after having a decent amount of time with the hardware, I want to share my experience and opinions with people who are still unsure. I would also like to point out that this is only the hardware review, but rest assured we have lots of software reviews coming over the next few days.
So the big question is does Kinect actually work and has the lag improved any since the trailers and demonstrations? Well let me answer that below.
Kinect can be placed either above or below the TV (or in my case to the side, although not recommended). If you have the new Xbox 360 S then Kinect will just plug straight into the back of it. On the other hand if you still have the older Xbox 360 model then you will need a separate power supply for Kinect, although there is plenty of lead length. Now the not so good part, as you are going to need at least 6 feet from you and the sensor with nothing in between, so time to move all the coffee tables etc out the way. Now 6 feet is the minimum distance but ideally you will want 10 feet, or a minimum 8 feet for two players. Not only that but for some games you are going to need at least about 5 feet to the side. Exercise titles however will need even more than the recommended requirements, although that is due to the nature of the title. Lighting conditions are another issue, however as long as you don’t have direct sunlight facing the sensor then you should be ok. If it has trouble with the room you are in then I suggest using a brighter bulb. The lighting will be essential in the facial recognition.
Now you can do the Quick set-up for Kinect which basically just scans the play area and makes sure you are standing far back enough for it to see your whole body, it will also check for facial recognition as well. It will then test the room’s acoustics so it can adjust the voice recognition. During this you will be asked to have your TV at the recommended level in which you play games and also it will ask you to read a few words out loud. While this option will let you play some games as fast as possible, I recommend going for the full set-up. All this requires is that you move your avatar onto highlighted squares while doing some poses.
First of all there is the menu navigation of the new Kinect hub. This does seem to work with no problems. You wave at Kinect to start up the hub and when navigating the menus with your hand, you only have to gesture at the icon you wish to select, and moving to the next page only require a swipe of the hand. However I have found it to be inconsistent with the voice recognition (that’s even after numerous attempts at the set-up). In voice recognition mode you say ‘Xbox Kinect’ to start up the Kinect Hub. From there you just need to say ‘Xbox’ followed by what you want to do, i.e. play disc, close tray, next etc to navigate the menu’s and launch applications. There have been times where I have asked it to play disc but instead it decides it will launch Sky Player, or last FM etc. One thing you can use Kinect for is Party Chat, or Video Chat (I have still yet to try the Kinect Video Chat however). I tried out Party Chat but everyone in the party said they could barely hear me even though I was standing the recommended distance. For them to hear me I had to go really close up to the sensor, so to me it would appear the voice set-up doesn’t quite get things right and is somewhat flawed.
Another feature of Kinect is using facial recognition to sign you in, which as long as you perform this set-up in ideal lighting conditions will work no problem. I could not get it to do the facial recognition in my room, so I set it up in the living room to do it as lighting was better. After that the system seemed to recognize me when I was using it in my room.
So with the set-up, navigating, voice and facial recognition taking care of, we now look at the body tracking and how it performs during gaming. Now the more hardcore gamer among you will want to know if there is any lag, and the simple answer to that question is yes. It does seem to have been improved greatly since the E3 days however and there are more improvements to come via firmware updates. From what games I have played so far the lag at the moment seems acceptable for the intended casual audience, although to me it is still slightly noticeable and probably more so to someone watching you play. One issue that plagues ALL launch titles is the ability to recognize you sitting (although none really have the need for you to sit). After the public outcry about this and a developer having to write their own code to get round the flaw, Microsoft have updated the Kinect libraries with a change in body recognition spots to solve the issue, meaning future titles will be fine. Another issue to note is that Kinects video capture ability is rather useless. A lot of videos captured while playing games came out blurry, which is not good at all considering this is a feature a lot of titles will be making use of. Hopefully this is something that could be sorted with an update but only time will tell
Overall Kinect has surprised and shocked me. In terms of responsiveness and lag I was surprised at how well they have improved it from E3 as it was my main concern for the technology. The amount of space needed for the ideal gaming spot will be hard to get for a lot of gamers who have their consoles in their bedrooms. Individual games are also requiring various amounts of space compared to what Kinect recomends. The voice recognition and set-up still needs to be tweaked more I think and until then I won’t be having any party chats with Kinect. The strange thing is that voice recognition in games seemed to be more reliable. To me it is clear that Kinect will sit side by side with the Wii and PS Move, and the reason being, is that Kinect will be suited to games that PS Move or the Wii aren’t.
If you are a fan of motion controlled games and being active then I would no doubt recommend Kinect. Even with its minor flaws, I have had many hours of fun and days of sore muscles. Even still, it is still hard to justify the £129.99 price tag, unless you can pick up a decent bundle deal.