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X-Box Kinect is Awesome! But Mostly Sucks!

 
Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled the final build and a preliminary game lineup for their fancy new doo-dad known as the Kinect. The Kinect is Microsoft’s answer to the Wii – a new approach to gaming that allows you to forego the usage of a controller by making you use your entire body to control onscreen actions. Think Minority Report’s ultra-slick hand motion screen, just with more cute pet tigers.

On the surface, the Kinect seems like a huge breakthrough for gaming. But it’s not. It’s just another thing. It’s another thing that has a lot of promise, but that promise comes paired along with some pretty big downsides; some of which are more than downsides, they’re regressions.
 

More Party Games
There’s nothing wrong with a good party game. Sadly, the hurdle that the Kinect will have to leap over is the same one that Nintendo has yet to successfully leap over without sandwiching its junk between themselves and the hurdle – it’s a system that seems as though it’s only designed for party games, sacrificing the hardcore games that hardcore gamers want.
 
Kevin Pereira from G4’s Attack of the Show Tweeted this during the Microsoft press conference:
If you missed the Microsoft E3 press conference, just fire up your DVRs and re-watch the Nintendo presser from ’08. Wii-Kinect!
He’s spot on with that analysis. The reason the Wii is in so many homes is because it’s easily accessible to everyone from children to Alzheimer’s patients. In order to do that, Nintendo needed to release games that everyone would play. This means they don’t have games like the amazing and violent Red Dead Redemption. If Microsoft wants to sell the Kinect to its built-in audience of 360 owners, it’s going to have to find some way to veer away from the mainstream, party game tactic and try to get some Kinect connectivity going with their larger titles.
 
But this might be more difficult than it appears…
 
Everything Is A Rail Shooter Now
 
House of The Dead is a great arcade game to play when you’re drunk at a Dave & Buster’s, but if you bring that experience home, it’s a little less fun. The fun in at-home First-Person Shooters is that you can do whatever you want with that character; by that we mean you can move the character around. If you want to flank, you can flank. If you want to charge at some enemies, you can charge. From what we’ve seen thus far, a lot of games on the Kinect are or will have to be games where the software decides where you will go, and all you have to do is decide where to shoot. This is evident in the Star Wars game demo that was shown. We’ll give it the benefit of that doubt, considering that we’ve only seen a short clip of what will obviously be a much longer game, but in the trailer, the Jedi only moves forward with a Force Push move – a kind of floaty, skateboardy movement. Watch the trailer again; there isn’t a whole lot of walking going on there. So, in essence, the game is an updated and slightly evolved rail shooter.

“But what about those people in the Kinect Sports demos that were sprinting on a race track, and leaping over hurdles? Isn’t that an answer to your problem?”

Good questions, person we just made up.  And no. Let’s put it this way: One of the great joys of playing games like Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, Fallout 3, and any free roam game, and any game that requires you to walk around and do things, is that walking around is as simple as holding the joystick up. That’s it. If Microsoft wants the Kinect to be the true future of gaming, they’re going to have to find a way to make everyone think physically walking from one end of an enemy compound to another is something they’re going to want to do as they sweat their asses off and work up their heart rates while actually moving their real life legs.

 
How many miles did you walk in Red Dead Redemption? Check your stats. We bet you walked quite a bit. Now imagine doing that with the Kinect. Not so fun anymore, huh?
Of course, the utopian idea is that the Kinect will foster in a new era of gaming, where all gamers are fit as a fiddle and can easily run 10 miles a day – and all thanks to the video games everyone once associated with laziness. In order to reach that utopian world, though, you need to climb over the hill that is convincing the first few waves of Kinect users that physically walking and jumping and ducking for 50+ hours in a non-rail shooter/non-party game will be fun and totally not more trouble than it’s worth.
 
Your Premise Is Flawed
The founding idea behind the Nintendo Wii, Microsoft’s Kinect, and Sony’s Move, is the ushering in of a new era of game control by slowly eliminating the need for buttons and, eventually, controllers. What the Kinect has proven so far is that the basic premise of eliminating the need for any kind of button or controllers is inherently flawed.
 
The best use of the Kinect is one where the system acts as an on-add on that enhances controller-based games, and doesn’t replace them. Imagine you’re playing a Ghost Recon game where you control all of the actions with the controller, but you can give your squadmates commands with your hands – holding up a closed fist to tell them to stop, for example.  Or imagine playing Red Dead Redemption where quick draw duels require you put down the controller and actually hold your hand to your hip and draw an imaginary gun with your hand. As soon as the duel is over, you go right back to the controller. That sounds cool, but the moment you add the controller back in, the entire idea of "replacing controllers" crashes and burns.
 
If you try to just make Kinect games that will actually sell, you’re going to have to either have to A) rely on mainstream party games; or B) hope to the heavens that the people behind your favorite 3rd party games (Gears of War, GTA, Halo, etc.) come up with some brilliant ways to use this new, and potentially amazing system.
 
Until then, Kinect owners are going to be sitting around patiently waiting for some kind of miracle game to come along and change everything, only occasionally dusting the system off to get drunk with friends and vomit after a couple of hours of jumping around and running in place.
 

24 Responses to "X-Box Kinect is Awesome! But Mostly Sucks!"

  1. Barn Door says:

    When I play video games all I want to do is sit on the couch, eat garbage, drink beer, and work on the size of my bitch titties. I might tug on my pee pee between levels, but if I have to move more than my fingers and arm then it is way too much work.

  2. classic says:

    agreed besides the bitch titties part. i go to the gym. i don’t need to jump and flop around my house to get fit. videos are meant to relax and void the mind of all productive thought.

  3. shaq ಠ_ಠ says:

    i think these games are desperate attempts to get Americas fat ass up off the couch and with family but no one really wants to do all the excessive moving and jumping around but kudos to Microsoft and Nintendo for trying to get American families together
    : )

  4. Pez says:

    Its hard enough to condense buttons on games like Dragon Age from PC to console, let alone removing them completely. Pure motion control is best for movement only, not clicking or specific actions. Since we dont have holographic projectors, then the current way could work alot better if coupled with a small headset that overlays a display in front of you; with a small movement to the edge of your vision, you can click an icon to change your gun or something. Even this wouldn’t work all that great because in a shooter, you still need buttons for main and secondary weapons, along with other actions. Waving your arms all over works with swords or boxing games, but fails with anything that requires more than the use of 2 buttons.

  5. Kaziklu says:

    Now I don’t want to come off as a fan boy, but Sony kinda achieved a nice balance with the Move.

    you have a controller based system with the ability to interact in 3D space, while still using traditional controller options like buttons (nice tactile feeling). Things like the Demo for Sorcery was a great example.

    It’s ashame that Kinect seems like such fail.

  6. Robert Paulsen says:

    I think there is a lot of potential for the Kinect, but youre right… I need some kind of controller in my hand to play the games I like. I hate to say it, but the Move looks a bit better than Kinect. Maybe an RTS style game would be cool with Kinect. Using voice commands and motion, you could kinda navigate “Minority Report” style. Might be cool.

  7. Drew says:

    i think on this one ps3 won because they used simple move controllers which gave ability to control with some action but kinect was to much action nobody wants to jump around when they are playing a video game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Sami1239 says:

    What about sports games? They might be able to work but I agree, Kinect is looking pretty suckey right now.

  9. Gordon says:

    Good write up, but you describe it as though owners get the choice of a Kinect OR and XBOX, when in fact, they get both. The Kinect takes advantage of the far superior graphics in the console for it’s party games, even if they are still just party games.

  10. tincankilla says:

    I think we’re basically going to need to re-think the controller, not eliminate it all together.

    for example: imagine a controller shaped like a gun with a joystick integrated to control movement and, perhaps, various add-on units you could snap on to use with different games (grenade launcher, anyone?).

    another example: remember Nintendo’s Power Glove? they used something like that in Minority Report, too. so your gestures would be given precision by the glove – then we’re talking SERIOUS possibilities. you could manipulate objects in space, finger pull to mime a trigger, or, for you mages out there, you could cast spells by a series of precise hand movements and words.

  11. Ben Affleck says:

    Bah. bring back the sega master system. Those were the days.

  12. Your Mom's Ass says:

    Atari MoFo

  13. Blah says:

    Space Harrier, FTW

  14. bitch ass says:

    first bitches

  15. Bob says:

    i love it when this happens

  16. JoeBobBilly says:

    First?

  17. 00kla the M0k says:

    Well done. Good article.

    What if I want to play a spaceship shoot ‘em up like good ‘ol Star Control (can I get a witness)? Must I lay on my stomach with my arms out?

    The video gamer in me calcified when Wii came out. I’m officially old now.

  18. Tessa says:

    I’m just waiting for someone to invent the holodeck.

  19. Anonymos says:

    I wonder if the kinect is going to usher in a whole new wave of red ring of death bullshit. The only thing i want from e3 is more info on rage and the announcement of the next rainbow six game.

  20. FartTamale says:

    Well done article!

    Coming from one writer to another it’s very difficult to produce daily content that is fresh and inspires laughs. For us humans, alas, there are days when you just don’t have it and miss the mark.

    Could this be the kind of stuff Holy Taco needs to do to keep their edge? It doesn’t always have to be funny, but writing insightful and informative pieces can help retain viewership.

    I’m just sayin’ s’all.

  21. adam says:

    I hope kinect does make it into first person shooter games, like call of duty or halo or whatever, it would be a great experence. Maybe other than making people walk they could add some kind of wireless joystick like the wii in so you could move you character around. any other movement would be simple and alot more fun to do by yourself like doing a small squat to crouch and another to prone and one more to stand back up pulling an invisible weapon out and shooting by pulling the trigger scrolling through weapons by just moving a dial on the side of the screen. and actually being able to look around by moving your body. i think that would be awesome and pretty easy.

  22. BonaFide says:

    Wow, nobody is derailing the thread in the manner of wee children with their first glimpse of the anonymity of the ‘net?!?!

    I like the idea of the dial scroll on the side of the screen, and to add to it, instead of having a wireless remote they can have a virtual “joystick” so you can point at an arrow up to move forward, etc