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.