Playing with Kinect feels natural, but I wonder if I'll want to stand for that long.
After all of the hype, many people are curious as to how Kinect feels when playing an actual game. While I didn't get a chance to play any of Microsoft's first party titles, I was able to check out the interface and gameplay of Adrenalin Misfits at the Konami booth. You can check out the full coverage of that game here, but I want to share my impressions of the Kinect controller as a whole.
For Kinect to work, you have to physically situate your body into the correct viewing angle. Accomplishing that task took a lot of moving forward and backward so that my image was shown in a box without any part of me sticking out. Once that was done, I was instructed to raise my hand and then I could proceed with the demo. I'm not sure that you have to do this for every title, and I see why a baseline is important to establish, but the process could quickly get annoying.
Playing with the interface isn't quite Minority Report. Perhaps it was the busy-ness of E3 behind me, but navigating the menus and selecting which game to play was not quite as easy as flicking my hand. Sometimes it flicked too much, skipping ahead to the next menu item, and sometimes it was non-responsive, forcing me to wave my hand like an idiot. But like when the Wii first came out, you have to learn the language of the motion interface. The Wii forced you to use small, fine movements but Kinect seems to register bigger movements much better.
Playing a game that has you racing snowboards down a slope is a perfect fit for Kinect. You can lean forward or backward and steer reliably that way. When I jumped, my character jumped on the screen, and if I raised a leg in the jump or twisted around 360 degrees, the corresponding action occurred in the game. Kinect works as advertised; I was effectively controlling a videogame without holding anything.
The biggest problem that I foresee with using Kinect is that it seems difficult, perhaps impossible, to use while sitting down. I don't know about you, but the premise of playing an RPG or a shooter for several hours at a time, like I currently do, while standing is a bitter pill to swallow. We play games to escape from our physical bodies; a game controller which is your body simply won't work for the long play sessions that I frequently find myself in.
That being said, the social aspect of Kinect is its biggest draw, at least for me. I loved playing Wii bowling with my buddies when it came out and I think that Kinect will serve the same function. Too bad the bowling game designed for it seemed to suck. Still, I'm sure that the launch titles that Microsoft has lined up will be more robust than Wii Sports, and not having to switch around Wii remotes after every frame will make it all the easier to drink beer and game.
The possibilities for such an input are intriguing. Using an imaginary sword to fight off the rampaging hordes, or even Darth Vader, will be a lot of fun, but I'm not sold on it as a way for me to consistently play games. I'm interested to see what game designers like Peter Molyneux will do with the technology, and I challenge them to come up with compelling reasons to keep me out of my comfy chair.