When Microsoft first unveiled its controller-free, next-generation add-on to the Xbox 360 video gaming system at last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), many were skeptical. Could Kinect really deliver on the promise of technology we'd only seen and read about in science fiction, literally putting the player in the game and allowing their movements and voice to control the action?
Now that Kinect has hit store shelves across the country, we have our answer and it's a big, booming "yes"!
From the beginning of the device setup, to the last game we tested, there was no doubt that Kinect offers its users a wholly unique and very active experience unlike anything out there today. No sitting on the couch and waving (or "waggling") a controller. Kinect demands that players stand up and jump into the action.
Retailing for about $150, Kinect is packed with state-of-the-art technology. Motion detection, voice recognition, microphones and cameras come together to allow players to interact with their existing Xbox 360s through movement and speech.
Unlike the Nintendo Wii or the Sony Move (a new Playstation 3 controller that is similar to the Wii remote), Kinect titles are designed to work without the need of a controller. Just stand in front of the device and play!
To get an idea of the variety of experiences and kinds of activities players will get out of Kinect, here's a quick look at a few of the 17 launch titles we had a chance to try out:
Kinect Adventures: A series of mini-games that get players up and moving and show off what Kinect can do (and therefore … you!). Race down a river in a large raft, avoiding obstacles and jumping ravines. Or take a ride on a pseudo-roller coaster, jumping, contorting and - at times - flailing to smack passing coins and score points. Kinect Adventures is included in the Kinect bundle, and is likely the game Xboxers will be playing with friends and family.
Joy Ride: A cartoonish racing game for up to two players. Simply extend your hands as if you're holding a steering wheel and drive. Players can execute stunts by leaning left, right, forward or back and get a boost by pulling back on the steering wheel to charge up some speed, and pushing forward to be propelled at high speeds.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved: This is the Kinect title people will be talking about. While fitness games have been around for a while, nothing out there pulls you into the experience like Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. Users can participate in fitness classes in tai chi and cardio boxing, play games meant to get their heart pumping or workout with a virtual, personal trainer.
In addition to the ability to play and interact with games through voice and motion control, the Xbox 360 dashboard (the interface used to select the games, movies, music and features the user wants to access) now includes the "Kinect Hub," which is accessed by waving at Kinect or commanding the Xbox to access it.
There's a little bit of magic that occurs when Kinect uses its facial-recognition technology to identify and log the user in to their Xbox Live account. It acts as a beautiful reminder that you're not in Kansas anymore.