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A Failure to Kinect?

Posted June 15th 2011 by Jordan Mammo.

Between Nintendo stealing the E3 spotlight yet again and Sony revealing the surprisingly appealing (and competitively priced) PS Vita, it's been easy for people to disparage Microsoft for focusing so much on Kinect. Many have already dismissed motion-controlled gaming in its entirety, and never mind the strangely prevalent "if it's not aimed at me then Epic Fail" mindset that seems to grip the collective psyche of gamers every year at this time.

The videogame market is diverse enough these days that trying to justify Microsoft's outreach beyond core gamers is unnecessary. It's really something that we should be okay with by now, and clearly there's room for everyone. Ravaging the company for a disastrous E3 showing because of time spent on Disneyland Adventures and Sesame Street is especially silly considering that, in all likelihood, these two titles will sell a lot of software to a lot of families.

At the same time, however, it's entirely possible that many dedicated gamers are looking at Kinect after Microsoft's press conference and wondering, "Well, what is supposed to be for me? And is it good?" The answers to those questions are less clear.

One of the more obvious possibilities is Kinect Star Wars, whose appeal should be undeniable. Using your hands to wield lightsabers and use the force would be enough to sell plenty of people on Kinect hardware, except for the fact that it barely looks competent. The gameplay demonstration looked terrible, with the main character simply eating bullets as he made his way towards enemies. Combined with janky animation and terrible looking hit detection, the entire thing looked severely unpolished. Granted, the game has received a mixed reception on the show floor, but the simple pull of the franchise remains strong. IGN wrote that "what will make or break this game though is the storyline," which is insane. If LucasArts even manages to produce a functional final product I'll consider it a success.

Microsoft also revealed Dance Central 2 and Kinect Sports 2, which appeal to a wide variety of people. What's frustrating is that the peripheral itself isn't even a year old yet here we are with sequels already filling the pipeline. At times it feels like we're at a point where the big publishers have absolutely no clue what to do outside of sequels and re-selling established franchises, which is interesting because the hardware makers keep trying to sell us things based on the possibilities. Fable: The Journey looks like it has some interesting motion-based control, but the game itself doesn't look very dynamic, while voice command in Mass Effect 3 sounds cool but not really like it needs Kinect to be done.

As someone who'll readily admit that motion controls have yet to live up to their promise, I still feel like they have potential. I don't need them to revolutionize gaming, nor do I want them to. I just want them to be used less as a gimmick and more as part of a fully realized package. Child of Eden looks fantastic not because it's going to change gaming (it won't), but because it looks like something I'd want to play regardless of whether or not it was on Kinect. That game is in stores now, though, and Microsoft really could've used something else that looked just as appealing

Still, I wouldn't say that Kinect should be dismissed by older gamers just yet. A  new first-person shooter that puts you in the role of Blackwater mercenaries, as well as a title called Gunstringer, will aim to reel in more experienced players. Interestingly, though, most of the games I'm personally interested in for the thing weren't even mentioned at E3. Steel Battalion 2, Codename D from Grasshopper Manufacture, and others were nowhere to be seen. Seeing as these other titles are made by Japanese developers, Microsoft might be saving them for the Tokyo Game Show later in the year. That wouldn't come as a surprise, but unfortunately their lack of presence was felt at this year's big show. There's nothing wrong with Kinect appealing to those who don't really invest significant amounts of time into videogames. It's doing fine in that department. For those that do, however, right now Kinect seems to be missing the mark.

Tags: Kinect, Xbox 360, E3 2011

Posted in: Gaming

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