When it works properly, Kinect for Xbox 360 provides a remarkably intuitive and immersive, controller-free gaming experience. However extremely restrictive play space requirements may prevent some gamers from getting the most out of the device.
Kinect for Xbox 360 utilizes an RGB camera for functions such as facial recognition. An infrared depth sensor allows the device to see your play area in 3D under any lighting conditions and a multiarray microphone allows for both voice commands and headset-free communication with friends.
Setting up Kinect for Xbox 360 is a simple and straightforward process. The sensor requires a power source and should be placed in the centre of your TV at a height of two to six feet (61-183 cm). According to the packaging and instructions, the sensor must be at least six to eight feet (183-244 cm) away from where you will be playing.
In my experience, however, this is simply not enough space for Kinect for Xbox 360 to function properly. At my initial sensor placement of four feet (122 cm) high and 7 feet (213cm) away from where I was standing, the Kinect sensor simply could not see enough of my body—I am 5’6” (168 cm) tall—and my floor to accurately detect my movements or create a Kinect ID through facial recognition regardless of lighting conditions.
After some adjustments, namely placing the Kinect sensor on my centre channel speaker at a height of about six feet (183 cm), I was able to successfully calibrate the device using a somewhat odd-looking calibration card included in the package. I was unable however, to properly go through the Kinect ID setup without moving my couch and creating a ten by ten foot (348 cm) play area.
This strict space requirement is the biggest downfall of Kinect for Xbox 360, particularly for those living in urban environments like apartments and condos. Having to clear our living room every time we want to play will likely hinder the amount of time we spend gaming with Kinect after the initial excitement and holiday social season pass.
With all of that said, once I got everything working properly, including a quick and easy voice calibration I started having fun. Lots of it, too. There is an inherent intuitiveness about using Kinect for Xbox 360 that makes it feel oddly natural.
If you wave to your Kinect sensor or say “Xbox Kinect” while on the standard Xbox 360 dashboard, you will be taken to the Kinect Hub; a voice and hand-controlled version of the dashboard. From here you can create Kinect IDs, use the Kinect tuner, or start up the Video Kinect communication tool. Unfortunately, you cannot access functions like system settings or memory management through the Kinect hub.
You can bring up the Kinect hub in-game by making a specific gesture for a few seconds in order to check your messages or just pause the game and take a break. In my experience during the first week after launch, Kinect gaming has been physically demanding, but also very enjoyable.
The sensor comes bundled with a Kinect Adventures disc that also contains demos for the insanely fun Dance Central, futuristic fitness game Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and Kinect Joy Ride. Kinect Adventures itself is a middling collection of minigames, though it does feature online play and the ability to share content like photos through a dedicated website called Kinect Share.
Both Dance Central and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved excellently showcase the capabilities of Kinect as a full-body tracking motion control device and will likely become many Kinect for Xbox 360 adopters’ first two purchases as they were ours. Kinect Joy Ride is a rather shallow kart racing game that can be played while sitting down.
At this time, Kinect for Xbox 360 is rather inaccessible for physically challenged gamers. Though voice commands may help some in controlling media playback, the bulk of software available requires an able-bodied, if not physically fit player. A seated or one-handed player can simply not play most of what is available at all. On the bright side, hybrid games that use a standard controller as well as Kinect functionality are on their way and may prove to be more accessible.
Kinect for Xbox 360 is a very promising technology that can create a truly unique and immersive gaming experience for up to two players at once and represents a good value. It lays a solid groundwork for the future of controller-free gaming, however certain aspects, particularly the space requirements and rather noticeable lag contribute to a feeling of the technology not quite being ready.
+ Truly Unique and Immersive Gaming Experience
+ Best Device for Active Gaming like Dance and Fitness
+ Arm and Voice Controls are Great for Media Playback
– Space Requirements Exceed Those Listed on Packaging
– Not Accessible to Disabled Gamers at Launch
– Two Player Limit