First Impressions: Kinect Star Wars
Posted by Ian Higton
No Jedi mind tricks here
Last week, guest writer Ian Higton of Platform32 attended Xbox's Christmas showcase in the UK. After taking a good look at Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and Kinect Sports: Season Two, the final Kinect game on the agenda was the big one: Kinect Star Wars. Does it live up to the hype? Over to you, Ian.
Kinect Star Wars is the kind of game you could imagine that Kinect was invented for, one that would suit the peripheral down to the ground. A full-body interactive experience that could truly put us in the boots of Luke Skywalker and his fellow Jedi. But does it? Well, first impressions were not good.
The on-rails action instantly removes any Jedi feeling from the proceedings and as your space ship comes to a halt above a landing dock full of battle droids an on-screen icon asks you to jump on the spot. This makes a poorly animated Anakin jump down to attack his metallic foes face to metal face. The staff member on demonstrating duties skilfully took them all down with some deft strokes of his lightsaber, showing off a one-handed force grab and throw on an unlucky droid before lifting a huge armoured assault tank by raising both hands, throwing it off the platform and handing the game over to me.
Now, the first thing I wanted to do was just swing my lightsaber wildly at the droids like an insane Jedi tough guy, but the game simply could not keep up and Anakin's actions became random and jerky instead of mimicking my moves. I had to reign myself back in and do much slower swipes of my arm for the Kinect motion tracking to be effective but then I didn't feel like a badass Jedi — I felt like a conductor in an orchestra. It didn't feel like I was cutting into the bots at all and at times I couldn't tell if I was actually hitting them with my saber at all as using Kinect removes all feeling of impact, something which rumble packs in joypads are ideal for.
I tried a force grab, but it didn't really work and the droid stayed stuck in the air while I waved my arm around like a loon trying to throw him, so the demonstrator suggested I try a force dash instead. This move sends Anakin skidding towards distant targets and is initiated by lunging towards the screen with your whole body, it worked well compared to the rest of the motion controls but it seemed a very weird, unnatural way to navigate the battlefield. Lightsaber lag, clumsy motion controls, below par graphics and the limitations of scripted on-rails levels were a sad indication that Kinect Star Wars isn't really working yet. It felt awkward to use, but most importantly it didn't make me feel like a Jedi.
I was promised that what I had played was an early development build and that everything would be improved by the time the title actually hits the stores. I was also told that pod-racing segments and other as-yet secret additions will be included to mix up the action and make it a truly great experience for Star Wars fans. Sadly though, my first impressions of Kinect: Star Wars are swinging towards the dark side at the moment — it may end up being an OK game, but will it be the killer app that enables us to live out our childhood Jedi fantasies? Probably not, no.
With the majority of upcoming Kinect games being of quite a high standard it's pretty safe to say that Microsoft's mega peripheral is definitely on the up, however there needs to be a steady stream of these titles coming out to keep consumer interest in the system high. At the moment Kinect games are still being released in irregular bursts, but perhaps this Christmas the new titles incoming will reignite Kinect and its game changing possibilities. Well, either that or we face another year of fitness, sports and dance games while developers of hardcore games work out what the hell they can do to implement Kinect into their titles.
Thanks to Ian Higton of Platform32 for his in-depth and honest first impressions!