E3 2011: The Kinect Disconnect

Kinect still struggles to make an impression on hardcore gamers

 

This year at E3, Microsoft’s focus was clearly on Kinect. Be it Kinect integration with controller-based games or a slew of new Kinect games, the wildly successful controller-free peripheral had a massive showing. Unfortunately, it failed to impress.

 

Microsoft showed off Kinect functionality for Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and for Mass Effect 3. While Ghost Recon’s gesture and voice command-based weapon customization was interesting, the use of Kinect doesn’t exactly seem necessary. The same can be said of Mass Effect 3’s voice based squad command and dialogue interface. While speaking the commands or dialogue options is a neat alternative, it isn’t necessary. It doesn’t enhance the game, and ultimately, the same can be achieved with the Xbox 360’s bundled headset.

 

 

The new Kinect games were, if anything, diverse. New installments of Dance Central and Kinect Sports, along with Double Fine’s Sesame Street game and Kinect Disneyland Adventures enforce the notion that Kinect is for the casual.

Meanwhile, Kinect Star Wars, Fable: The Journey and Ryse show an attempt to appeal to the more hardcore fans. However, the fundamental problem with any attempt at a hardcore experience on Kinect is that movement in a three dimensional space has not been achieved. Swinging a sword, shooting a gun or casting a spell with various hand gestures is great, but every demo was essentially on rails. This inability to move freely on Kinect without a controller is the biggest barrier for any truly great games to appear on the platform.

E3 2011 Kinect Star Wars demo

Apart from games, Microsoft also showed off plenty of new interfacing capabilities with Kinect. This was essentially more of what we’ve seen previously at E3. Using hand gestures and voice commands, one can intuitively maneuver the dashboard and search through content on Xbox Live. While this new interfacing option is impressive, it doesn’t match the $150 price tag.

If Microsoft wants Kinect to be a hit among all gamers, which was clearly the goal of the press conference, it needs to stop showing us game features that could be better handled with a controller and start showing us solutions to the three dimensional mobility issue.