Kinect for Xbox 360
Kinect for Xbox 360 is a full-body motion control system that mimics your movements and gestures in-game. This sets it apart from the Wii Remote and PlayStation Move, which both require handheld controllers.
Originally known as Project Natal, Microsoft officially renamed the product 'Kinect' earlier this year. Kinect for Xbox 360 is the most ambitious of the three control schemes, and arguably the most problematic.
How it works
Kinect is a motion-sensing camera with an audio input and advanced, high-resolution tracking. It works by mapping your body parts in-game, as well as responding to voice commands. It essentially turns you into the controller, with your movements appearing onscreen. The Kinect sensor plugs into the Xbox 360 via one of its USB ports. It will work with all versions of the console.
Kinect motion sensor peripheral
Microsoft is touting the control scheme as 'full body play', with the player's arms, legs, feet and hands all being utilised. This can lead to some very energetic gaming sessions, with some games requiring you to jump, duck and run on the spot.
Kinnect can also be used for non-gaming tasks. For instance, you can fast-forward through a recorded TV show by simply waving your arm.
Kinect games can be quite energetic
Microsoft has gone for a 'casual' strategy for its Kinect launch line-up, with simplistic games that can be enjoyed by the whole family. This decision has surprised some Xbox 360 gamers, who were expecting a more 'hardcore' focus.
Some of the games that will be available at launch include Kinect Sports (bowling, boxing, ping pong, etc.), Kinect Adventures (a multiplayer river rafting game), Kinect Joy Ride (a stunt-oriented racing game) and Kinectinals (a Nintendogs-style virtual pet game).
In Microsoft's own words, Kinect games are "for everyone".
Pros and cons
If Kinect's launch line-up is anything to go by, Microsoft is aiming the device squarely at the 'party game' demographic, along with families and health enthusiasts. In other words, it is courting the same type of gamer as Nintendo's Wii. (Indeed, Kinect Sports seems like a carbon copy of the Wii Sports concept, right down to its identikit name.)
Kinect: y'know, for kids...
We think this is a risky move on Microsoft's part. The Xbox 360 has traditionally been for 'hardcore' gamers who like gritty action, challenging gameplay and cinematic storylines. Kinect fails to deliver any of these elements. The interface can also feel unnatural for veteran gamers — especially in titles like Kinect Joy Ride, which require you to hold an imaginary steering wheel in the air.
On the plus side, the 'controller-free' interface adds a casual, interactive flexibility that the Wii and PlayStation Move can't match. This will encourage non-gamers to get involved in the action — with no stumbling block to hamper their enjoyment.
Kinect games also demand more physical exertion than the Wii or PlayStation Move. If you're concerned about fitness (or would like your kids to get more exercise), Kinect is definitely the best choice.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved
Pricing and availability
Kinect for Xbox 360: $199 RRP
Xbox 360 console: from $299 RRP
Kinect for Xbox 360 will be available from November 2010.
Of the three control schemes, we feel Kinect for Xbox 360 still has the most to prove. The games we have seen so far are quite limited in scope; they're all variations on the party and fitness genre. That said, the potential is there for more exciting and innovative titles in the future.