Kinect Sports

If there’s one area that Kinect really shines above the Wii, it’s Kinect Sports. At first I was expecting a relatively token knockoff of Wii Sports so that Kinect can have its own motion-dominated sports title, but I was happily surprised that wasn’t the case.

The Kinect Sports game layout itself is similar to Adventures - you can play by yourself, or with friends, and superficially you can just play single games instead of taking a tour through everything. 

The problem with Wii Sports was always that most of the activities relied on just a few different accelerometer inputs. The same accelerometer input as swinging your arm in a complete arc for Wii bowling could be emulated with the flick of a wrist. As soon as you figured out you could create a much larger magnitude acceleration vector by flicking your wrist, all of the immersion was completely destroyed in the game. For me at least, the remainder of Wii titles involved a similar - search for the optimal flick move that emulated inputs, and repeat - type learning curve. With Kinect, you can’t cheat that way, and you can’t lie to the sensor. Move around, flail your arms, or you’re going to get destroyed.

I think Kinect Sports is probably the best example of how full body motion capture can finally be mapped 1:1 and leveraged in such a unique way. The games all work nearly flawlessly, and playing them I’m reminded of what I wanted Wii Sports to be like.

Track and field, boxing, and table tennis are probably my three favorite titles from the sports catalog. Track and field is set in a stadium which looks curiously similar to the Beijing Bird’s Nest (seriously) and involves olympic events such as javelin and discus toss, long jump, hurdles, and sprinting. I’m impressed with just how immersive these games are - when sprinting, wave your hands into another runner’s lane and you’ll solicit angry responses. Finish a sprint, and the crowd will cheer if you wave your hands above your head, or go silent if you drop them to your side. It’s the little things like these that really make Kinect engaging. Finish the whole event, and you get a video set to music of highlights taken on the color sensor. It’s surprisingly well put together.

You can set world records inside Kinect Sports, though they’re only locally-set records - unfortunately they aren’t synced up to the cloud in a *real* world record mode, but the music and animations when you set records is just perfect. I really feel like the game designers got everything perfect here.

The gestures and motions inside Kinect Sports are also nearly flawless. I’ve yet to have a motion misinterpreted, and there’s a surprising amount of technique and dynamic range of responses possible. 

Where I was really blown away is - of all things - table tennis. I’ve enjoyed playing table tennis in real life, and though I enjoyed the Wii versions, there was always something missing. I’d either miss returns or serves, and again that seemed purely a function of whether the accelerometer data I was giving was what Wii wanted. The Kinect version of Sports seemed much better and way improved in comparison, never missing when it wasn’t my fault.

But what I found extremely interesting was how integration changed when playing over Xbox Live. Matchmaking took a while, no doubt because of how close to launch it was when I tried it, but after a short wait, I was paired with another two players in a doubles match (I was also playing with a second person on my side, hence the doubles). 

What was immerse beyond imagine was how I found myself gesticulating whenever we scored a point, becoming increasingly expressive with each point. Other players see your avatar at the table - they can’t look away - and the result is a whole new world of motion-enabled trash talking. Win an entire game, and the other party is forced to watch you for an opportune five or so seconds where you can literally move your body just about any expressive manner. It’s a brave new world of motion augmented trash talk, and one thing’s for sure - I’m glad Kinect doesn’t have the resolution to pick out fingers.

Kinect Adventures Kinectimals and Kinect Joy Ride
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  • tipoo - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    The fan is pretty tiny so you probably wouldn't hear it over your TV and 360 anyways, but I'm curious if its audible? Reply
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    It's definitely not audible. I tried forever to detect airflow, much less it being on, and couldn't ever hear anything. It's possible I wasn't getting Kinect warm enough, but I did try on two pretty toasty LCDs and an even warmer plasma. ;)

    -Brian
    Reply
  • mentatstrategy - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    I read that it doesn't pick up dark skinned folks very well.. Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    AFAIK dark skinned people's infrared signatures are no different from light skinned. If it used a standard camera for detection I would believe you as that's happened to laptops, but in this case the camera is just for video and the infrared sensor does all the detecting. Reply
  • racerx_is_alive - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    rarson is right that it's just the facial recognition, and even that problem goes away if you have enough lights on, I thought. Reply
  • Mumrik - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    I was hoping for an article primarily about the hardware and its possibilities on the PC. I know there's a lot of homebrewing going on and I'm honestly more fascinated by what this might do on PC than what it'll be used for in its natural environment on the 360.
    This all seems well written and so on, but I doubt many of us come here for the console coverage (though I do know that there tends to be hardware coverage at the point of launch).
    Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    Interesting, thanks. I doubt the chips inside it need cooling, its probably for the Infrared sensor as that is sensitive to temperature. Maybe it only turns on if the ambient temperature is very high to start with, and Microsoft just decided to take no chances after that huge hoopla with the RRODs. Reply
  • Noriaki - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    Bottom of page 1: "new Xbox 350 S console" Reply
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    Microsoft actually refers to the new Xbox as the Xbox 360 S in a few places, and I was being very pedantic in that sentence about which console I was referring to (Xbox 360 Pro versus S), so I used that nomenclature. ;)

    -Brian
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    ... with the latest dashboard update that brought UI changes and Kinect support (seriously)"

    And yet you did not plaster the word "FAIL" in big bold letters across the top of every page in this review. Oh it's a great product. It really rains on thw Wii's parade. And it only costs $150 + $300 for a new consoel because the old one is a piece of junk. That's cool though, perfectly normal. Is there no limit to the gullibility and/or stupidity? Does anyone have half a brain not to be so willing to be scammed? Every Xbox I ever see happens to be sitting on top of a dead one. What kind of stupid dumbed down abject morons are you people who feel the need to waste your money on such scams?
    Reply

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