Microsoft calls it a new console, but the Kinect is really a fresh coat of paint for the Xbox 360, promising to deliver not just motion gaming, but controller-free gaming to the masses.
We've had the peripheral add-on in our offices for a little more than a week now, time enough for us to play through the seven games we were able to get our hands on, to test the limitations of the hardware and to figure out what the camera and microphone array brings to the Xbox 360 experience.
Over the course of tonight and tomorrow we will be delivering to you reviews for seven games, break-downs of the way Kinect changes the non-gaming face of the Xbox 360, tech tests, guides, videos pictures and anything else you'd want to know about the Xbox 360 Kinect.
Why don't you hang out and join us for a read? If you don't have the time, or would rather cut to the chase, I've summarized all of our thoughts below in concise summaries. But remember, the full, in depth coverage will be hitting the site throughout the morning complete with plenty of videos and images.
Note: If you have no interest in reading about the Kinect, maybe you should check out this link for the day: http://www.kotaku.com/tag/not:kinect
Totilo and I agree: The Xbox 360 Kinect is a winner, offering a brand new way not just to play games but to interact with your TV. It just may not be one you want to invest in quite yet. At launch there are no strong games to push it and the steep price may keep some rightfully away initially. Controlling games without anything in our hands is a welcome step forward for the industry.
The Game Reviews
Sonic Free Riders: Sonic Free Riders is the most broken of the Kinect games I've played and that includes a half-dozen titles. It's unfortunate, because another strong action racing game would be a nice addition to Kinect's game library. If Sega can somehow fix the control issues I'd be the first to recommend picking up this game. Until then don't waste your time or money.
Kinect Adventures: Kinect Adventures is a wonderful introduction to Kinect's flavor of motion gaming. Playing a game with nothing in your hands takes a bit of getting used to but Kinect Adventures manages to both ease you into that experience and make the learning curve fun. Packed with four difficulty settings, quite a few levels in each activity and the ability to earn not just achievements but animated statues, Kinect Adventures is the sort of game you'll end up coming back to again and again.
Kinect Sports: Kinect Sports offers an interesting variety of games to play alone and with friends. It's fun when it works, but it doesn't always work. Having a bowling ball or a javelin stick to your hand or a boxer have a sudden spasms can ruin the experience. In the end that's going to be the greatest challenge this Kinect game faces. A great experience, no matter how fun, can't survive working only most of the time.
Dance Central: When I first tried Dance Central I said I thought it was the best Kinect game at E3. I also said it was the game with the greatest potential at the show. I haven't changed my mind. It would be nice if the game had more features, more modes and perhaps twice the music, but the core concept works beautifully. Like Rock Band, Dance Central creates an illusion and puts you at the center of it.
Kinectimals: For kids I expect Kinectimals to be an irresistible showpiece that delights them simply by letting them feel like they have a cute tiger cub they can pet by scratching the air in front of their TV. For traditional gamers, Kinectimals is worth a look. There's meat on its bones and a successful abundance of simple but smart Kinect tech tricks.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved: Your Shape: Fitness Evolved is the rough draft of something that could be great. A home workout system that can track and audibly correct your body movements would be a magnificent boon to people who can't afford or are otherwise unable to exercise outside of their home. Your Shape is not a great workout alternative for those who already have a fit lifestyle. It may not be ideal for those who want some of the long-form workout-tracking that competing exercise games offer. Nevertheless, it is an advance, a worthy option with an exciting future.
Kinect Joy Ride: Kinect Joy Ride is not your Gran Turismo killer nor your Forza replacement. It's a simplified racing game that sacrifices as many sacred cows as Wii Sports Tennis. But while the Wii launch game was a streamlined successful transformation of a genre that hadn't been huge in games since Pong, Joy Ride is, at best and at worst, as fun as it is unnecessary. Half-pipe makes this game one to get for parties if you are already committed to a Kinect, but otherwise this is a low-priority racing game in a genre packed with even bigger, more fully-functional competitors.
The Non-Gaming Side of Kinect
Kinect's ability to turn the air in front of your face into a touch screen that can control movies, music and a bit of the dashboard is the sort of magical experience Microsoft has been selling since they unveiled Kinect.
That said, the offerings at launch are very limited. You can create avatars, you can message friends, you can check out Last.FM, Zune or ESPN and that's about it.
What you can't do is use the Kinect's ability to recognize you as a new form of parental controls. Nor can you turn your Xbox 360 on or off. And you can't (at least yet) control my favorite non-gaming app on the dashboard: Netflix.
Still, what it does it does very well and I'm sure more is coming.