Body On With Project Natal's Controller-Free Kick Balls

Illustration for article titled Body On With Project Natal's Controller-Free Kick Balls

I was fairly impressed with Project Natal's ability to strip away the physical controls for Burnout Paradise and still deliver and relatively similar racing experience. But the kick ball game, designed specifically for Microsoft's motion controller, wasn't quite as impressive.

Ricochet is a giant game of Breakout in 3D. You play the game by swatting, punching, kicking or headbutting kick balls into a giant wall of blocks.

As the kick ball smacks into the blocks, either destroying or cracking them, other balls start shooting back at you. The end result is that you end up trying to hit a bunch of balls as they bounce around the room.

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To make smacking the balls a bit easier, your movements are projected into the game in the form of a transparent avatar that mimics your motions.

It seems to be the simplest use of Project Natal, perhaps beyond shoe viewing, that the Xbox 360 will offer. So I was a bit disappointed that the controls weren't as spot on as you'd expect.

While driving in Burnout Paradise, Project Natal seemed to offer lag-free controls that did what I expected, my swats and kicks seemed to miss the ball a lot more than it should. That may have been because it was a bit hard to get a handle on the perspective of the game while playing. My hand, as seen in transparent avatar form, was being projected onto the wall opposite me, so when the ball came flying my way my natural reaction was too swing too early or wait too long.

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Perhaps this is something gamers will adjust to over time, or maybe it's not as noticeable when played on a television positioned closer to you.

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It's far too early to tell, but the other possibility is that Project Natal is a control mechanic better suited for games like Burnout or perhaps the slower-paced, more emotive Milo.

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DISCUSSION

Here's my "objection" with Natal. It seems great for navigation, easy play and "small" games like the one's they've shown on the conference. But other then that it just lacks the precision that you need for a deep experience.

Speech and face recognition are nothing new, but never been implemented well in a mass available product, so in that regard it's great.

The technology behind Natal is just software and a smart camera (difference is that it detects depth as well right?). It has been done before so it didn't wow me to a new level. Nor did Sony in that regard to an extend that I was blown away but I did enjoy it a lot more, especially the potential it had.

Maybe it has something to do with Molyneux demonstrating Milo which at first, seems great but unless Microsoft has somehow made some groundbreaking breakthrough in the Artificial Intelligence area it is just a very scripted, very "fake" tech demo that will never see the day of light in the way that people may think it will; an interactive virtual "friend" that will respond correctly to whatever you say or do.

The thing that stood out for me the most was, perhaps a simple example but it works, the painting difference between Sony and Microsoft.

There's just no chance that Natal will be able to detect finger movement (unless it comes with like some piece of bright colored tape you have to put on your fingertop) so it will lack the precision completely. Result; throwing BUCKETS of paint at a canvas. With smart software it compensates and appears fun, for a while.

Sony though showed like milimeter drawing and painting which just.. did it a lot more for me then Natal. I can see so much application (FPS, RTS, etc) in Soný's magic sticks for ACTUAL deep games. Just put some analogue controllers on those Decepticon dildo's and you'r good to go..

That's why, for me, Sony's motion controller with motion tracking > Natal. Pure based on the (serious) gaming application).

/blog