Monday, February 21, 2011

Why Kinect is not ready for an FPS

For those of you who harboured excitement and anticipation for the next slew of releases for Kinect on the Xbox and suggested that it truly would replace the conventional controller, think again... For now, at least, the premise that hardcore gamers will soon be enjoying the likes of First Person Shooters like Call of Duty through the motion controller is simply laughable.

If a recent playthough of Hudson Soft's dire Sports Island Freedom (AKA Deca Sports Freedom) is anything to go by, such lofty aspirations are nothing more than a distant pipedream. For the record, had we done a review of the game, it would have achieved our "Avoid It" rating!

To date, my experience with Kinect titles has been largely positive. Sure, there's been occasional lag or the camera failing to pick up movement but overall, I've been very impressed by the new technology. What's more, I've really enjoyed bounding about the place to play games as diverse as Dance Central, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and Kinect Sports.

When Sports Island emerged I must confess I was quite excited by the prospect. Granted, it's been subject to plenty of mixed reviews but I was pleased to see a little bit more imagination over some of the other Kinect releases. This was a game that would introduce people to the delights of kendo, archery, figure skating and snowboarding - a game that could show off the scope of Kinect's capabilities, and appeal not only to casual players but the more dedicated among us.
Alas, it wasn't to be. So much so that I couldn't even muster the enthusiasm to mop up the easy achievements for Megabits' ongoing Gamerscore Challenge!

The motion tracking was lame, the menus and control system were abysmal and the mini games proved to be absolutely no fun whatsoever - alone or when playing alongside another unfortunate soul. But one of the "events", in particular, highlighted that Kinect just isn't ready for the FPS genre - not by a long shot (or a headshot, for that matter)!
This sad fact was best illustrated by the paintball minigame, which on paper sounds absolutely fantastic. A decent-sized arena, guns, two teams - a winning formula. Shame then that the controls are so convoluted and your actions somehow get lost by the time they're interpreted onscreen.

A small box is displayed showing the position of your feet and to move, you simply step/lean in the desired direction, raising your hand to shoot. It's simple. Sadly, it just doesn't work and I was soon urging the countdown timer to expire. I know it's early days but Kinect just doesn't seem compatible with the requirements of today's shooters. I seriously question if it ever will be. Here are a few very good reasons why FPS games are not ready to get an outing on Kinect just yet:

Space restrictions
As illustrated while "playing" paintball, it's nigh on impossible to stay within that infernal movement box. In all the excitement, too often you find yourself jumping this way and that, leaving the view of your little black camera - while your onscreen persona remains completely stationary and becomes cannon fodder for the opposing team. Kinect's biggest flaw remains its space limitations.

Reaction times
The very nature of a frenetic FPS such as Call of Duty is that you need to move and react quickly. You can't hang around when bullets are whizzing past your head or a frag grenade has landed at your feet. You need to be constantly on the move - which is pretty tricky when you've got to remember to stay inside that box (
clearly, there's going to be a point where you'll run out of energy playing this through Kinect anyway). Then there's always going to be a certain degree of lag with Kinect too, meaning that your movements won't always translate into the actions you'd expect - hugely frustrating for a shooter!

No freakin' buttons
Without buttons, how do you fire or change your weapon? Throwing grenades will be pretty easy but how could I signal that I want to change my pistol for a FAMAS. How do I zoom my sniper rifle or reload? Sure, you could raise your arm, extend your fingers (if Kinect could detect them) to form like a faux gun and shout "bang, bang" to the microphone but that doesn't really make you look very cool and frankly, makes the serious issue of killing bad guys a bit of a joke. If only one weapon were available, perhaps this wouldn't be an issue... but the armoury in Black Ops was huge.

Go prone - WTH!?
Need to stay out of sight from that sniper up ahead. Want to go prone or crouch? Really? Games such as EA Sports Active 2 have, at least, proven that Kinect can detect you on the floor but it's hugely impractical to dive for cover or stay crouching for sustained periods, isn't it? What's more, Sport Active 2 also proved that floorwork doesn't produce the most accurate results. Whether Kinect could detect you accurately if it were mounted atop the television, on the wall behind or beneath the screen may mean varied results too.


good article and thought provoking