Commentary

Portrait Of A Killer Kinect App

Microsoft's motion control play, Project Natal, now dubbed "Kinect," was revealed last week at E3, along with several titles using the technology.

The general consensus of the gaming press seems underwhelmed. One scandalous revelation so far is that Kinect isn't very good at recognizing seated players, so controlling a game with it requires you to stand -- fine for short-session gameplay, but nobody will want to play six hours of a first-person shooter powered by connect while standing on their feet.

Couple that issue with some disappointing gameplay demos -- Kinect will launch with a Star Wars title that looks positively awful (view footage here) -- and a fairly high $150 price point (couldn't you just buy a Wii?), and Kinect's looking to have a rocky start.

But Guitar Hero/Rock Band developer Harmonix demoed a game using Kinect that shows the real potential of the platform. Dance Central is an upcoming rhythm game that will do for living room dance parties what Guitar Hero did for living room jam sessions. It uses Kinect to detect whether the player is performing the right moves to the right beats -- like Dance Dance Revolution, but far, far more in depth.

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The challenge that so many developers have with motion controls is that, ultimately, they're shoehorned in to the development process. The vast majority of Wii titles, and nearly every single PS3 game that incorporates the Sixaxis motion controls, could be controlled far more easily with a standard video game controller. Very few games actually offer a gameplay experience that is enhanced by the addition of motion control, and still fewer offer experiences that would be impossible without it.

But Dance Central is one of those games -- Kinect really adds something new and irreplaceable to the gameplay experience -- and that's what separates good motion control games from the piles of shovelware gamers are no doubt about to be subjected to.

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