Xbox One: Kinect, Is It Worth Owning ? - Games Weekly

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Xbox One: Kinect, Is It Worth Owning ?

Forcing consumers to place a camera that couldn’t be entirely switched off especially during a time where genuine concerns surrounding our virtual privacy were rife into the living room wasn't Microsoft’s smartest move of the decade. But that’s Kinect and, to an extent, the original Xbox One reveal all over: a badly executed glimpse into a future that we just weren't ready to grasp with both hands. Microsoft seems to understand this now. Especially as it (figuratively) pulled the plug on Kinect earlier in the year, removing the peripheral from all of its game bundles and slashed the
price of the Xbox One to a competitive £350.

Kinect struggled to fill prospective Xbox One owners with confidence or become the revolutionary device early adopters hoped it would be. That isn’t to say the device is entirely useless. It still has a couple of practical applications and interesting quirks, but it’s quickly become a redundant part of the Xbox One package. Recent system updates have stripped away a lot of the Kinect specific functionality, but there are still some things you require the camera for and a few things that are still, quite simply, better with Kinect.

Microsoft might have put in alternative support for pretty much everything else with the Xbox One, but controlling your entertainment centre is still great. The ability to turn your console on and off, change settings on your TV and now thanks to oneGuide effortlessly switch between channels and programming on your set top box with just your voice is pretty amazing. While SmartGlass has been updated to support a lot of these features, OneGuide in particular, getting a smartphone connected can often be a nightmare. Kinect still helps Xbox One win the fight for input one on your TV.

Twitch is the most important app you need Kinect for on Xbox One. For those of you living in the dark, Twitch is the wildly popular service that lets you livestream videogames to others around the world for free. It’s only going to get more popular into 2015 too, as Amazon has acquired Twitch for 970m dollars. Kinect lets others see and hear you while you play; that’s how you form a connection with your audience to keep them coming back.

The Kinect camera isa lovely bit of tech. As much ofa disappointment as the device has been across the board, it’s still great for some things. Video is the killer app. Like with Twitch, Kinect lets you broadcast yourself to others over Skype  and the incredible 1080p camera and body tracking abilities make it perfect for the service. Chatting with friends has never been clearer or easier ona console than with Kinect hooked up but that doesn't change that fact that the device is now essentiallya £130 webcam.

In the end, it wasn't the conspiracy theorists, the extra £75 Kinect forced onto the Xbox One price, or the shoddy game implementation that caused the death knell to toll. It was implementing the double tap of the Xbox button, which causes a menu to appear giving you access to new apps, your friends list, Achievement apps, , etc. The October Xbox One system update finally made the console better without Kinect it’s a move that makes Microsoft’s insistence to the contrary all the more laughable.

The system changes have opened up the console’s capacity to be intuitive without making you sound like an idiot to anyone within earshot. We know our housemates are already grateful for not having to listen to us repeatedly asking the Xbox One to “Record that”, before eventually screaming at it in anger as the 30-second moment of gaming gold passes by uncaptured. Kinect’s inability to understand voice commands every time had become a constant source of frustration, and with seemingly every major Xbox application now being mapped to the Xbox button, there’s now very little reason against literally pulling the plug on Kinect entirely.

As if it wasn't bad enough that Kinect had added an extra £75 onto the Xbox One package, it has been using a good chunk of power, too. It turns out 10 per cent of the Xbox One’s GPU was reserved for processing Kinect and in particular its skeletal tracking data. Developers now have the option of diverting that 10 per cent of power into their games directly, allowing for increased resolution and particle effects. Destiny and Diablo III were the first two games to make use of this added power as they jumped up to 1080p ahead of launch.

The Xbox One was designed around everything being its own separate application and, frustratingly, you'd need to use Kinect to switch between them if you ever wanted to do it without trawling through menus. This has been optimised and streamlined for those without Kinect: a double tap of the Xbox button actives the Snap Centre, a UI not unlike the Xbox 360’s guide button. It allows you to quickly switch between friends, messages, Achievements and unsnap entirely, all without having to shout “Xbox Snap [that]”. Snapped messages is the most impressive altered app, it’s now a lovely Facebook style message-stream that almost makes up for the lack of voice chat.

The October system update also ushers in the sweeping new changes to the dashboard. The most integral being that the console is no longer designed to be navigated with Kinect. Instead, a Friends tab has been added to the home screen. This allows you to quickly see which of your friends are online, start a party, see what games they have been playing and see their recent Achievements. It’s all very accessible and very user-friendly, which is what you’d expect from a next-generation
console. Honestly, with everything so quick to access, we found ourselves using Kinect for UI navigation less and less every day.

It’s easier than ever before to capture your best gaming moments, thanks to the October Xbox One system update. Basically no more will your party have to listen via chat to the entire ordeal of you shouting, having Kinect ignore you, shouting again, swearing a little, then rage quitting and making a sandwich instead. A double tap (not a press) of the Xbox button and a quick press of X will instantly record the last 30 seconds of gameplay. It’s fast, easy to use, and actually gets you back into the action quicker than repeatedly begging Kinect to do what you say. It’s streamlined the entire Game DVR process, and as a result, the quality of clips on Xbox Live is already improving.

From the reveal, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to assure us that Kinect would revolutionise our gaming experiences. Not just in terms of how we control and interact with the Xbox One, but with the games especially. Kinect on Xbox 360 didn't exactly inspire much confidence, but we gave the peripheral the benefit ofa doubt as it made its next-gen debut.

It’s fair to say that it’s has been a hot mess from launch day. Kinect’s integration with Xbox One’s games has ranged from interesting curiosity to completely nonexistent in the last 11 months. It didn't help that the console launched last November without any titles to demonstrate its true potential. Instead it became horribly under utilised by developers, with games such as Call Of Duty: Ghosts and FIFA 14 feeling like they were ticking the ‘obligatory Kinect support’ box instead of finding intuitive ways to use the incredibly powerful device. The games could have saved Kinect; instead they told a story we’ve heard before: hardcore gamers don't like motion controls, voice controls do not make for a more immersive experience, and nobody wants to play anything for extended periods of time standing up.


This dancing title requires Kinect to function, and for good reason its unparalleled body mapping made the game more accurate than ever.

This is what we need: smart Kinect integration. You can use Kinect to detect noise in your living room, which basically means every time you jump or scream you increase the chance of the Alien coming for you. Which is just harsh, and also awesome.

Xbox Fitness is a huge opportunity to get the Xbox One into casual gaming houses. Xbox Fitness is a great fitness app, thanks to Kinect’s fantastic body mapping and heart-rate monitor. We could see this shifting a few more Kinects in the new year.

We are seeing indie games make the best use of Kinect, but the experiences are so small that it’s hard to see how much of an impact they will have on the Xbox One gaming populous. FRU makes wonderful intuitive use of the camera, using your body shape to create a cool platformer, but it still feels like a tech-demo experience.

Another game from Harmonix; Fantasia uses Kinect to create a relaxing and kid friendly dancing game that puts more emphasis on style over precision.

Ubisoft’s fitness game is looking to put a product out that’s part game and part health-monitoring tool. Trying to make fitness fun is admirable, but the way in which  Shape Up maps your body into a series of fun mini-games has certainly piqued our interest. For now, it looks like Kinect has a great future as a fitness tool.


Kinect Sports Rivals was supposed to be Rare’s big next-gen debut, and the first game to truly demonstrate what next-gen motion controls could do. Instead, Kinect Sports Rivals was unresponsive at the best of times, revealing that little had actually changed for the peripheral since the Xbox 360 days. The poor sales of Kinect Sports Rivals likely contributed to Microsoft’s decision to remove Kinect as a mandatory device.

Fighter Within is the worst game on the Xbox One, and a terrible representation of what the Kinect can do. This launch title did more damage to Kinect’s reputation than anything else in the last 12 months. It should just have been cancelled or delayed.

Titanfall inadvertently did irreparable damage to Kinect. Microsoft’s first big exclusive of 2014, the killer FPS that established the Xbox One as the home for FPS gamers in the new generation, made no use of Kinect at all. Respawn delivered a core title, but it also delivered the message that Kinect has no place in hardcore games.

Another launch title that was supposed to demonstrate Kinect’s ability, Crimson Dragon was given controller support shortly before launch, and thank the lord, because it barely functioned with Kinect, making it another disappointing example.

FIFA 14 (and NBA 2K14) policed the volume of your living room. While the camera could be used to help issue squad commands something that was often easier with the D-pad it also issued in-game punishments for swearing or making too much noise. Fair enough for multiplayer, but solo we should be able to get as angry as we like.

NBA 2K15
Kinect should have been perfect for this. Scanning your face into a game, and then having your avatar running around in the likes of Call Of Duty and FIFA 15. Sadly, NBA 2K15 has already proved it can’t be done with just  awful face recognition. It’s disappointing and some of the results are hugely amusing. Considering the power of the peripheral, it’s just embarrassing for 2K. Come on now developers,  Rainbow Six: Vegas  did it right seven years ago with the bloody Vision Camera. Right now this is just another nail in the coffin.

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