Review: Does Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360 Earn Its $150?

At a Glance
  • Intrepid but flawed, Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensor for Xbox 360 offers true controller-free gaming at a reasonable price, but suffers from serious accuracy and tracking issues.

Kinect

You might say Microsoft's Kinect for Xbox 360 sacrifices the controller on the altar of accuracy. As I suspected this summer after giving the motion sensor a shake at E3, Microsoft's $150 "you are the controller" camera isn't for me, it's for my wife.

[PCWorld's full Kinect review]

I enjoy games with fiddly parameters, games that require fine motor skills to master, games that respond to deterministic input with instantaneous output. My wife likes games that aren't really games, but which instead help her better twist on a yoga mat like a pretzel. I want to play games that test my reflexes without fooling them. My wife just wants to save $50 a month on pilates classes.

After putting the final version of Kinect through its paces, I remain convinced it's probably not for me. It's for her. Also for young children, casual partygoers, and entire families.

That said, its interface and tracking technology still feel incomplete and frequently crude, with all the promise of something amazing, but only partial delivery.

Kinect is basically Sony's EyeToy with higher resolution tracking cameras and microphone. Like the EyeToy, you interact by moving your body--waggling your hands, kicking your legs, contorting your torso and so forth. It's a snap to setup, comes reasonably priced at $150 considering you'll pay nothing more for additional controllers or peripherals, and respond to voice commands promptly.

It's also kind of a space hog, requiring you stand six feet from the sensor for solo play and eight for two-player.

But once you've rearranged your living room (or you know, knocked out the back wall in your tiny study) you really are the controller, even if you already were with the EyeToy back in 2003.

As an interface to access the new ESPN channel, the reworked Zune music service, and the new Kinect Video chat feature that's basically iChat for Xbox Live, Kinect works well enough.

It sometimes loses track of you, or takes more work to select something than it should. But it's certainly novel--probably great for impressing friends or family who don't typically interact with this sort of technology--and the voice recognition technology works hitch-free, even if it's easily "voice-jacked" by passing mischief makers.

Will casual gamers be tempted? Will they spend upwards of $300 to snag Kinect if they don't have an Xbox 360? Time to play everyone favorite game of chance called "wait and see."

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