Microsoft Kinect review Microsoft Kinect review

ratingratingratingratingrating
We love
It works. So much potential, it hurts
We hate
Only works for media in partner hubs, not your own videos
Verdict
Bravo Microsoft. This really could revolutionise gaming.
Launch Price
£129

microsoft-kinect-review-reader-inquisition-9-580x362

Microsoft Kinect makes your Xbox 360 into something else entirely. No longer is it the clumpy, whirring console exclusively for gamers willing to put up with endless red rings of death. Instead, it becomes the essential console for family gaming, making everything the Wii offers look, well, four years old. And it’s a software update’s throw from making the Xbox 360 the essential set top box, full stop.

Read our full Microsoft Kinect review to find out why we think it’s the gadget of the year.

Any seasoned gamer has been there. It’s Christmas, and your family has decided for once that they’re actually interested in what you’re playing. You try to show them how to join in, but even on the family friendly Wii, that still involves tying them up in a series of bands, remotes and nunchuks. Is the controller safely secured to your aunt’s wrist? DON’T MOVE WHILE IT CALIBRATES NO TOO LATE. And then there’s the whole explaining thing when their Mii starts running into a wall and they still wonder what they’re doing wrong and isn’t this stupid let’s just watch Eastenders. Sigh.

Microsoft promised to do away with that with Kinect, and it has. This glorious bit of kit sits under your telly, almost always works without a hitch, and makes enormous break thoughts in certain types of games, while admittedly encouraging mini game tat in others. But hey, you don’t have to use it just for games, and we’ve got a feeling that Microsoft Kinect will become a lot more over time.

Build

Kinect is a foot wide and several inches deep. But it's just about as subtle as it could be for the size

Let’s be clear: Microsoft Kinect isn’t small. The sensors are the size of coins, and they flash and glow occasionally. At around 29x8x8cm, it’s much bigger than a PlayStation Eye camera, to the point where it won’t sit on top of most new TVs at all. There’s little in the way of design flourish, but it is black like the new Xbox 360, and you probably won’t see it under your TV if it’s the same colour, except when broad daylight is streaming through the windows. You get the feeling Microsoft simply made it the shape it needed to be, and that’s fine.

The set up

One of the big worrying points of Microsoft Kinect has been set up, but we have to say, it was pretty painless for the most. Once you install the latest update, you just plug the Microsoft Kinect camera in: new Xbox 360 slims have a dedicated port for it, but it’ll require a USB port and a mains plug on older models (the cords are all supplied). You’ll then be prompted to position and calibrate it quickly (or rather, it calibrates itself, you just stay quiet), and then be walked through a tutorial – which ironically, you need a gamepad on hand to click through.

Learning how to use Kinect for the first time

Then, you’re away, assuming you’ve got the space to use Microsoft Kinect properly, which is the heart of the issue. In the room we used to test Microsoft Kinect, we placed the camera just in front of our 32-inch TV, on the same stand, approximately 60 centimetres above the ground. It’s worth noting that Microsoft Kinect is quite chunky so it’s unlikely that it’ll sit on the top of any recent TV comfortably, unlike the stick thin Wii sensor bar.

With this set up, we found we needed a space between 2 and 2.4m away to play comfortably, depending on the game. Kinectimals and the Kinect hub could both be controlled much nearer, and in the case of the latter, sometimes sitting down too. But games like Fighters Uncaged kept pushing us back until we were close to the opposite wall. Given that you can pull off axe kicks in Fighters Uncaged, that’s probably just as much to stop you booting your telly, but we have to say, space really is an issue. You will need six or seven feet of space in front of your TV.

Kinect works in even dim artificial light

We’ve had readers asking about whether low light made much of an issue while using Kinect, and we understand this concern well. We have poxy eco-bulbs which are about as powerful as moody backlighting in a smoky jazz bar in our living room, but we tried it out once any natural light had vanished, and we didn’t notice any difference in performance whatsoever, in both single and multiplayer.

Using Microsoft Kinect

We were bowled over the first time we tried Microsoft Kinect earlier this year, and that’s still true now. After catching you quickly, it locks on recognising every flailing limb and gesture with seemingly no lag. You just point to an icon for a second, a dial comes up and when it fills, that option is selected. You’ll need to get used to raising your hand to the side of your body when pointing, but once you do, the experience is seamless. It gets to grips with which hand you want to use very quickly.

There's a Kinect tuner, but we never had to tweak anything once in testing

In truth, Microsoft could have learned from some of the third party developers for Kinect: some games have a colour coded icon to indicate which of your hands are in control, while Dance Station’s vertical menus you move your arm and up and down make much more sense than the horizontal menus in Xbox better suited to gamepads.

But the most telling fact is that when we had relatives try out Microsoft Kinect, it just seemed perfectly natural to them to step in front of the camera and grab the virtual driving wheel. None of them, from a nine year old girl to a 54 year old man, were even surprised that they didn’t need to use a controller, and nor did they get confused as to who was in control in the menus. Make no mistake, Microsoft Kinect works, and brilliantly.

The Kinect Hub

The beauty of Microsoft Kinect is that once you’ve hit that power button with your big toe, you don’t need a gamepad at all. On start up, you’ll be taken to the regular dashboard, but after a couple of seconds while the camera loads, you’ll notice something a little different: a window in the corner, tracking your movements. Kinect is already tracking you, trying to find your hands, and once it does, they’ll glow white. All you have to do is wave, and you’ll be thrown straight into the Kinect Hub, which never takes more than three seconds. See in the video below for how it all works.

Once you’re in, controls work just like they do in a game: you can hover over an icon to activate, and from here you can open games, head into Xbox Live for Zune, Sky Player and Last.FM, and adjust Kinect settings, though we found we never had to.

Speaking of all those features: they work well, so long as you have Gold membership and points stored up already on your account. You hold down on movies to pick them, or tell it to pause and play. It’s really convenient, but the limitation with Microsoft Kinect is that it only works with these core services. You can’t open all the video files stored on your PC and start streaming them to your Xbox 360 as you can with a gamepad, so if you don’t want to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters without a remote, right now you’re out of luck. We asked Microsoft if there were plans to introduce Microsoft Kinect browsing to all your media, but a spokesperson declined to comment.

Achievements have a different navigation method to everything else

For the most part, the Microsoft Kinect Hub is in keeping with the design of the general dashboard. But there are some odd UI inconsistencies that we came across in our testing however. Firstly, it’s not always clear when the Kinect dashboard is activated by the pause gesture, and when the in game menu will be. We’d like to be able to pull the former up at any time also, but as it stands, to shut down quickly your best bet is still to reach for your gamepad or walk across the room. Secondly, the navigation is sometimes a mess. You can swipe through your achievements, but moving from page to page requires a completely different movement to anywhere else in the dashboard, where you activate the arrow and then swipe in the opposite direction.

Another thing we did notice however is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to eject a game using Kinect gestures. You can only play a title, or open and close the tray so long as it’s empty. A strange oversight, but not that much of a bugbear, and everything else works so smoothly that it’s hard to complain.

Kinect games

Microsoft’s pulled together a slightly larger launch line up for Microsoft Kinect than Sony did for PlayStation Move, with 19 games good to go from launch. We’ve tested seven of these, and you can read individual reviews of them by checking out our Kinect games: launch line up feature, but in short, most won’t appeal to long time Xbox users raised on trigger finger first person shooters.

Kinect Sports shows Microsoft really does have a sense of humour

They’re simplistic, revolving around basic core concepts like running on the spot, or in the case of Kinect Joy Ride, simply steering left or right. Someone used to playing Halo on Legendary, or with all the achievements unlocked on Mass Effect 2, will be left with the feeling that they’re insubstantial.

But as hilarious multiplayer games for everyone in the Redknapp family to enjoy, they’re extremely impressive. Kinectimals is utterly adorable, Kinect Sports is even funnier than Wii Sports and Dance Central is one of the games of the year, annihilating anything the Wii has to offer when it comes to busting a move in your living room.

Glitches

There is the odd glitch with Microsoft Kinect. Inevitably, it doesn’t get the right hand you’re using 100 times out of 100, so now and again you’ll pause for a second to adjust – especially if there are two people in view of the camera. We also triggered the pause menu by accident now and again. But for pure motion control, these hiccups are negligible. You’ll rarely have to faff around with calibration by pointing at stuff, as you have to all the time with PlayStation Move. For such groundbreaking tech, this is a mighty achievement.

Verdict

We suspect there are more than a few people out there who are still wading through Fallout: New Vegas, and have both Call of Duty: Black Ops and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood on pre-order. You know what you want from a game, and most of the Kinect games ready for Microsoft Kinect launch day won’t tempt you – and until more comprehensive media control comes to Kinect, we suspect little will change your attitude.

Likewise, if you’re after true 1:1 motion for fast action games, it’s not as accurate at speed as PlayStation Move, with games still going down the stock animations road for all but gentle movements. Table tennis on Sports Champions, for instance, is much more impressive than its equivalent in Kinect Sports.

But for the price (£129 on its own), Microsoft Kinect still represents a phenomenal way to get the whole family involved in gaming in a manner that not even Nintendo has managed. And there’s so much potential, we’re aching with excitement. Sure, an Xbox 360 with Microsoft Kinect may cost almost twice as much as a Wii, but it’s worth it.

Kinect has topped our Top 5 list of best gadgets of 2010 and best Xbox accessories, which is why we’ve given it our Recommended rosette. Check out more Top 5s here and find out more about how they work with our Top 5 guarantee.

We also put Microsoft Kinect into the hands – or rather waving distance – of loyal Electricpig readers to see what they think. Read all about it in our Microsoft Kinect review: Reader Inquisition!

  • Kosmos

    what a load of shit. 5/5 really?

    • James Holland

      What's the problem Kosmos? I think it's a pretty well-rounded review, with an overall score to reflect everything in perspective. Which bit didn't you like (other than the score, obviously)?

    • bensillis

      Yup, really. And this is coming from someone who uses his PS3 more than his Xbox 360 – Microsoft done good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.stallard Matthew Stallard

    I like how in your review there were things you didn't like and things that it didn't do as well as the competitors but yet it still got a perfect score! Sounds like your website is suckling from Microsoft's teat, and drinking their Koolaid

    • JCat_NY

      Fucking dweeb can't accept the fact that the hardware is decent and even are some of the games.

    • James Holland

      Nah, not quite Matthew… if every gadget was completely perfect it'd be a pretty dull world to live in. Also, why would you ever upgrade?! :D

      • Groundedboy

        Whu oh why do i click on these terrible web sites…..if it isn't perfect and you know it, and if it can be better with an upgrade, why would you give it a perfect score? will it be better than perfect? 6/5 later?

        do me a favor, go stare in the mirror and tell me if your reflection is still there, cause I don't know how you could live with yourself after such non-sense

        • bensillis

          I'm fine actually Groundedboy. Having to test gadgets for a living you quickly realise every product has flaws. You show me someone who can show me the perfect smartphone and I'll show you a liar.

          The point is, that even with its flaws (and I think kinks is a more apt description), it's still magnificent. It's utterly intuitive, and some of the games are hilarious. You'll have a whale of a time. Don't take my word for it, come try it yourself: http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2010/11/03/announcing-our-microsoft-kinect-reader-inquisition/

    • StephenEbert

      Matthew, no gadget is perfect. If they were we'd be using the same tech all the time. Anything can be improved. That includes game peripherals and accessories. I helped Ben review Microsoft Kinect, along with a couple of its launch titles and we were genuinely impressed. As for suckling from Microsoft's teat…c'mon, that is absurd.

  • Greedyasapie

    Utter bollocks, how much did M$ pay you for that review?

    • bensillis

      Nothing! It's good. Have you played Kinect? If you disagree, we'd love to know why you don't like it.

    • F.

      No, actually, “bollocks,” is how your comment should be described; devoid of any reasoning….

  • Supermusic

    what a load of crap i played kinect last nite an its full of lag. no way m$ didn't pay you to write that. voice commands don't work if it isn't shipped with it dnt advertise it , poor poor review

    • bensillis

      We can't speak for every English accent, but we never noticed any lag. What games were you playing?

      • Supermusic

        the same ones you had some of the lag was just pathetic. not all games had it but the ones that did had it very bad . the main point is for the cost of it it isnt worth it at all its a novelty and a poor one at that thsi will go teh same way as m$ awesome HD DVD lol.

        • bensillis

          I didn't notice it on any of the launch titles we were sent but it does come down to the developer as well – Stephen and I have both tried the Harry Potter game and are in agreement that it's pretty awful, and very unresponsive.

          • Supermusic

            i am 100% sure if kinect stayed in dev for lets day another 4-5 months then i bet it would look and respond a hell of a lot better than it does at the moment.. agreed its not all down to kinect its more to the devs to make sure the games work with no problems. teh reason i think this will sink is simple.. no core games m$ seem to have forgotten that it was us the hardcore gamer that made them in teh console war and now they ignore us by putting so much into kinect .. at least with playstation move they understand that its just a add-on you have a choice to use it.. Joy ride was meant to be a free to gold members game now its a game i have to pay for a if i want to play i need kinect. i think kinect is great for the family just like the wii but they are counting on it to much an i really dnt think its going to sell as well as they expect .

          • bensillis

            I think ignore is probably a bit harsh. Between ongoing Halo and Gears of War, Xbox 360 exclusives for people who've had an Xbox for years haven't been forgotten. Hardcore gamers were forgotten from the get go with the Wii, which has always been my problem with that console. I think Microsoft's trying to appeal to provide for both still, and while I would like to see Kinect games that really appeal to the old guard, that's the next best thing. I have no idea whether it'll sell well or not though – we shall see.

            Would you really have played Kinect Joy Ride though just because it was free? It's very boring.

          • Supermusic

            yup i agree they are trying to appeal to both markets its not a bad thing in any way its great that they want you to play with your family but they are neglecting their main market. iv never really like teh wii for the same reason as you stated,of course i cant argue that m$ arnt still doing core games they clearly are but more money an more energy has gone in to kinect an at the moment m$ really do not have much in teh way of core games.

            I mentioned joyride because well they said hay loyal gold fans have a free game on us ….hummm…. well actually no screw it lets charge for a game that was ment to be free. it only makes them look money hungry .

          • F.

            Supermusic – Neglecting their main market?

            Maybe of this had been released as the de-facto successor to the 360, you might have a point.

            Yet how can you possibly argue with an attempt to bring in a new demographic to games; They've taken the Wii's concept of engaging non-gamers and put a twist on it; i.e no wires/buttons.

            Of course for us Gaming enthusiasts the controller will always be integral; This atrempt at releasing kinect shouldn't bring the ire you report; Its a decent add-on for many who's children might have a 360 yet are reluctant to get a wii;

            Though I agree, the games for the device will be key; I think the dance games, if they calibrate as well as the dance mats, will keep up a few parents!

          • Supermusic

            i have huge doubts Kinect will sell as well.. the wii sold so well cus it was very cheap kinect isn't its over priced and under developed .. and when i say underdeveloped i mean the tech is very young that's why Sony turned it down when they was offered it .. makes me laugh that sony said no but M$ said yes just cus they want a piece or the pie that wii has had.

  • Steve Jobs' Left Nut

    What a complete pile of steaming dogshat. The controller is the past, present and future of gaming,

    • bensillis

      Come now, you don't want to be left with egg on your face like those insisting that the earth was flat in olden times. Be open to new things! Kinect is good, honest.

      • Supermusic

        no 1 believed the earth was flat that's a myth .. they though it was oval shaped.. im open to new things bt not when its being forced down my throat in the past 2 days iv had over 6 email about kinect.

        • bulsey86

          Over the last 2 days I've had about 200 emails about Viagra, and I don't feel it's being forced down my throat. (I would probably notice the effects if it had).

          People at one time did believe the earth was flat – some still do! (Check out Flat Earth Society on Google).

          By that post I could come to the conclusion you state 'facts' without researching them. I'll just assume you slipped up a bit :)

          Oh and I'm looking forward to Kinect. Tried a demo at GAME today, actually worked pretty well. My girlfirend can't wait to get that Dance game the reviewer tried in the video.

          I won't call it the future of games – I imagine trying to play FIFA with Kinect could turn out horribly – I'll call it a new way to play games. Definitely not a replacement!

  • Thedman

    Terrible review.

    • bensillis

      Why do disappointing Thedman?

      • Jaykay

        Because it's simply not realistic to perceive this as being something that “could revolutionise gaming” Its laggy, needs too much space to play it, has issues in brightly lit areas, is as much fun and revolutionary as the original “Eye toy” (which has been sat in my cupboard since a week after we bought it all those years ago).

        What did you think of eyetoy when it came out? Was that a 5/5 well if not then Kinect is very heavily overrated.

        Are you honestly happy to play this all the time and do you look forwards to a whole pile of dire shovelware that will inevitably appear? I just hope this dies a death and the resources that have been mistakenly placed into making it are redirected into the 1st party “proper games” we bought the xbox for.

        Shoddy tat, (and yes I spent a good while with it at Eurogamer).

        Buy it everyone and enjoy a decade old Tech (blah blah blah improved, my backside) and no real games.

        Very suspicious that you rate it so highly, as a gadget site I actually liked, this review has just given my clicks to other sites.

        Goodbye.

        • bensillis

          I'm really confused by the lag criticisms that I've seen sent Kinect's way. I've got a boxed unit and the final games, and I've not seen a hint of any whatsoever. Fair enough if you don't like the types of games that lend themselves to motion control, but on the Xbox, unlike the Wii, you have the option to go play Mass Effect 2 instead.

          • Jaykay

            Yes Ben we do have the option to play mass effect 2 but for how long, chasing the casual dollar/pound/florin or whatever is fine but not at the expense of the development of new (hardcore if you like) controller based games 99% of the current 360 owners/fanbase actually want.

            And it does Lag.

          • Onetablet100min

            i hate the phrase haerdcore gamer they think they are some sort of elite i plat battelfild bad company cod 2 rpgs for approx 25 hours a week.
            but i think games shoul be fun so i will play anything i would say that shuold be called a hardcore gamer not someone who just plas rpgs and fps

          • bensillis

            I like your definition Onetablet, that's definitely a good way of looking at it. And some Kinect games are really fun.

  • E-ldreams

    Great review, a lot of info. And way to point out the glitches as well. I rate this review a 5/5 keep up the good work. And don't mind the skeptics, as they don't understand. Kinect has a lot of potential.

    • Genevive

      @ E-Idreams.

      Get a room for goodness sake it's a terrible review, I'm no skeptic I'm a realist and not a 3 year old.

      Kinect is trash and it's potential is never going to be realised because all it does is what it does and badly.

      You may keep harping on about when new games come out they will show its true potential, CR4P!

      If it can't do it now it won't do anything much different in the future.

      (I don't care for move or wii either).

      We (skeptics) all “understand ” completely that this overhyped camera is NOT good for gaming in the least.

      Keep I-dreaming.

      • Bulsey86

        @ Genevive

        Wow, what an arrogant and shallow minded comment.

        What was your point in posting that comment? To show others you dislike motion control? That's what I got from it.

        We are voicing opinions. It is of the reviewers opinion that the product is good, and he is very much entitled to that opinion. Your 'opinion' was completely thrown out of the water when you stated that 'We (skeptics) all “understand” that this overhyped camera is NOT good for gaming in the least”

        As a septic myself, I very much think they do not! I would advise you check with us first before you speak on our behalf.

        Oh and my girlfriend will be purchasing the Dance game for the console. She would never have touched an xbox before Kinect came out.

        Somebody likes the trash.

        • bensillis

          Cheers Bulsey, glad you agree! I think it's safe to say that four years on the Wii experiment has shown it's been a failure for getting traditional gamers involved – but I'm open minded to finding out if Kinect can do otherwise.

  • Neildesilva1

    At last a review that answers the question I've been searching for for hours. Can you stream video from your PC and use Kinect Gestures? Unfortunately no so thats put me off for now.

    Friend has just bought it and loves it but as with the review does say they seem to have left some strange things out

Hot chat, right here!


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