Kinect Star Wars
How long have we been waiting for this? A Star Wars game that lets you fully embody a Jedi, empowering you with The Force in a way no game has before and giving players an experience that will realise years of dreams.
No plastic sword could ever compete with what LucasArts has promised with Kinect Star Wars and it’s been such a tantalising fantasy scenario for so many fans for so long, that to see it attempted with Microsoft’s motion control technology almost elicits a sigh of relief.
It’s short-lived, though, as unfortunately the reality cannot live up to the wild dreams, and as we step up and into the shoes of our glitchy Jedi, we can’t help but feel like our inner nine-year-old is dying.
Ok, fine, maybe not dying, but he’s about to have one almighty temper tantrum. Of course, what we’re playing isn’t exactly finished, either, but there’s a definite sheen to the visuals that belies just how far off from completion it is, despite what we’re being told.
It doesn’t stop us gleefully stepping up to the Kinect unit, awaiting that certain orchestral music that for three films heralded the arrival of pure bliss, but which has, in recent years, given way to bitter resentment.
Star Wars’ iconic imagery and sounds cannot help but conjure up images of fantasy sci-fi heroism and dramatic space battles, that have become part of the modern zeitgeist and imagery that surrounds Lucas’ empire – and we’re as susceptible to them as we’ve always been. Perhaps that’s why, when we’re presented with Kinect Star Wars’ gameplay, we can’t help but feel disappointed.
Unashamedly on rails, this contents itself with throwing you into battle and giving you the chance to use the staple Jedi powers that for years have been the results of frantic button presses.
Your right hand exclusively wields your lightsaber, your left The Force. Though you’re able to swish your glowing blade about, when it comes to attacking, horizontal and vertical swipes seem to be the only kinds that don’t send your character twitching frantically.
There’s a sluggishness to it that shatters the illusion. Attacking with wild slashes won’t work; you have to aim. Tactically aiming a return volley of blaster fire isn’t as easy as it should be considering how at ease Jedi are supposed to be with such elegant weapons. Is it a matter of Kinect being unable to track the specific movements or is it down to Kinect Star Wars itself?
It’s hard to say from our brief time with it, but it’s clear that the same problems don’t extend to The Force itself. Picking up objects or enemies is much more responsive and feels natural too.
Throwing them about grounds you in the experience because, let’s face it, who hasn’t looked at something and tried to move it with their minds?
It builds a connection with the action that is currently absent from the saber action, too. There’s a chance this could be rectified by launch, but even if it is, it doesn’t relieve the initial concerns that fighting with thin air presents a lack of feedback that the game desperately needs.
The promise of simpler actions that take in the series’ space battles and speeder bike chases promise to implement motion control much more successfully, by the very virtue of making more sense.
Movement of a third-person character that auto targets enemies and can be thrust forward by leaning over your knee, removes any true engagement and overcomplicates controls that pads can handle perfectly. It’s difficult to see how satisfying these lightsaber battles will be if there is more than a handful of combatants.
Younger gamers might be able to look past the iffy technology, but if Kinect Star Wars wants to engage the wider community it needs to make sure the tech is capable of maintaining the illusion.
It’s difficult to see it succeeding with this level of motion mapping, but if it does work, we could be looking at the first game that truly let’s you become a Jedi.