Not that there’s anything wrong with the hardware. Kinect, a special camera that tracks motion, worked fine — if not a tad laggy — in the games I played on the show floor. Same goes for the Move, which behaves a lot like a Wii remote, but also with a camera that traces the positioning of the controller in 3D space, and of course the benefit of better graphics. But before the show, I vowed to be skeptical without killer software, and neither the Move nor Kinect have it — yet.
I played two of Microsoft’s Kinect games developed in-house — a suite of mini-games called Kinect Sports and yet another suite of mini-games called Kinect Adventures — plus Dance Central, essentially a full-body Dance Dance Revolution by Harmonix, makers of Rock Band. The Microsoft games felt like tech demos. While it was definitely neat to grab a virtual bowling ball out of thin air and see it move in my hands on the screen, it’s still Wii Sports all over again, and the hurdle-jumping game I played was eerily similar to the Nintendo Power Pad from the late 1980s. Dance Central had more substance, but if the novelty of music games can wear off, the same will be said for aerobic dancing games.
My time with the Move consisted of one in-house game called The Fight: Lights Out, plus Capcom’s Resident Evil 5 Gold Edition and EA Sports’ Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11, existing games that will gain Move support through software updates. If you’ve played Resident Evil 4 on the Wii or Tiger Woods golf with Wii MotionPlus, you’ve basically experienced their counterparts on the Playstation Move. The Fight: Lights Out was more unique, accurately tracking my arms as I held a controller in each hand, though I was advised to take slow, deliberate swings rather than lightning-quick jabs. Sudden movements were suppressed to keep the on-screen avatar from flailing, it seemed. The freedom to improvise moves — I once hit my opponent with a double-armed haymaker — was a nice touch. Still, there wasn’t an overall structure to the game, just round after round of mindless slugging.
Obviously, Microsoft has more distinctive technology with the controller-free Kinect, making it all the more frustrating that Microsoft’s own games felt more derivative than the third-party Dance Central. Worse still , the most awe-inspiring Kinect game introduced this week, Child of Eden, wasn’t playable, and has no release date announced.
Sony, meanwhile, has promised that the Move will give enthusiast gamers a reason to throw down their joypads and love motion control, but there was little evidence to back that claim on the show floor. The company impressed me last year with a technical demo of sword-and-shield fighting, but the only incarnation of this idea was housed inside — you guessed it — a collection of mini-games called Sports Champions.
Another six months in the lab might not improve either product on a technical level (or it might), and I can only imagine the flak Microsoft and Sony would get from investors for letting the Wii dominate motion control for yet another holiday, but more time would at least give game developers the chance to play around and create great things for launch day. Instead of starting strong, both Move and Kinect will limp to the gate.