Natal is dead, long live Kinect

Project Natal is gone.  The official name for Microsoft’s motion control project has now been revealed as Kinect.  Leaked yesterday in an ad for the Xbox360 Slim, hours before the official announcement, it wasn’t the only slip up: USA today made a report which apparently should have gone live AFTER the official MS Natal press conference but which instead made it out before hand to the delight of news hungry journos.  Off with their heads.

Everyone gets the gist of Kinect by now: built-in camera and mic, facial and voice recognition, along with menus which can be interacted with by hands (or, presumably, other protuberances – YouTube perv servers on standby), offering motion controlled gaming and hand waving interactivity for the Xbox360.  The conference, closed to all cameras and recording equipment, was allegedly a wild experience involving white ponchos, the Cirque Du Soleil…and a real elephant.  Yes.

Reported to offer full Facebook interactivity and videochat, several Natal games were also spilled in the USA Today report including the Kinetic Sports pack (with beach volleyball) – so nothing like Wii Sports then – and a Star Wars game in which, you guessed it, you have to wave your arms to battle with lightsabres.  Using the force never seemed so possible.  Enough sarcasm – Ed.

Other games either for launch, or in the works, (which were detailed in the premature USA Today report) are as follows:

  • Kinectimals lets you train and play with 20 different virtual cats, including a lion, cheetah and tiger.
  • Joyride, a racing game, lets players use their hands to hold an imaginary steering wheel — pull your hands toward you and push back out for an acceleration boost — and their bodies to execute jumps and tricks.
  • Kinect Sports has six activities including boxing, bowling, beach volleyball, track and field, soccer and table tennis. To serve a volleyball, you mimic the real motion; in soccer, you can kick the ball or do a header.
  • Kinect Adventures includes a river-raft time trial and obstacle course, playable by up to four players. On the raft, playing as a duo, you and a partner must lean one way or another to steer. Jumping helps the raft reach special areas for extra points.
  • Dance Central, in development by MTV Games, brings a So You Think You Can Dance experience home.
  • Star Wars characters and iconic Disney favourites will be featured in separate new games being developed at Microsoft in conjunction with LucasArts and Disney.

So, on that bombshell, the motion madness begins.  Sports and Star Wars were always a given, but it is how the other titles will play out that will determine whether or not the system is a shinier Wii Motion clone or something a bit more special.  With the Wii currently drowning under shovelware, we’d imagine Microsoft have looked on and learned.  At least…we hope so.  While not excited for Kinect here at GLHQ, we can’t deny the allure of any shiny gadget.  However, we’re actually more intrigued and impressed by that elephant.  Unless Sony and Nintendo are bringing a Dodo and a Velociraptor between them, that will damn hard to top.  A real elephant.

Sources: C&VG and USA Today

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