Today we jump into a wrap-up of the newly revealed Kinect Star Wars following it's unveiling at E3 2011. We got our first glimpse of the game a year ago, but this year's E3 was to be a coming out party for the upcoming game. While the initial preview videos and Microsoft press conference demonstrations brought forth some early positive buzz, that has given way to trepidations about the physical controls and lack of free movement within the game's environments. Remember, the game has not been released yet and what we've seen is only a portion of what's to come. Let's proceed forth with optimism!
NEW KINECT STAR WARS OFFICIAL SITE
As E3 kicked off we saw the launch of the new official site for Kinect Star Wars. At this point the site displays a few screenshots, the E3 trailer video and the following game feature descriptions.
Enter the Galaxy True to the Star Wars you know and love, stunning visuals transport you into the Star Wars universe, complete with iconic characters, vehicles, ships, droids and much more.
Use the Force Drawing on iconic moments from the motion pictures, Kinect Star Wars allows you to enter the Star Wars universe and experience a wide variety of physical play.
Customize Your Training Experience the breadth of the Star Wars universe as you wield a Lightsaber and train to be a Jedi Master, become a champion Pod racer, master the Force, pilot iconic ships and Speeder Bikes, and much more.
Join Forces Share the Force with friends through co-op, competitive and duel modes. Easy in-out lets a second player instantly join the action.
We're sure the site will gradually be adding content as we get closer to the eventual release. We'll be sure to keep you posted.
There aren't quite as many write-ups for Kinect Star Wars as there have been for The Old Republic so for this run-down we'll include excerpts to give you a feel for what the various gaming sites and reviewers thought of the game.
Destructoid.com - Lightsaber movements are fun but the lack of free movement and silly motion controls detract from the experience.
"Everything's mostly fine when you're waving around your lightsaber cutting into baddies. The problem arises when you have to advance to the next group of enemies waiting in the distance. They don't seem to want to come to you, so you'll have to go to them. The only way to advance in this game is to dash forward, or in some instances, jump up and down to leap off an edge. Unfortunately, dashing forward in this game is performed by leaning forward on one foot. The resulting on-screen animation looks cool, but it never feels cool, and even in this short demo I began to feel silly leaning into the screen to move. What's worse is that sometimes it doesn't even work, which has you doing repeated leans and lunges. The only upside I see is that all the lunging forward is probably good for your abs."
DigitalSpy.com - Provides a positive view on the game following a hands-on demonstration, even if there are some control fluidity issues. The article also sheds a little light onto why there is a lack of free movement. Walking in place just isn't that much fun!
"The developers said walking was rejected early in development because it simply wasn't very fun to walk in place to move through the level. Even so, a large number of players demoing Kinect Star Wars were seen attempting to walk in place or turn their bodies to point the game's camera in a new direction. However, perhaps it is a testament to how accurate motion tracking is for force abilities that players assume other natural actions would have similar in-game effects."
OMGN.com - Here we have another rather positive take on the Kinect Star Wars experience.
"The game looks pretty good, and the Kinect-enabled control was responsive and intuitive. For fans fo both Star Wars and Kinect, Star Wars Kinect will likely be a good title to go out and grab. Hopefully, LucasArts will continue to add other game play experiences like using tow hands to Force-lift an object from your path. The more Kinect-enabled movements you can do in-game will make it a deeper experience that won't get repetitious."
ArtsTechnica.com - This is one of the more negative write-ups. This seems to stem from the writer being very impressed with other Kinect games that he got to play at E3. In his opinion, Kinect Star Wars didn't hold up to the other upcoming titles.
"By holding your left hand up, you can pick up droids or other enemies and fling them around the screen. It's fun the first few times you do it, but the game holds your hand to such a degree that there's little sense that you're in control of anything. The lag makes things frustrating, and the game has trouble tracking your movements. Sometimes when swinging my lightsaber, my character would move forward a few steps helpfully, bringing me closer to the action. The lack of meaningful control was frustrating."
Kotaku.com - Here we have the same motion issues found in other articles. What jumps out is the reminder that there are other aspects to the game besides Jedi Mode that we have yet to see.
"Turns out what we saw on stage, two guys controlling (or trying to control) jedi as they work their way through a factory's worth of bots, isn't all Kinect Star Wars has in it. It is what Brown called the "Jedi Mode" a mode that has "hours of gameplay in it..."
...It sounds like it isn't even the chief mode. This is when things got a bit squirrely. Brown couldn't, or wouldn't, tell me how many other modes there were, just that the game is an "assortment of modes." He did lead me to believe that Jedi Mode wasn't the majority of the game, but he also said that the game wasn't really an assortment of mini games either."
Kotaku.com - Impressions here mirror those in the other Kotaku article above but offers a glimmer of hope for more fine-tuning before the release date.
"As enticing as the fantasy is, and as much as Kinect is uniquely suited to serving it, what I saw isn't a game that sells the device. Nor is there a truly compelling case for it to those who already have Kinect. No release date has been specified, and it's my earnest hope that Terminal Reality is able to tune its lightsaber combat to more closely match your actions, rather than simply be triggered by them."
Mashable.com - The writer provides an easy cliff-note style article of game impressions and displays that controls can be altered in case you happen to be left handed.
"The mechanics for using your lightsaber, using the Force, and moving are reasonably intuitive. I had to get used to using the lightsaber with my right hand (Iím a lefty), but Microsoft promises youíll be able to switch hands in the full version of the game.
The controls are clunky. Using the Force is decent, but you can definitely miss commands because the Kinect didnít recognize the move. Hopefully LucasArts and Microsoft will improve the controls for the gameís launch."
DigitalTrends.com - We're leaving you on a high note with pleasently surprised thoughts in this last write-up.
"Itís difficult to say how well these controls will hold up in space levels and some other types of gameplay, but our first demonstration of Kinect Star Wars was much more positive than we thought it would be, and thatís exciting. We look forward to checking the full game out as it nears release."
While things didn't go as swimmingly for Kinect Star Wars at E3 as it may have for TOR, let's not start panicking just yet. There is still time for fine tuning. While the game is expected sometime during the 4th quarter of 2011, that's a wide window and an exact release date has yet to be specified. LucasArts and Terminal Reality want to bring forth a new gaming experience for Star Wars fans and one can only assume that they are paying close attention to initial reactions from the demonstrations.
The positives are that the game looks pretty good and we've only seen but a small portion of the game. Space combat, podracing, speeder bikes, and possibly mini-games will be figuring in at some point. I'd also consider the intriguing end to the Bespin level demo to be a positive as well. Games these days are just as much about the story as they are the gameplay. If seeing two hooded figures both light up a couple red lightsabers doesn't pique your Star Wars interest, then I don't know what will.
On the otherhand, yes, it seems as if the consensus is that the controls need to be tightened up. Let's have a little faith that the developers are paying attention and fine tuning will happen.
One other thing to consider is if Kinect Star Wars also unfortunately suffered from the success of the TOR cinematic intro reveal. Early E3 buzz had everyone interested as to what would be revealed about the game. But once "Return" was revealed, Kinect Star Wars was completely overshadowed.
That all being said, I am still optimistic. If some of the controls don't end up appealing to the reviewers, or more specifically the older fans, so be it. If the younger sect of Star Wars gamers out there digs the game when its released, then I'd still consider it a win. Anything that helps keep kids interested in the GFFA (regardless of the media type) is a good thing. Final judgement, and my eventual positive-spin of a review, will be reserved for the final product. Until then, let's wait and see what else will be revealed about the game besides one gameplay mode out of many.