I went to this year’s Eurogamer Expo and got to play both the Xbox One and Kinect 2 for the first time. The first game I played was Rare’s next-gen motion controlled sports compilation sequel Kinect Sports Rivals, which you can see in the video above. The demo they had at the show only had 2 sports playable, Wake Racing and Climbing, plus they had the body-scanning Champion creator, which replaces using your general avatars from the previous games, although I didn’t get a chance to try that out but I did get footage of it from the stage demo which you can see later in the article.
Please note that because of a medical condition I have called M.E. it’s actually quite hard to play Kinect games (as much as I love Kinect I can’t play it as much as I would like because of the condition’s effect on me during exertion and the fitness games or certain things like running in Kinect Sports 1 are totally out of the question) so unfortunately I could only manage 1 go on each event as I needed to be well enough to cover as much as I could of the rest of the show. The waiting times for the other Xbox One games didn’t help either! This is also why it has taken a while to edit the videos and write the previews, so sorry for those who have been waiting
Kinect 2’s performance
Kinect 2 worked flawlessly except during the menus where the cursor was virtually uncontrollable, as you’ll briefly see at the end of the Wake Racing section of the above video. Rare told me that the menus just weren’t working properly in the current build of the game and I’m sure they’ll work fine when it’s released next year since it’s such a basic thing. What you’ll also notice in that part of the video is that instead of holding your hand over options and waiting a second or two for a ring to fill up to select them you just pull your hand back then push it forward when the cursor is over what you want to select. Nothing to do with Kinect 2 but another thing I’ll mention is that some of the Xbox One consoles crashed quite a few times and had various issues in all the booths (luckily not during my sessions of Kinect Sports Rivals but oncce during Dead Rising 3) and the stage show throughout the day but we were told it was because they were all beta Xbox Ones not the final retail hardware currently being manufactured. I’m not sure why Microsoft didn’t give them finished retail Xbox One consoles to demo though. :/
The response times in the sports I played were basically instant. I’m not going to go over the top like some other websites have and say something like it was a million times less laggy than Kinect 1 since I don’t think Kinect 1 is laggy, at least not when calibrated and played properly, for instance Kinect Sports 1 only has 150ms of lag which is little more than the average 30fps games’ average joypad lag which is 133ms and even less than some of them as Kinect 1 can go as low as 102ms. But having said that Kinect 2 definitely does have less lag because when I did a quick analysis of my videos I found that Wake Racing seemed to only have around 4 frames of lag and since my videcamera records at 50fps and each frame is 20ms (1000 milliseconds divided by 50 frames) that works out at around 80ms which is only slightly higher than the average 60fps games’ average joypad lag which is 66ms so it’s essentially imperceptible. It’s tricky analysing the lag in the Wake Racing video though because your character is often automatically moving around on the jet ski to adjust their balance as the waves are bobbing it about so it’s hard to judge when they start to respond to your movements. Climbing was even better and at times it seems like it only had 1 frame of lag so that’s 20ms which is only about 1/15th – 1/20th the average blink of an eye! (The average blink is 300 – 400ms.)
You can of course judge for yourself by watching the videos above and be aware that although Climbing is basically 1:1 they’ve used augmented animation to make it look more realistic compared to the actual sport so the characters’ arms often move slower than the players (unless the players do it slowly obviously) to show the effort it takes in real rock climbing as you’re not playing as Spider-Man, lol! But what you have to watch for is the initiation of the movement of the character when the player moves, like I said it’s instantaneous.
This was the first event I played and I did OK during most of it but ended up 6th because of an embarrassing crash near the end where after taking the shortcut through the hole in the ship I didn’t realise that what was in front of me was a ramp I could use so I turned at the last minute to try to avoid it but didn’t quite make it and hit a girder. In my defense I wasn’t told about the boost move which is activated by lifting your knee up then stamping your foot down and will also be voice actived in the final game, I wasn’t told the right way to do stunts so I was just told to quickly push my hands down to flip forward while jumping whereas I found out later that you actually have to lean forward to flip forward and lean back to do a back flip. Plus I also forgot that I could gradually open and close my hand to control the throttle so I just played the whole demo at full speed as I am of course used to Kinect 1 which although still good can’t quite detect such precise hand movements at a distance. (Although Kinect 1 can detect simple open and closed hand gestures if you hold you hand with your palm facing Kinect, such as in Ghost Recon’s Gunsmith mode and adjusting aim in Tiger Woods 13 & 14.) I also forgot to consciously lean to make sharper turns but I actually instinctively did it a few times anyway.
Wake Racing (and the whole game in general shown so far) not only looked amazing as you can see, especially compared to the previous games as the graphics now look like a CGI movie stylised like The Incredibles or Megamind, but it was quite fun and challenging with not just the general course design and obstacles but also the hight and movement of the waves (which apparently took a whole Xbox 360-worth of power to create!) as well as the mines floating around the course. There were also other racers but I didn’t really interact with them at all during my go. Hopefully there’ll be other levels in this event with even more to do in the final game and like I said I didn’t get to interact with the other racers, which will include cloud-processed AI versions of other players in the final game if your Xbox One is online, so they they might be more aggressive like getting in your way more and trying to knock you off-course and into obstacles since there was a tiny bit of that in the Wake Racing contest at the Xbox stage as you’ll see later. So overall a thumbs-up for the short demo I played.
The only other event available on this demo was Climbing which I did very well on. In this rock climbing event you have to reach for the hand holds and grab them by closing your hand then pull down to pull yourself up if they’re above you or pull across left or right to pull yourself across right or left if you want to climb across instead of up, if you can’t reach any hand holds above you for example. You can jump to try to reach any hand holds that are just out of reach of normal stretching as well as booting your reach by more powerfully puling on a hand hold you’re holding with one hand while quickly reacing up as high as you can with the other. You can also pull down or get pulled down by rival climbers but I didn’t get to experience either of those as I was so far ahead there weren’t any climbers ahead of me to pull down and none of them were close enough to try to pull me down.
It takes a little getting used to aiming your hands while climbing as you’re quite far away from your character and I think it would have been better if it was first person or much closer 3rd person like is shown in the original trailer, although then again I guess you wouldn’t be able to see the other climbers if they try to pull you down unless the game used head tracking maybe? Having said that, I found the game quite easy once I got the hang of it plus it all worked perfectly and instantly and any mistakes you see in the video are my fault where I just missed the hand holds. You may think that the jumping wasn’t responding but what was actually the problem was that it’s difficult for me to jump as I have a condition called M.E. so when I was trying to jump my feet didn’t actually leave the floor and I was basically just on tiptoes for a split second, no doubt Kinect 2 has to track your feet leaving the floor for it to count as a jump in the game.
Although I actually enjoyed the demo more than I thought I would (despite it exhausting me a lot! Just because I have M.E. I don’t think it would be that exhasting for the average healthy person) I’m still a little concerned about how fun it will be in the long run for a whole event since it seemed more like a small section from a larger game. In fact if you’ve played the Kinect 1 game Kinect Rush A Disney Pixar Adventure on the Xbox 360 you would have played something quite similar, albeit shorter, when you climb up walls in that game. Like in Wake Racing however I didn’t get to interact with the other characters at all so maybe in the final game it will be more challenging as you will get to interact with them more plus maybe there’ll be more to the event in the final game, I did only play 1 level after all.
Hopefully we’ll get to see the other events soon, the improved Bowling should of course be even more fun and realistic than the Kinect Sports 1 version, I can’t wait to see how much they’ve improved Tennis, Target Shooting is always fun but how much fun it is depends what’s included in the event and it’ll be interesting to see the new version of Football (soccer, for American readers) as all they’ve shown so far is the player’s character kicking a ball which doesn’t give away much about the overall gameplay in general since kicking the ball is the most obvious gameplay element in a football game that supports Kinect… unless you’re EA in which case it’s apparently voice comands, lol!
Champion creator (body & facial scanning)
Rather than using your general avatar (which will no doubt get an Xbox One makeover, maybe you’ll even get the option to create a photorealistic one?) Kinect Sport Rivals allows you to use Kinect 2 to scan your body and face in 3D to create your own “Champion” which is a cartoony stylised yet recognisable version of yourself. It uses 14,000 points on your face to create an accurate model which it then stylises to fit the game’s graphics. In the current build the process seems a bit faster than has previously been shown but still takes a couple of minutes, hopefully it will be even quicker in the finished game. Also there’s a lot of lag if you move around while in this mode, this may be reduced in the final version but honestly it doesn’t really matter as it’s not gameplay and I’m assuming that the reason for the lag is that Kinect 2 is using most of its power to scan every inch (or more like centimetre or even millimetre) of you in 3D rather than to track your movements so the movement tracking is slowed down.
Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to try this myself but I did record a stage demo of it in action which you can watch below.
Wake Racing stage show contest
As well as the Champion creator demo the rest of the Kinect Sports Rivals stage show consisted of a Wake Racing contest between 2 players picked from the audience which I also recorded. The contest involved each player playing the Wake Racing demo and whoever finished with the fastest time won. The prize for the winner was visiting Rare for a day and getting scanned there so that they become one of the characters in every copy of the game! Watch the video to find out who won:
Overall I’d say I got a very good first impression of Kinect Sports Rivals as well as Kinect 2 & Xbox One and I think Kinect Sports fans should be pleased when the game is finally released in Spring 2014