Last week I had the chance to have an extensive playing session with Kinect Star Wars during the Gamescom VIP Xbox party. I was able to thoroughly test the available gameplay modes and even got to play a bit of multiplayer with the Gamescom employee that was demo’ing the game. In this preview I’ll give you a comprehensive preview of my experience with Kinect Star Wars! Unfortunately I have no photo’s of video of my gameplay session because my two colleague’s were playing different games. Instead I’ll put some footage from other people in the article, so you can still get a good idea of how things looked.

To lag or not to lag

When you drop the name “Kinect Star Wars” in a conversation the thing that almost always comes of first is a discussion about the lag. The game looked pretty laggy at the E3 demo and people have complained a lot about the lag and how this would affect the gameplay experience. So the first thing I did when I got to play Kinect Star Wars was to focus on detecting any possible lag. And well, I can tell you that I was pleasantly surprised by the current state of the lag. The game looks and feels very response. There is indeed a tiny bit of lag, but I also have the idea that this is more visible and noticeable to someone that is not playing. The player itself will get engrossed in the action and at least to me the lag was negligible. So with that said: on to the different game modes.

Jedi Adventure

The first part of the demo I played was the Jedi adventure, which is probably very known to you all since it’s exactly the same as the E3 demo (check the video below). This part started of with a tutorial that introduces the different basic moves. This tutorial is pretty handy and actually needed for new players as some of the moves are not that intuitive. Especially the two moves to approach enemies (either jumping or leaning forward while sticking your hands backwards) are handy to know before jumping into the action.

The Jedi Adventure itself is a lot of fun to play, especially since I played it in co-op with a Gamescom employee which makes the game a lot more fun to play. The action is fast and brutal; you have to react very quickly to changing situations in the game or other wise you will die in no-time (which happened to me quite a few time).

Each of the situation that is presented often requires a different approach to survive it. One moment you have to deflect laser shots with your lightsaber, other times you’ll have to jump left and right to survive and something you’ll have to jump over enemies and attack them from the back to damage them. It might sometimes be a bit unclear as to what the game want you to do (I kept getting owned by an enemy because I was trying to kill him from the front, while instead I had to jump over him to break his shield) but fortunately the game has lots of checkpoint so you won’t be doing a lot back-tracking.

Overall playing the Jedi Adventure was a very good experience and although it took me a lot of deaths to get through the very short demo it was a lot of fun and I really look forward to playing more content in this mode.

Podracing

The next thing I played was podracing. I was actually very excited to see this mode available in the demo as I didn’t expect this. Also, since I really enjoyed the Nintendo 64 podracer I was really looking forward to this mode. I played the podracing demo in multiplayer with the Gamescom employee and in order to make it playable for a beginner like me I had the steering assist turned on.

Controlling the podracers is done entirely with Kinect (as you would expect), but is done slightly different as in games like Kinect JoyRide and Kinectimals. Instead of holding a virtual steering wheel in front of you, you will now just extend both arms to accelerate. To steer you either pull back your right arm to go right or your left arm to go left. Pull back both arms and extend them again will make you use the turbo boost. These controls work pretty well but do take a few minutes to get used to. I think there is some pretty fine control as in how sharp you steer. Pull your arm back a little for a little bit of turning and pull it all the way back for a very sharp turn. Also, for some reason I was getting confused with going left and right, in the beginning I would want to turn left and pull back my right arm, resulting in a right turn. Not sure why I was doing this but in the heat of the action this seemed more natural to me I guess. After a few minutes I was getting the hang of it and I could actually maneuver the track pretty well. I still did have steering assists on so I don’t know how difficult it will be with this turned off.

The gameplay itself is fast and frantic. The game has such high-speed that you’ll often have to make quick steering decisions, especially if you think about the fact that if you hit a wall or another player you will get damaged. Too much damage and you’ll explode which means you’ll lose valuable seconds (you do respawn but this takes a bit of time).

Rancor

In the Rancor part of the game you will leave your jedi body and take control of a gigantic Rancor and wreck havoc on Tatooine. The most interesting thing about this mode is that it is free roam! You can move around freely and go wherever you want to go (well at least within the boundaries of the level). The way this works is exactly as in Rise of Nightmares: step forward to move and twist your body to rotate around. Other moves include swinging your arms forward to charge or punching towards the ground to smash stuff. I didn’t get too much time playing this mode but it seemed to work pretty well and it was definitely cool to play.

The menu

As a final thing (and this is more for the developers of the game if they are reading this) I must say that one part of the game needs a lot of improvement, and that is the menu. The menu is absolutely horrible! I don’t know what’s specifically wrong with it but it just doesn’t work!

The menu consists of a spinner in which you can move left or right to select the option that you want. Then, to select an option I think you have to push out your hand (as if you are using the force I guess) but every time I would do this is would spin the menu around again and select something else. Me and the Gamescom guy seriously stood there for 5 minutes one time trying to select the podracing mode. It just did not want to work! So LucasArts, if you are reading this, please fix the menu because it is just plain frustrating to want to select something when it doesn’t let you do it!

Conclusion

Kinect Star Wars is coming around nicely and especially the Kinect tracking and lag is really up to par. The modes that I played are all fun and really shine in their diversity. I do hope that Kinect Star Wars won’t turn out to be a mini-game collection, but instead that all the different parts of the game nicely integrate into a connected whole that is supported by an awesome Star Wars story. Can’t wait for the full game!