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No motion

Xbox One's Kinect control unit fails to move forward

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In the darkest corners of basements all across the globe lie the abandoned gimmicks of video games past: guns, robots, microphones, cameras, buzzers, dance pads, goggles and anything else that seemed cool for about a week before their owners never bothered to play with them again.

The Kinect, first introduced as an optional peripheral on the 360 before becoming mandatory with the Xbox One, has managed to elude the siren call of the basement cardboard box by offering two things of supposed value: voice and motion control. While voice control has its perks -- especially the ability to yell, "Xbox, turn off!" during a friend's turn in multiplayer games -- the motion control has never proven useful, aside from the most basic novelty appeal.

As the first Xbox One title to truly take advantage of the Kinect, Kinect Sports Rivals is the game that should redefine what you think about the device. Leaps have supposedly been taken between the 360 and Xbox One's incarnations, so you should not only walk away impressed by the progress made, but excited for its future potential.

By the time the game has you tracing your pointed finger in the air in a silly attempt to drag the crosshairs of a gun between targets on a shooting range, however, most of the excitement for the device's potential will have been replaced with the grim realization that absolutely nothing has changed.

Meet the new Kinect, same as the old Kinect.

Kinect Sports Rivals offers the exact same six-sport collection we've seen from motion-controlled games since the template was set by Wii Sports eight years ago, even going so far as to reuse many of the same sports we've played before. Whatever appeal that simulations of bowling and tennis once had has long disappeared, especially when the control here feels no more refined or accurate than it has in the past. New sports like Jet Ski racing and rock climbing fare a little better, but only because they highlight the one new defining feature of the Xbox One Kinect: the ability to recognize the opening and closing of your hand.

Yes, not much else has changed: using the Kinect still requires you to clear out a ton of space in front of your TV, an absurd amount of lighting so it's able to properly read your movements and is still prone to the same kind of imprecise control and out-of-alignment readings that it suffered from in the past, but it can now sorta tell when you're closing your fist to grab one of the rocks you're reaching up to climb.

What should be a fresh start for the Kinect instead feels like its first step into that cardboard-box grave waiting for it in the basement. For all of its attempted technical marvels, it seems most disappointing that the motions and sounds it's unable to recognize are the head-in-hands despair and exasperated sighs that playing Kinect Sports Rivals elicits.


Mel Stefaniuk is a freelance writer whose love of both video games and writing have been intertwined since growing up with the text adventures of the '80s. He can be found on Twitter as @DisgracedCop.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 24, 2014 C12

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