Hands On With Kinect: Star Wars

During our visit to Xbox 360 Central in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada, I was able to take a few minutes with the upcoming Kinect: Star Wars.  Kinect: Star Wars was a game that was noticeably absent from Kinect’s launch line-up after being shown off at E3: 2009.  The game was announced at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con alongside a Star Wars themed Xbox 360 Bundle with an Xbox dressed up like R2-D2 sporting a 320GB hard drive, and a gold colored C-3p0 controller to boot.  Shortly after the SDCC, Microsoft would announce that they were delaying the release of the game and its bundle in order to “deliver the best game possible,” according to a PR spokesperson for Microsoft.

So how does Kinect: Star Wars seem to be holding up?  Remarkably well!  The demo had a selection between a Jedi Knight mission or a pod race.  I, for one, wasn’t about to relive the all too long pod racing scene from Phantom Menace, so of course I opted to take on the Jedi Knight mission.

The scene opens as you’re dropping into the Cloud City on Bespin in a transport and are immediately greeted by a brigade of battle droids.  You’re prompted to fire up your lightsaber and immediately give the droids a what-for, blocking their blaster fire with a wave of your hand, and cutting them down.  You also have the ability to force push them to the ground or (my personal favorite) pick them up and fling them into their comrades.  After dispatching this first wave of enemies, a pair of Droidekas rolls out to take you and your AI partner on.

This is where things get interesting with Kinect: Star Wars.  Your lightsaber is a melee weapon with limited range, and the Droideka shields are capable of blocking your force powers, so you need to get in close to wear down their shields and do some damage.  You do this by thrusting your upper body towards the Kinect device which makes your on-screen persona dart across the ground in the direction that you’re facing.  This allows you to quickly get in close for the kill.

After dispatching the Droidekas, you make your way through a series of corridors to a pair of Magnaguard droids.  These droids were able to take an incredible amount of damage before finally being subdued; however, I found that this was a good opportunity to test out Kinect Star Wars’ tracking.  During my combat with the droids, I tried a multitude of different attacking patterns to make sure that the game was actually following my hands, and not just arbitrarily moving the Jedi as it saw fit.  Not only did it track my hand movements effectively during attacks, but it was also able to track them as I blocked incoming attacks.  Very impressive indeed.

After finally dispatching the two Magnaguards with the assistance of my AI Jedi partner, we proceeded through the final set of doors to the Carbon Freezing chamber where two hooded silhouettes appeared, brandishing lightsabers of their own.  Fade to black, roll credits.

After playing through this demo I was able to walk away with a sense of hope for the game.  Many questions have been raised in regards to issues with lag or being able to accurately track the player’s movements.  While I didn’t notice any lag with the actual hand movements, I did have a little bit of difficultly with getting the game to recognize when I was trying to move forward.  It would often take a couple of tries for it to actually pick up what I was trying to do, but it would finally work.  As far as accurately tracking hand movements, the game did so admirably.  I had no issues with hand tracking whatsoever while playing the game.

I didn’t really get a chance to take a look at the ally AI as they were always off-screen taking care of other droids (or at least I presume as much).  As for the enemy AI, they behaved pretty much true to form in the game as they did in the movie, however, I do have to note that these were your run-of-the-mill battle droids and they were kind of idiots.  The Magnaguards didn’t seem to be much better than damage magnets, but they were effective in being so.

Regardless, these observations are on an incomplete and unfinished version of the game, so there’s bound to be issues in regards to polish or glitches.  From what I can tell, Kinect: Star Wars has a lot of promise, and if Lucasarts is taking a little extra time to make the game better than what I encountered, it will truly be an enjoyable experience to behold.

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November 4, 2011 - 8:30 am