“Hmm. Control, control. You must learn control.”
– Yoda to Luke, Empire Strikes Back
Yoda was always right. If you could ever sum up an experience with a Star Wars game for Kinect, that quote would probably be it. The game seems like a natural fit, right? Raise your hands to use the Force, swing a lightsaber in one-to-one, fly (maybe)… it should work.
Sadly, it didn’t. At least, it didn’t work like how I hoped it would.
I’m not against on-rails games. I loved Dead Space: Extraction, and House of the Dead Overkill was a fun romp. So, when everyone groaned that Kinect Star Wars was becoming part of the genre I didn’t have much of an issue with it. “At least it would work better when I played the game with my wife,” I said. And, at its core, the game plays much better with someone else in the room. Even though I found myself hogging all of the droid kills and zipping through the levels of the twenty-minute demo in record time, I could see a couple of kids really working together well to play the game.
The level design, which consists of a series of events that take place in succession, does a fair job of mapping the games story, which takes place between Episodes 2 & 3. It’s action-heavy, and very nice to look at. Yeah, it uses the Clone Wars visual aesthetic, which may turn off some purists, but it still looks and feels like the modern Star Wars that the intended players will be familiar with. The audio sounds great too, with enemy droids making the familiar blip-speech that we liked in the films, and lightsabers zipping on and off.
The controls are easy to understand: right hand for lightsaber, left hand for Force push. Raising both hands lifts objects out of the way or throws them, and jumping and speeding forward are designed well.
None of this is what’s wrong with the game. What Kinect Star Wars reveals is that the device, less than a year old, is already showing its age. The response was extremely laggy and required me to forcefully pull my hand back and forward to throw a Force push. The lightsaber activated half of the time, and even when it did it only seemed to map my swings correctly if I swung slowly. And if my partner and I moved even slightly to the right or left the camera would get us confused and send us jumping forward to swinging wildly.
This is a case where the technological idea is there, but the technology isn’t. It’s like playing the original WiiSports Boxing: the game kinda gets it right, but not always, and not when you’re moving too fast. LucasArts will do their best to tweak the game, which releases this holiday season, but it ultimately comes down to how the Xbox interacts with the Kinect sensor in the optimal lighting and room arrangement. In my case, on the show floor, it definitely wasn’t.
Also, I’m sorry for punching whoever my teammate was in the shoulder. I swear, I was trying to Force Push.