Some people love the Xbox One's Kinect controller, while others seem intent on using it as a big stick to punish Microsoft for its insistence that every Xbox One includes it. Kinect Sports Rivals promises to change all that.
What the system needs is a game that really shows off what the new controller has over its predecessor. Rare's Kinect Sports Rivals is firmly setting its targets on this territory. I had exclusive access to the studio and game at a recent event at the developer.
You start by scanning yourself into the game with the camera and immediately it's clear that Kinect 2 can see more of you and the environment than before. Even the smallest movements of your face are picked up and shown in great detail on the screen.
Soccer, Bowling and Tennis return in updated form while new activities Target Shooting, Climbing and Wake Racing expand the Kinect Sports Rivals cannon. It's an excellent way of keeping things familiar while including fresh interest for more core gamers.
Getting into the game proper and it is also apparent that there is a much greater sense of competition and skill required here. The increased accuracy of the Kinect sensor turns this into a game that requires a deft touch and strategic understanding. It feels more like FIFA than Wii-Sports.
As you can see here I talked to Craig Duncan, Studio Head at Rare, about how the new sensor opens the door to a whole new experience. "When we started to work with the Xbox One hardware team it made natural sense to take [Kinect Sports Rivals] further -- make it look better, play better and add more depth and mastery."
Rare are perfectly placed to achieve this. Equally they will be breaking ground that Microsoft will be keen to see other developers follow. Having Kinect available to all Xbox One gamers legitimates it as a commercially viable control scheme for a wider range of games.
Duncan was candid about shortcomings in the previous Kinect experience that didn't necessarily match up to the marketing message. "Fundamentally it is a camera, it sees as a camera sees. You need to set it up for an optimum experience. Kinect is an amazing piece of technology as long as you set it up right and calibrate it."
"I think what it's been missing is that killer awesome game. Which obviously at Rare we want to be that, and why we were a demo on day one and why we made the game."
Later I talked to Danny Isaac, Executive Producer on Kinect Sports Rivals. He spoke about the unique opportunities for Rare as a Microsoft studio. "You can look at profit in a number of ways. Keep the costs down, or build something really awesome so more people buy them. Everyday there's a push-pull for any decision we make but fundamentally at Microsoft we are in a privileged position that the company is very solvent."
"As professionals we wouldn't just throw good money after bad. Ultimately it's a balance and sometimes money wins out on some things, but I'm always looking at it from a consumer perspective."
"There's a number of things we do to make it easier for people to play. With the sensor itself it's a lot more accurate so we can really pickup the intent of the player. That said, every player moves slightly differently. There will still be instances where it doesn't work perfectly well. But as a gamer those are the things I love to learn to get the most out of the game."
It's a strong combination, the improvements of the Kinect controller itself, Rare's experience of getting the most out of the technology and an all important appreciation for the reality of using that software-hardware in a real family home.
The game launches in the UK on 11th April. It will be interesting to see how gamers respond to the experience. If my time with Kinect Sports Rivals is anything to go by this will be a watershed moment for Xbox One.Suggest a correction