E3 2011: Kinect Star Wars

QUICKTAKE: Gamers have dreamed of the ability to swing a lightsaber in battle at the reveal of every motion controller on the market. Kinect Star Wars finally gives players that ability using Microsoft's motion peripheral. While it has a handful of great ideas, I had a difficult time combining those elements into one cohesive adventure in a galaxy far, far away. BOOM video 9283 THE DEMO: If you watched Microsoft's press conference, you'll know exactly what I played. I played the Kinect Star Wars demo with another journalist, each of us wielding lightsabers and secreting midi-chlorians. For the purposes of the demo, the right hand controls the lightsaber (and no, you don't have to scream "Lightsaber turn on!" as was shown during the Microsoft conference) while the left hand controls Force abilities. That, a representative told me, is not the final control method for the game. Each section if set up like an arena, and clearing out enemies automatically moves the player to the next area. The demo ends when the player comes face-to-face with a pair of Sith Lords. DETAILS: There's one common thread throughout Microsoft's Kinect demos at E3: multi-player gaming. Specifically, two players being tracked simultaneously by one Kinect sensor. Based on my experience, it works extremely well. Kinect Star Wars replicates many of grand gestures you may remember from the films. For example, pulling your left hand back and thrusting forward Force pushes enemies out of the way. You can step forward to dash, and pick up objects and hurl them, as well. Swinging the saber, in particular, is fun.

Kinect Star Wars

These moves work well on their own. But using them to string together attacks is where things begin to unravel. Dashing forward and jumping near an enemy is supposed to make your onscreen character leap over your opponent, opening them up for open attack. Although I tried a handful of times, I simply couldn't get this maneuver to work. At one point in the demo, it took me many attempts to remove a destroyed ship blocking my path. The oddest part of the game is the movement. Kinect Star Wars is only partially on-rails, with the game automatically controlling movement between arenas. However, in areas with enemies, it's up to the player to move around the environment. If an enemy is in close proximity when swinging the saber, the character will move toward the enemy. If far away, you have to dash toward the enemy to go in for an attack. Getting the right spacing for these moves and fumbling around made me feel like the world's clumsiest Jedi. Instead of fulfilling the fantasies of Star Wars fans, the Kinect game currently falls short. (Just like the new trilogy of movies.) As it is now, this is a game unworthy of the Star Wars kid. Watch the Shacknews E3 2011 page to follow all our coverage of this year's show. You can also subscribe to it with your favorite RSS reader.