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63 Reviews

Xbox Kinect

Marks and sensors

Page 3 of 4

The Kinect Hub itself is clean and elegant, but disappointingly restrictive. All the basics are in there - launch game, customise avatar, Inside Xbox, Zune, music, Last.FM - but you're shut off from much of the good stuff.

Want to download a demo or an indie game? Use the controller. Fancy watching the latest E3 or Gamescom report? Ditto. How about grabbing a new Theme or Wallpaper? Best limber up those fingers and thumbs.

There are some neat additions, however. Kinect ID picks out your visage from a crowd and signs you into Xbox Live via facial recognition. The customisation setup, found via the Kinect Hub, sees you moving around a block full of little squares and pulling poses - ensuring that the camera can remember your face and body shape.

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Again, the more you complete this in different lighting conditions, the more robust a service it provides. After three days of flouncing around in front of it, my camera now has no difficulties instantaneously spotting me morning, noon or night. Seeing Xbox "recognize" (darn that cursed 'z') my profile from a mere glimpse of my mug still seems wonderfully space age.

Movement might have given Kinect its name, but the audio recognition is the best thing about it. Calling up the Kinect Hub for the first time is a genuine thrill, whilst whizzing through the menus using "Xbox, next" and "Xbox previous" never gets old.

However, the 'deeper' you go, the less impact voice control is permitted. For instance, voice can take you into the Kinect Hub, from one menu to the next, and then into the latest highlights of Zune Player. It can even allow you to skip between selected movie previews, or to pause what you're playing back.

But alas, that's about as precise as it can manage - for now. The dream of "Xbox, Bridge On The River Kwai" will have to wait: If you want to get specific, you're going to have to rely on gesture.

The Sky Player is a similar story. As with Zune, voice can open content - and then pause, fast forward, rewind and stop full programmes. But in terms of menu navigation, it's redundant. (Here's a laugh - you have to use the controller to exit the Sky area once inside.)

Audio limitations are not the last of Kinect's shortcomings - and they're certainly not the most significant. That arrives with the joypad's best friend: Space.

Sitting down might be all very well for navigating Zune and choosing a bit of telly, but when it comes to getting jiggy with Kinect - and its physically demanding software roster - you're going to need to make some room.

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The ideal position to tackle two-player Kinect games is seven to ten feet back from the camera. In my average-size one bedroom flat, that kind of clearance takes some rearranging. Kinect's caused tables to be upturned, washing stands to be hastily disassembled, and plenty of clambering over sofa cushions.

However, I have learnt that most strife-filled reconstruction can be avoided by simply pointing the camera towards a more spacious area of the room - usually achievable by turning Kinect to an angle, rather than just parallel with your TV. Thankfully, this doesn't mess with your regular settings if (and I'm going to bang on about it again) you've taken the time to calibrate Kinect properly.

There's no real need for any commotion at all if you're after a single-player experience - which can be comfortably housed six feet from the camera. This is easily manageable. (If your sofa is any closer to the TV than that on any given day, your mother didn't say "square eyes" enough to you in your youth.)

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