Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Computer? Computer! COMPUTER!!

Around 89 years ago (2 years before the invention of the television, Fact fans) Microsoft announced their revolutionary new concept "Project Natal". Far from being the midwifery simulator that industry experts predicted, Natal was in fact Microsofts new bold (i.e. ripping off Nintendo) attempt to change the way we play games - a controllerless system (or rather a system where YOU are the controller) using a bit of kit almost as big (and expensive) as the 360 itself. Now we're a mere month or so away from its release and the windows of computer game shops are already festooned with notices warning people to pre-order because stocks will be very limited *

It's a revolution, say Microsoft. It'll let your whole family play exciting new games and will improve your standard of life by a huge expensive chunk. The promotional video showed attractive young people dancing merrily around their living rooms like sufferers at a Basial Ganglia disorder convention. Look, it's a young boy standing on his living room carpet pretending to skateboard - best invest in a new carpet. Look, it's two pretty young women shouting at their 360 to get it to play one of those super fancy HD films. I don't know about you, but I always found those buttons on remote controls so damn inconvenient. Tara already has a voice-activated device that will change channel and put whichever films on she likes - It's me. Wow, look! An old man is sitting on his sofa driving a car whilst holding an invisible steering wheel - either that or its simply an alzheimers sufferer they've caught on camera who genuinely thinks he's driving to work. THIS IS TRULY THE GAMING OF THE FUTURE.

Except it isn't. If I wanted to flail spasmodically around my living room pretending to kill aliens, I'd spasmodically flail around my living room pretending to kill aliens. And frequently do. Sometimes I even do whilst holding my cat Aslan under my arm pretending he's a plasma rifle. And there's no power on Earth than can stop me - and I wouldn't need to spend nearly 200 quid for the privilege.

At least they had the decency (much like Nintendo) to change the name from the working title. But unlike Nintendo, who changed their system name from Project Dolphin to the far simpler Wii, they didn't even change it to something funny that would provoke childish humour even years on.  Welcome to the world of Microsoft Kinect. See? It's like a mixture between Connect and Kinetic. Clever, eh?  I would have favoured "Microsoft Cheesehat" or "Microsoft Fuckplug".

And let's look at the exciting gamut of launch titles, shall we? Ooh - Kinect Adventures, a collection of mini games looking exactly like the type of thing that Microsoft said that they wouldn't do. Great.  That'll be Wii Play then. Kinect Sports, fantastic.  Another fucking bowling simulator.  That'll be Wii Sports then. Oh, and a Dance Dance Revolution game that's so old hat that Trading standards should really be considering forcing them to remove 'revolution' from the title.

Videos were floating around two years or so ago of a Bullfrog game called "Milo and Kate" which seemed to be a child simulator. I could knock you up one of them up for a tenner and you wouldn't even need electricity for it - I'll just give you a box which you have to put a few hundred quid in a month and eighteen years later I take the box away from you. There's your child simulator right there. For added realism I'll occasionally come into your house and break bits bits of your furniture or stick a crappily drawn caricature of something on your fridge, this on top of locking your front door on a Friday and Saturday night so you can't go out anymore. Seriously though, Milo and Kate was weirdly sinister stuff. The promotion videos entailed some woman chatting away to "Milo" (a small boy) through the genius of Kinect, occasionally playing kids games with him or going fishing. It looked more like an advanced paedophile grooming simulator than a computer game, and it's no surprise to hear that it's been canned - and all the developers have been shuffled over to finish Fable 3.

Ironically, Playstation Move (Kinects closest competitor) originally looked old fashioned in comparison, but now looks to be the far superior choice (despite a disappointing set of badly received launch titles). It still uses controllers ("You have to use your hands? It's like a babies toy") but I think herein lies the secret. The types of games you can play without buttons aren't the sort of games I want to be playing - by having a controllerless system you're instantly limited to the type of games you can use on it. The only types of games that will ever come out for Kinect will be dancing games and party games, which we were all playing (and got bored of) on the Wii five years ago.  And grew fucking bored of.

* = limited to the amount of resources available on the planet.

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