What's Next: A Preview of Kinect in 2011

Kinect has been on store shelves (or perhaps not) for more than a fortnight now in North America, and with its final launch today in Japan, owners can begin to look ahead at what is in store. Microsoft typically keep their cards close to their chest with regards to the up and coming years software line-up. Just 6 months ago the public had no idea what software would be available at Kinect's launch. We didn't even know the final name of Project Natal, as it was known at the time. That said, there are already a fair number of titles announced covering a variety of genres that should satisfy both the skeptical hardcore and the coveted casual markets.

2011 starts off with a couple of dancing titles from Ubisoft: Dance on Broadway, a Kinect variation on the Wii game and Michael Jackson: The Experience, a game featuring many of the late singers greatest hits. The Kinect version is unique from the Wii and Move game in that it uses player projection to put the player into the various environments similar to titles like Your Shape. The player can then "trigger various effects, visuals and even the music itself". It is also the only platform which allows the player to both sing and dance. There is live footage of the Kinect version of the game here.
Unicorns and Dragons? Kinectimals eat your heart out!
Full Body Brain Training anyone?
Also available in early 2011 is 'You Don't Know Jack', a new entry in the party trivia game series popular in the late 90's and 'Fantastic Pets', an augmented reality game putting players into the game and allowing them to control their pets using motion and voice. Pets start off traditionally with players choosing between a dog, cat, horse and lizard, but as the player progresses the animals can be morphed into more fantastical creatures such as unicorns and dragons. Dr. Kawashima's Body and Brain Connection will also be available, a Kinect iteration of the popular Nintendo DS titles. Trailer.

Multi-sensory overload.

Perhaps most interesting is Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Child of Eden, the spiritual successor to Rez. The rhythm-based shooter allows players to shoot various objects in first person using their hands, producing musical effects and spectacular abstract imagery upon their destruction. Kinect controls are optional, but various impressions and previews have stated a preference for controller-free input. Kotaku said that "playing the game with Kinect was my preferred method, if only for the sensation that it brought me closer to the game, making me feel like an interactive part of the experience" and ShackNews' Garnett Lee stated that "there's nothing quite like the feeling of being in the game using Kinect". Here is a preview video of Child of Eden.

Many would also consider Child of Eden to be the first "hardcore" Kinect experience. Many traditional gamers are skeptical of Kinect's ability to allow them to control the kinds of games that they have been playing with controllers for decades. Perhaps they are missing the point; it could be argued that Kinect is all about new experiences, but Microsoft are certainly pushing titles that should appeal to this audience.

Kinect enabled Forza.
The 2011 Kinect line-up is not all dancing, fitness and sports titles. Back at E3 2010 we saw glimpses of a new Forza racing title with two Kinect modes shown off. A racing section in which you try to pass as many cars as possible within the time limit and a car viewing mode in which you're able to walk around, view and touch various parts of your car, getting a closer first person view of the interior and exterior as well as having visual prompts to find out more information and even take it for a spin. You can see the Forza Kinect Demo here.

Kinect exclusive Star Wars game.
There is also a Star Wars game being developed exclusively for Kinect, jointly created by LucasArts and Terminal Reality. From what we've seen, the game will feature light sabers, Jedis, Darth Vader, Storm Troopers and force powers. You can check out the E3 trailer here. Microsoft recently reiterated that we will be seeing both the new Forza and Star Wars titles in 2011.

Codename D
At this years Tokyo Game Show we saw the unveiling of 5 new exclusive Kinect experiences from some of Japans best developers. Suda-51, the creator of 'Killer 7' and 'No More Heroes', and his development house Grasshopper Manufacture, are working on Codename D, an action game that lets you "face off against enemies, clearing missions in the hopes of restoring your lost self." Suda said that "it's a no gun, no sword action game. It's a game that will let you experience the invigorating feel that can be had because of Kinect". Trailer here.

A horror title by Parappa the Rapper creator.
Sega's Kinect horror title.

"Dodge traps and outwit ghosts, ghouls and frights that lurk with glee around each and every corner" in 'Haunt', a game by Masaya Matsuura, the legendary creator of PaRappa the Rapper, and his studio NanaOn-Sha. SEGA also hope to scare players in 'Rise of Nightmares', a Kinect horror title in which players will "use their whole body to experience fear and tension like never before."

Project Draco by the original creators of Panzer Dragoon.

Also announced at TGS was 'Project Draco', from Yukio Futatsugi and other core members of the team that developed cult hits 'Phantom Dust' and 'Panzer Dragoon'. 'Project Draco' is a dragon combat title that allows players to communicate, train and develop their dragons skills as a partner in combat. "Project Draco is not a party type game where everyone enjoys themselves for brief periods, but is rather the type of game into which players sink their teeth." said Futatsugi. "Don't you want to be able to actually experience the feeling of communicating with a dragon and riding it into battle? I do."

Capcom's Kinect Mech sim Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor
Perhaps the most interesting of the Kinect games announced at the Tokyo Game Show is Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. The game takes place in the future, allowing players to take control of Mech robots. It is a sequel to the original Steel Battalion which is notorious for having one of the most complex controllers in gaming. It'll be interesting to see how they go from that to no controller at all or, at the very most, a standard Xbox 360 controller/Kinect hybrid title.

Aside from the already announced titles, Microsoft themselves have been teasing surprises and announcements for months now. They have stated numerous times that we can expect to see more hardcore titles next year, as well as games that utilize both Kinect AND a controller. IGN recently posted a rumor that next months VGA awards will see numerous action titles announced for the Xbox 360 and Kinect; specifically, a new Gears of War game. Rare undoubtedly have a few projects in development, and it is almost certain that we will see at least one new Kinect game from them in 2011 as Kinect is their primary focus. And Lionhead, creators of the infamous Milo tech demo, are said to be utilizing the Milo technology in a Kinect Fable game. Finally, Harmonix have already started pre-production on Dance Central 2, which will likely be out fall '11.

Of course 2011 will see the smorgasbord of sequels to the popular fitness and sports titles that typically have annual iterations. I think it likely that a good few big titles are yet to be unveiled and services like Live Arcade are largely unexplored as of yet. Even John Carmack of iD, the creator of Doom, Quake and the upcoming Rage, is interested in creating a Kinect title. Whatever you're looking for, be it an action game, a dancing game, a Dragon petting game or a Dragon fighting game, the 2011 line-up for Kinect is already varied and there is plenty to look forward too.

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