Published on January 13th, 2012 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
CES 2012: Kinect Star Wars: Pod Racing Impressions
The 2012 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) was filled to the gills with surprises this year. One of those surprises just happened to be the nice array of games from some of the major players in the business. After being a very narrowed experience in the gaming department in the prior year, it was rather impressive to see so many games and accessories on the show floor. Luckily, Microsoft brought the goods for pod racing fans everywhere.
Kinect Star Wars has been one title that we are anxiously waiting for. And by we, I mean the fans out there who can’t get enough Wookie r-r-r-r-r-awr’s, or boo-beep-boop-boop’s from R2D2. As we practice how exactly our force push is going to play out, we at least have the images of the Star Wars themed Xbox 360 bundle to gawk over. Thanks to the showing on the floor of CES, we get yet another look at the pod racing of Kinect Star Wars.
To date, I haven’t really met a Kinect game that lacked response time and made the game unplayable. Even Sonic Free Riders, once in the proper stance, became an easy game for me to play. Although the pod racing didn’t utilize your whole body when maneuvering, it did involve some strategic movement of your arms.
Starting the game involves the similar menu selectors that you would see in the Xbox LIVE Dashboard. During the demo we ventured into the desert sands of Tatooine. To get started, the drive of the podracer must extend their hands out in front of them as if they were grabbing railing or a bar. I’m not going to lie either, my chubby nerd arms were slightly sore mid-race. The acceleration is automatic, but players can use a few things to catapult them into the lead. I tried to be as careful as possible starting out being that there were so many rock formations that could leave you to explode on impact.
You might be wondering, how exactly do you accelerate in the game? The game does it automatically, but there are a few tricks you can use to grab that first place spot. Steering in and out of traffic of other racers, or dodging rock masses, are done by pulling back the arm coinciding with the direction of your turn. It may sound difficult, but it becomes very natural when in the heat of the race. Another way to stay in front is to use the boost. When you build up boost, it can be used by bringing your arms toward you and thrusting them at the screen. This can prove helpful after catching flak from enemy racers and running into obstacles.
Arcade racing games often rely on power-ups to give the game a fun feel, but also to even out the playing field. In the case of KSW, power-ups come in the form of health, droid auto fire, womp rats and other creatures that will disrupt your perfect run. After asking Product Manager Glenn Gregory about these, he reassured us that they are automatically fired after picking them up. Even though both myself and Louis from GAMINGtruth/Digital Hippos placed first in both races we played, I felt as though my racing skills weren’t all that great and definitely not 1st place deserving. After getting hands-on and watching others play, there were a few things that I saw that could use some tinkering.
When we were making quick turns in and out of cavern like scenery, the sensor often auto-corrected the mistakes and turning mishaps. This was helpful in some cases, but in other it directed my racer completely opposite from where I wanted to head. I do agree however that there is a slight learning curve in obtaining those better scripted turns.
In the demo version, there was also a green guideline that showed exactly the correct pathing to take during the race. It was easy to follow, but hopefully this will go away in game and allow players to deter from it. This might also help the game separate itself from a dominate on-rail feel, even though the races are typically 95 percent linear.
The game does seem like it is coming along as planned. Fans just can’t seem to keep patient, myself included, but the longer the wait–the better the outcome. Well, hopefully.
It was easy to tell the game still had some final polishing to go through in the graphics department. It was however still coming together nicely in the realm of 3D. The controls will definitely see some tightening whether its through Kinect Sensor fine tuning coupled with the games own response time. Gregory also noted the game’s campaign and two-player abilities. Unfortunately, the two-player mode cannot be played in 3D with the current tech. This not only gives the racing portion a lot of substance, but the game as a whole an immersive Star Wars experience.