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Preview: Kinect Star Wars

Kinect's new hope?

The Star Wars franchise is one big broken promise. Ever since the first three films created an entire galaxy stuffed with fascinating characters and stories, Lucasfilm (and its subsidiaries) has set about dismantling it, piece by piece. Awful prequels, (mostly) rubbish videogames and that bloody Dixons advert, amongst other things, have seen to this. Our childhood lays in tatters.

But perhaps that’s the wrong way of looking at it. The Star Wars universe continues to bring happiness to millions of kids around the world, who lap up everything upon which that iconic logo is placed. Maybe we’re just too old for it now. Maybe it’s time we put down the replica AT-AT, roll up the Tauntaun sleeping bag and just grow up. Maybe Star Wars isn’t for us anymore.

Those were the thoughts zipping around my head as I played the E3 demo for Kinect Star Wars at a recent Microsoft event. Touted as ‘fun for all the family’ it’s a game that’s undeniably made for kids. You could easily dissect its wafer-thin gameplay like a hot lightsaber through butter, but what’s the point? Considering the target audience, how critical can you really be?

Rumours of podracing levels may add some depth to the game.
Kinect Star Wars is set between Star Wars: Episode I and Episode III, but will take in characters and locations from elsewhere within the core timeline. So the demo we tested took place in Bespin’s Cloud City, the scene of Lando’s betrayal in The Return of the Jedi, while the art-style belongs to the recent Clone Wars animated series. It’s this mix of old and new that the developers hope will appeal across the board.

The on-rails action began as my Jedi player-character leapt out of a transporter and onto a platform below, to tackle a phalanx of Trade Federation Droids. With the aid of my lightsaber (no “lightsaber on” moment sadly/happily), I carved my way through the crowd by waving my arm around in a rough approximation of Jedi sabremanship. It’s not terribly responsive yet, to be honest. And combined with the lack of feedback, it just doesn’t feel as if you’re making contact with your victims. But onwards I ploughed.

It’s in this fashion that I made my way down the light-filled corridors of Cloud City – with the occasional brief speed-burst executed by lunging forwards. In addition to the rudimentary slashes, there were a few other varieties of attack available, including kicks and the ability to repel enemy lasers with the lightsaber. The latter works by holding your arm out in the direction of oncoming fire to send it straight back where it came from. It’s pretty easy to pull off – when the Kinect sensor does what it’s supposed to – but it’s hardly sophisticated.

Indeed, unsophisticated is probably the best word to describe the entire demo. The only slight nuance to proceedings came in an encounter with a couple of Droidekas, those rolling gun turret robots from the prequel series. To bypass their force shields you have to jump over them with a real-life hop, then slash away at their exposed backs; because droids always have weak points on their backs, obviously. Dur.

Using your force powers is incredibly satisfying.
So that’s all rather underwhelming. But Kinect Star Wars does have another trick up its Jedi robed sleeves. It’s a convincing one too. Since the advent of motion controls we’ve been geek-gasming over the prospect of a decent motion-controlled lightsaber game, but the potential of hands-free Force powers has gone relatively untrumpeted. That’s an oversight, because in Kinect Star Wars it’s fantastic fun. Indeed, it was so enjoyable I pretty much forgot about the niggly lightsaber slashing and spent the entirety of the demo chucking droids around Cloud City’s shiny rooms.

It works like this: Hold out your left arm (the right is for your lightsaber) and after a brief moment the nearest enemies will be highlighted. From there all you have to do is fling your hand left or right to dismissively chuck your attacker at a wall, down a chasm or into a group of squad mates. It’s simple, it’s incredibly easy and the odds are that the novelty will wear off quickly, but for the entirety of my demo it was oh-so-enjoyable.

And that, ultimately, sums up my reservations with the game in its current state. There’s just no depth there. Yes, it’s fun to pretend to be a Jedi. Yes, it’s kinda cool to wave a lightsabre around. And hell yeah, it’s great to chuck baddies around using the Force. But right now it’s a pretty meagre offering and despite talk of X-Wing and podracer levels yet to be unveiled, it’s hard to imagine Kinect Star Wars providing any kind of depth.

Which brings us back to where we started. If Kinect Star Wars is just for kids, do any of my reservations really matter? I’m not sure. But my generation grew up playing the likes of Super Mario Bros., titles that needed no such get out clauses. Not every game can be a stone cold classic, of course, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. You get the feeling that Kinect Star Wars isn’t trying hard enough.

  1. nofi
    One for all.
    Since: Forever

    Yes. Ugh. Terrible game.

    Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 15:32.
    • ScottW-1976
      Since: Dec 2009

      George Lucas seems to be determined to Piss on the grave of all of his great films with dreadful games and even worse sequels/prequels (phantom menace and Indiana Jones and the crystal skulls anyone?)

      Oh, and Lando’s betrayal was in Empire Strikes Back…….

      Comment posted on 12/07/2011 at 07:13.
  2. Klart
    Since: Jun 2010

    I want a proper Move lightsaber game!

    Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 15:34.
    • eye8have9you3
      Since: Aug 2009

      That’ll be slow heavy original lightsabers (potentially boring) or the new acrobatic stuff that won’t feel realistic, can’t see either being fun to a serious gamer. Just give me a normally controlled game let me be han solo

      Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 15:44.
    • Darksidesystems
      Since: Aug 2010

      Ditto. It’s what let the Wii down for me. Plus the ball can change colours to suit your jedi/sith

      Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 18:47.
    • seniorfrito
      Since: Jan 1970

      +1 to the Move lightsaber game idea.

      Comment posted on 14/07/2011 at 00:18.
  3. Paranoimia
    Since: Aug 2008

    See, this is the kind of game that should be on PS3 with Move. the PS Eye can easily catch the hand movements, while the Move would be the ideal method for precise lightsabre control. And with the NavCon, it wouldn’t need to be on rails, either.

    What a missed opportunity.

    Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 15:37.
    • DrNate86
      Since: Apr 2010

      My thoughts exactly. The Move controller even looks a bit like a lightsabre, albeit the Ann Summers model.

      Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 16:34.
      • Amphlett
        Since: Jul 2009

        It wouldn’t work with my Move controller as there’s too much dust on it.

        Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 17:31.
      • DrNate86
        Since: Apr 2010

        No pretend Star Wars game for you then!

        Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 21:47.
  4. yogdog
    Since: Feb 2010

    Ok, ‘mostly’ rubbish video games? I take issue with that. Star Wars: Battlefront 1 and 2, Knights of the Old republic, Jedi Outcast, Empire at War, Republic Commando, Force Unleashed…. Theres more good than bad :/ Sure, they may not be for everyone, but they’re not bad games because of it. Then theres the new MMO coming out soon by Bioware which looks brilliant as well. This, however, just looks crap, although I realise hardcore gamers arn’t the target audience here.

    Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 15:46.
    • blarty
      Since: Apr 2011

      *cough* Rogue Squadron *cough*

      Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 16:39.
      • Darksidesystems
        Since: Aug 2010

        Hey! That’s “Rogue Squadron 3D” I’ll have you know :P

        Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 18:45.
    • eye8have9you3
      Since: Aug 2009

      you might be surprised just how many games there are, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Star_Wars_video_games
      and whilst there are alot of games here that are fun to play, they’re mostly just propped up by the films. They’re enjoyable purely because of the association with the franchise, if you took the star wars out of something like the force unleashed, republic commando or empire at war then all that would be left would be a poor example of their respective genres and a lacklustre storyline. There are exceptions to this, but it’s been a long time since a star wars game I actually wanted to buy

      Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 17:57.
  5. Forrest_01
    Since: Jun 2009

    “It’s this mix of old and new that the developers hope will appeal across the board”

    Nope, just stick to episodes IV-VI & have done with it.

    Additionally, i don’t see why a PS version couldn’t exist, as the subcontroller could control force powers, with move being the lightsabre. Sure that would dull down the force somewhat, but i bet the lightsbre would be more exciting. Plus it wouldn’t have to be on rails so much, as it could kinda be free-roam (as you would have buttons to control movement), but with parts that zoom in for battles & whatnot.

    Either way, this is beginning to sound like an ‘avoid’.

    Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 15:48.
  6. The Lone Steven
    Never heard of him.
    Since: May 2010

    I am still recovering from my facepalm when this was annouce. The imprint is still not fading.

    This is going to be a horrible game. The demo showed a lot of lag and boring gameplay. I would wish that Lucas would stop whoring out star wars but i may as well speak to the wall.

    Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 15:48.
    • Roynaldo
      Since: Nov 2008

      I like Star Wars and am happy for them to pump out games. One small thing though….make them good!! Battlefield was ok and quite addictive, the movie ones were as any movie based game is ..poor. Force Unleashed is nice but full of bugs.

      Its like they are hell bent on destroying a fantastic franchise by bringing out new stuff that doesnt square up with what made it awesome in the first place.

      Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 18:03.
  7. Rob92
    Since: Dec 2008

    The fact Lucasarts decided to bring a Star Wars game to Kinnect rather than Move just shows a massive missed oppurtunity (and probably a lot of MS cash).

    Fail indeed.

    Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 15:51.
  8. simplebob
    Since: Mar 2009

    Not looking too good, wasnt a Move game in the star wars universe mentioned a while back? Just as a side note “the scene of Lando’s betrayal in The Return of the Jedi” was not in ROTJ but in Empire Strikes Back…just saying (and yes I’m a bit of a Star Wars nerd…)

    Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 16:00.
  9. Porcupine_I
    Since: Aug 2009

    i feel heavily reminded of Rebel Assault

    Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 16:05.
  10. retro_
    Since: Jul 2009

    Slow motion actions….check
    Slight Lag that makes the player slow down even more…. check
    Happy pretty family playing in huge light lounge with no clutter adverts….check
    Pile of Crap….. check

    On PS3 where it should be with a light Sabre type controller…. Nope!


    Comment posted on 11/07/2011 at 16:13.