Kinect Star Wars
After several delays, Microsoft's much-hyped Kinect Star Wars is finally set for release on April 3rd (alongside the Star Wars-themed Xbox 360 bundle). Previous showings of the title have been notoriously disastrous, with frequent complaints about sub-par motion controls and ultra-linear gameplay. What I saw at the Spring Showcase didn't convince me that this is a must-have for Star Wars fans (or Kinect owners), but it did give me a better idea of how the game is structured.
Jedi Destiny: Dark Side Rising is the primary single-player campaign, and features players starting as a Padawan that's sent to the Wookie planet of Kashyyyk. We were shown the lightsaber combat that's been displayed at previous shows, and it seems just as unexciting as ever. Players have access to a limited amount of gestures, including saber flailing, jumping, and leaning forward to dash. These on-foot sections appear to be the definition of linear, as the gameplay involves little else than dashing from enemy to enemy and flailing your arms. Your right hand controls your force abilities, but it doesn't look to make the combat any more engaging (although LucasArts pointed out to us that you could Force dangle an opponent above a co-op partner for an easy lightsaber kill). We were told that Jedi Destiny would cycle between on-foot action, land speeder sections, space combat, duels, and more for its 4-6 hour duration, but we didn't see anything outside of this brief section on Kashyyyk.
Podracing is the other substantial mode that was shown off, and features eight races across four planets. Most of the gameplay in this mode boils down to moving your arms in the correct direction of upcoming turns.We saw a race on Tattooine that was similar to the scene in The Phantom Menace, and it featured hazards like womp rats that jump onto your pod. These can be knocked off by making a throwing motion in their general direction, and they should be taken care of before they eat away at your pod's defenses. Power-ups are available from time to time, and we saw one that spawns a lightsaber training droid above your ship that shoots nearby racers.
Two other modes were detailed, and they both resemble minigames more than substantial experiences. Rancor Rampage allows players to run roughshod over four different areas, and I saw the Mos Eisley environment in action. Gestures include swinging your arms to swipe at buildings and grab civilians, running in place to dash through buildings, clapping hands to creative a shockwave attack, and jumping to...jump. You can go crazy until a timer runs out, and increasingly-difficult foes appear in waves as your alert level goes up. Jetpack droids may be the first line of defense for these cities, but they won't take long to call in Stormtroopers on speeder bikes.
Gamers haven't seen much of the announced dancing mode, but they didn't waste any time in mocking it. This silly mode looks to ape Dance Central's format, and has players dancing to Star Wars versions of contemporary hits as Slave Leia or C-3PO (watch Stormtroopers dance to "Y.M.C.A." with the reworked "It's great to be in the Empire today" lyrics at the bottom of this article). LucasArts seemed to acknowledge the backlash at the event, saying "we know it won't be for everyone."
Previous showings of this game have been met with almost unanimous negativity, and what I saw at the Spring Showcase didn't make me any more optimistic about the title. It's nice to see that goofy distractions like the dancing mode won't be included in the main story, but the campaign looks tedious enough on its own. Kids may enjoy novelties like stomping around as a Rancor, but gamers looking for an engaging Star Wars experience might want to approach this title with caution.
You can take a look at some of the modes in action in this b-roll footage below: