Microsoft is front and center at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show — mainly because it’s bidding adieu next year — but it’s definitely bringing the goods between its Windows stuff and the Xbox 360. Among the 360 offerings are plenty of Kinect games, including Dance Central 2 and Kinect Sports Season 2. But perhaps the one that’s gaining the most interest in the oft-delayed Kinect Star Wars, mainly because Microsoft introduced a new component for the game at the show — 3D.
Yep, Microsoft has officially added 3D support to the game, and while its 720p display doesn’t really have the same resolution as some of Sony’s games, the effect was quite good nonetheless. Our good Microsoft friends allowed us to go hands-on…er, off, I suppose…with the demo, complete with a pair of glasses and a nice little wind rush from podcast racing.
Essentially, the stage we played through recreated the pod racing sequence from Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, where we guide young Anakin Skywalker through the race while competitors try to ram him and gain the lead. The game is supported fully by motion controls, but uses an interesting steering mechanic for handling the pod. Instead of simply turning our arms like a typical racing game, we pull our arms back and forth to control turns, or shoot them both back and forward quickly when we need to use a turbo boost. While it’s unconventional, it’s a control method that works remarkably well, as we had no problem keeping our pod on track and guiding it through rocky formations and in the air. (And yes, damn it, those pesky Sand People shot at us again. Jerks.)
What really surprised us was how incredible the game looked with the added factor of 3D. The explosions that occur during the race (when your competitors blow up) are amazing, and the debris that comes flying at you really makes you feel like you’re a part of the event. This is a huge step up from previous Episode 1 racing games, including Sega’s arcade game and LucasArts’ N64/Dreamcast release. The level layout, while early, is utterly superb, and perfectly recreated from the film. The only thing missing is Anakin’s voice…nah, you know what, scratch that, we don’t miss it.
Kinect Star Wars will not only include pod racing, but other sequences in 3D, including full-on Jedi battles (where you at, Vader?!) and cool mini-games, including a fun Rancor one where you stomp around, Rampage style, and create havoc. No question that these will be great for fans and kids alike.
Now the only question is when the game will release. The Microsoft rep explained that no official date is available as of yet, but summer may be looking likely. We’ll keep our eyes open…especially for that R2-D2 system bundle. WANT.