The Xbox One is almost here, and TechRadar recently checked out the console as we played with several games at a showcase in San Francisco.
Intrigued by the Xbox One's new and improved Kinect sensor and its potential for use in hardcore games that don't involve dancing or jumping up and down in place, we sought out games that use it.
We found Crytek's Ryse: Son of Rome, Yukio Futatsugi's Crimson Dragon, and Swery's D4.
One is an action-combat game, one a linear dragon-riding game, and the last a story-driven adventure game. And all three use the new Kinect in very different ways.
The depth of Kinect's integration with their gameplay is very different, and for two of these titles the Kinect implementation changed significantly over the course of development.
Do the ways these games use (or don't use) Kinect say anything about Microsoft's next-gen hardware, or reveal any hints about where hardcore video games are headed in the future?
We chatted with their developers to find out.
Ryse, son of Kinect
The Roman combat game Ryse has been the most visible of these three games, mainly because it was announced more than two years ago.
It was initially going to be an Xbox 360 title that used Kinect extensively to recognize player movements during combat. But that changed significantly over the years it was in development at Crytek, and eventually Ryse re-emerged in its current and final form as a launch title for Xbox One that barely uses Kinect at all.
Where originally Ryse was designed to feature combat sequences controlled extensively using players' arm gestures, it now features complex reaction-based combat that players control using only the Xbox One's controller. Kinect is relegated to voice commands, like telling soldiers to launch arrow strikes - which can also be accomplished using the controller. Kinect is truly on the sidelines of the experience now.
"We tried a whole bunch of things, and we wanted to make sure not to pull away and we wanted to make sure that they added value," Microsoft Design Director Jay Epps told TechRadar.
"For the hardcore game that we are, we played around with a bunch of stuff and we just didn't feel like we were getting what we wanted for the end play experience with some of the gesture stuff we were messing around with. We really felt like this is a more controller-based product."
He added that for many game features, using voice commands with Kinect will be easier than pressing buttons. And granted, in our experience the new Xbox One Kinect is definitely much better at recognizing players' voices, even in a noisy room.
But why did they decide to scale back Ryse's Kinect support, especially after the game made the jump from Xbox 360 to Xbox One, a console with an even more advanced Kinect sensor?
"It has nothing to do with the hardware at all," Epps said. "The hardware is super fully-featured and has greater resolution this time and has so many advantages over the previous hardware."
He continued, "We needed to focus to make a really beautiful game and really make sure the combat and the story both came across and were deep and immersive. So it was really more on us and our creative decisions, not at all on the lack of hardware or the lack of the hardware to support the kind of things we wanted."
Dragon-riding with Kinect - or not
Crimson Dragon has a similar history to Ryse. It was unveiled in 2011, at the Tokyo Game Show, and was originally meant to be an Xbox 360 game that made extensive use of Kinect. In fact, the entire game was controlled using gestures back then.