Thursday, April 01, 2010

X-Box Natal looks like fun but will most games be rehash of previous releases?

I finally had a chance to catch up on a little back reading and watched a demo video of the X-Box Natal.  Of course I was wowed by the technology but will it perform as demonstrated when it actually starts to ship in November?

Last Christmas, my husband, seeing me lingering over sale ads for the Wii, finally told me to go ahead and get one for myself.  Although I have played PC-based games casually for many years, I was intrigued by a system that incorporates motion.  After I purchased my Wii, however, I was a bit confused as to why so few games were available that actually did incorporate the motion sensing capabilities of the Wii. 

 I found Wii Play great fun and actually very physically demanding if you perform the same motions that you would if you were playing the sport for real.  When I played baseball I did a full wind up for a pitch.  I played golf for real for many years so it was natural to fully swing when playing the golf game and I discovered I actually seem to have a knack for boxing which I never knew about - knocking out my first opponent.  I also loved the fact that when I played tennis, I never had to go fetch an errant tennis ball.

I had also purchased a high-end fishing game.  I have always loved to fish since I grew up in a little town on the Oregon coast that had limited entertainment venues.  Bandon, during the time period when I was growing up, only had a small movie theater.  Teenagers could attend a ball game and go to the dance but younger kids only had the theater and their own imagination.  My father had taught me to fish when I was not much older than a toddler and as I grew older, I spent many afternoons fishing from the banks of Ferry Creek that was within walking distance from my house.  I occasionally fished from the docks in the harbor but preferred stream fishing for trout.

The love of fishing has stayed with me all these years although climbing down into ravines to find the best fishing spot is almost beyond my physical ability any more and I discovered a number of years ago that this Navy man's daughter gets terribly seasick on a charter boat.

On a trip to visit my daughter in the early 90s, I was introduced to a new PC-based Bass fishing game from Sierra.  I was "hooked" (pun intended) and stayed up until 3 a.m. playing that game.  Of course I bought my own copy when I got home.  But I always thought it would be great if you could actually feel the fish bite.  I got my wish with the new fishing game I bought for the Wii.

Recently, I bought another game called "Endless Ocean: Blue World" that is a scuba diving simulation that I like very much.  Although it doesn't use motion as much as I would like (I would prefer to swim by having the system detect the motion of my arms) I enjoy swimming about looking at the fish, whales and other marine life and exploring the ocean looking for treasure.  I even learned to "whale ride".  Then last week I bought a Firefighting game that uses motion in its controls.  But dozens of Wii titles are just ports from other consoles and do not take advantage of the Wii capabilities.

From what I have seen of the new Natal X-Box, motion-controlled gaming is going to take another giant leap forward when the hardware is released in November 2010.  But are we only going to see mostly ported games that do not fully utilize the new full-body motion sensing and face and voice recognition capabilities?  This new system could be a major factor in the battle against childhood (or even adult) obesity but hardware is relatively useless without software. 

I noticed that Microsoft claims over 80% of third party developers are working on Natal titles but are they really trying to incorporate the new functionality or just "rebranding" existing titles?  I would like to see games rated on degree of physical activity level (not just an icon denoting "Motion Plus" aware) so we can truly see which games make best use of the new technology and which ones just basically run on the console hardware. 

Endless Ocean: Blue World  Wii Sports Resort   Real Heroes: Firefighter
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