Review: Kinect support for Skyrim

I bought a Kinect for my girlfriend for Christmas last year. She’s into MMOs as much as I am, but she suffers from a weakness for zumba games and dancing sims that is fairly common to her gender. I mainly consider the Kinect’s motion control to be mostly useless and completely creepy. The fact that a machine is tracking my every movement and observing me at all times really bothers me. I’ve essentially paid to be electronically monitored by a device that is connected to the Internet. Even now, as I type this, it’s watching me… waiting…

Cold chills aside, I do have the utmost respect for the other thing that Kinect brings to the gaming table – namely voice recognition and control.

I declared an uneasy truce with the device once I learned I could yell at it and make it browse Netflix. Unfortunately, yelling is exactly what we’re forced to do in our house. I don’t know about the average person, but our TV sits about 10 feet from our couch. At that range, and given the fact that our sound system generates respectable output, we end up screaming at Kinect like it’s an aging father who went to too many Rolling Stones concerts in his prime and is trying to leave the house without pants.

It makes for a very frustrating experience.

Because of that, I was more than a little skeptical when I saw this video Bethesda produced regarding voice control for Kinect. It looks promising, and seems to work flawlessly. Of course it helps that it was probably recorded in a sound-proof booth by a Bethesda employee who sat 3 feet away from the device. I think it is safe to say that conditions were probably ideal.

The problem is, I live in the real world and not a sound booth. My conditions are anything but ideal. The mic icon will blip on the screen even when I’m not trying to say anything, misfired by the sound from the speakers and the game dialog. At other times I’ll find myself in the middle of combat yelling “GREATSWORD! GREAT! SWORD! GRRRREEEAAAAT SWWORRD! GREATSWORD YOU STUPID MACHINE!” while Kinect refuses to acknowledge me.

More often than not, even when it does work, I have to give commands two or three times in a row. It’s like it hears me, but it’s pretending not to until I get angry. It reminds me a lot of my sister’s kids in that regard. The difference is, I’m not trying to get Kinect to eat its spinach. I’m just trying to play the friggin game.

Still, it isn’t all bad. When it does work, I find the inventory sorting and map features to be incredibly useful. Sort by weight and by value are almost worth the aggravation. Almost.

Great idea Bethesda, and thanks for trying. I don’t blame you at all. The hardware is close to being amazing, but it needs to be reliable first. Maybe it works perfectly for a lot of people out there. I’m just not one of them.

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One response to “Review: Kinect support for Skyrim

  1. I agree, I have two kids, my wife and I hardly ever yell unless we’re watching TV. I often jokingly shake my fist while yelling at the Kinect, “XBOX!!!”. The good news is, unlike when watching something on Zune or Netflix, when playing Skyrim it hasn’t once done something prompted by voices coming from the television speakers. I think part of the problem might be that the Kinect has now been trained to respond to frustrated shouting. BTW the neighbors probably think we’re insane, sorry neighbors.

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