THE Xbox Kinect smashed records on its release last Christmas, shipping an astonishing 10m units in less than six months.
Its motion-sensing camera made it the first console to completely do away with the need for a control pad – hence its tagline “You are the controller”.
A year later it is still the must-have gaming device, driving sales of Microsoft’s aging – but still leading – Xbox 360 console. The new crop of games, including the follow-up to its top-selling Dance Central, have perfected the motion tracking software, meaning it can pick up even subtle body movements. Kinect Sports 2, for example, features a darts game that is so precise it can track your throwing arm with enough precision to know whether you scored a coveted triple 20 or went a fraction over the line and got a single point.
Other new titles use the console in even more innovative ways. Forza Motorsports is played with a regular controller but the Kinect tracks your head, allowing you to “look” around corners and in your rear-view mirror, adding a whole new dimension to the game.
As the technology gets ever more sophisticated, motion tracking looks set to become a staple of console gaming. Make sure you’re an early adopter.
Kinect from £110 (requires Xbox 360 console)
BEST FOR: TEENAGERS
Dance Central 2
Dance Central 2 is sure to be a Christmas staple for families with young (and not so young) girls. Get down to artists including Lady Gaga, La Roux, David Guetta, Rihanna and Daft Punk from the comfort of your own living room. The ability to “dance-off” against your mates is definitely the highlight. Hardcore gamers may turn their noses up, but five minutes on this had me surreptitiously dancing while nobody was looking. Fans of the previous game will be able to import their purchased material.
BEST FOR: GAMERS
Forza Motorsport 4
Anyone who says the Kinect isn’t for serious gamers hasn’t played Forza Motorsport 4. The daddy of racing games showcases how versatile the Kinect can be. Want to glance in your mirror during a race? Just look – the Kinect will track the movement of your head to within a few millimetres. There is something incredibly satisfying about peering through your passenger-side window as you slide past an opponent on a tricky corner. This is racing taken to the next level.
BEST FOR: SOCIABLE GAMING
The hands-down, number one reason to buy a Kinect was Sports. Jumping around the room playing table tennis or football with your mates was amazing fun – and Kinect Sports Season 2 doesn’t disappoint. The addition of Skiing (crouch and weave), tennis and, perhaps best of all, darts, makes this an absolute must-have for anyone with a Kinect. Sociable gaming doesn’t get any better.
BEST FOR: HORROR FANS
Rise of Nightmares
Rise of Nightmares is the first survival horror game on the platform. You take control of a character locked in a dungeon and have to fight your way out by hacking and slashing zombies, using increasingly fearsome weapons. To swing your chainsaw, of course, you have to flail your arms at your undead attackers. At its best, this is hugely satisfying, very gory fun. But the control system can be clunky and frustrating.
BEST FOR: CHILDREN
Despite the mixed messages you could be sending by encouraging your children to play with tigers, Kinectimals will be a hit with families this year. It’s a cutesy-wutesy, glossy Tamagotchi on steroids. The on screen animals (“Now with bears!”) will follow your gestures – spin your hand around and a well trained animal will roll over for you. Hours of fun for younger gamers.
BEST FOR: ARCADE-STYLE GAMING
Gunstringer – probably the most surreal of the Kinect games – sees you take the strings of a cowboy marionette. One hand moves the character as you would a real puppet. The other is your sharp shooter. Target your enemies with your finger and recoil your hand to fire. That this actually works is an achievement in itself. That it is this much fun makes it a must-have Kinect game. Worth it for the wicked, tongue -in-cheek humour alone.