Microsoft has announced a voice control feature for its Kinect motion control system in an apparent attempt to appeal to serious gamers.
Speaking at the E3 expo in Los Angeles, the company revealed that Kinect will be supported by several upcoming games aimed more at traditional players than the casual audience targeted in the initial Kinect launch — the Wii generation as it were.
The voice control will feature in Mass Effect 3, where players will be able to give commands to crew-mates via voice commands rather than making a menu selection. It sounds similar to the online multiplayer experience of many games, albeit it with Kinect unlikely to respond to racial slurs or l33t-speak.
The voice control will also be built into the main XBox menus, for example allowing users to search for media content by speech commands.
The motion control elements of Kinect will also feature in more hardcore games. For example Ghost Recon, the next installment in the Tom Clancy series, will allow players to dismantle, adjust and fire weapons using their hands. A demonstration of the technology earned a mixed review, with several attendees noting that the firing control (aim with one hand, unclench the other to fire) not only lacked the accuracy of using a controller, but didn’t bring much psychological benefit as it didn’t resemble the physical actions of firing a gun.
Kinect is also being built into several of the EA Sports franchises, including FIFA, NFL and PGA Tour. It’s hard to see the motion control working effectively in the ball games, though it might be suitable for conversions in NFL or penalty kicks in FIFA. The golf game, where the entire experience is based around specific physical movement, might be more suited to motion control, though the lack of a physical controller could make it trickier.
Despite the renewed emphasis on hardcore gamers, Microsoft certainly isn’t abandoning the family audience: it unveiled Kinect games based around Disney characters and Sesame Street. Indeed, one disgruntled reporter described 2011-2012 as “the best 12 months on Xbox 360 for eight year-old girls.”