E3 2011: Kinect Star Wars Hands-On Preview

We get our first chance to wield a lightsaber and Force push the heck out of some battle droids in Kinect Star Wars.

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At Microsoft's E3 showcase event, we got a chance to see if we had the midichlorians one needs to be a Jedi with a playable demo for Kinect Star Wars. Our hands-on experience started with a quick training mode. The instructions were delivered by none other than Yoda, though we couldn't hear him over the din of the event itself. Thankfully, onscreen prompts made the moves he requested very clear. We learned that taking a step forward made our Jedi dash forward at great speed and that holding out our right arm made him activate his lightsaber. At one point, a number of battle droids fired at us, and by quickly swinging the lightsaber back and forth, we were able to reflect their laser blasts right back at them, reducing the fragile robots to smithereens. We also used our Force powers to lift and move a small spacecraft. Perhaps most satisfyingly of all, we learned that when close to a droid, we could deliver a swift kick to send it flying.

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Once our training came to a close, we played through the same battle on Bespin that was played at Microsoft's press conference. While we weren't able to get any specific plot details out of the representative we spoke to, he did tell us that the story will span from roughly the end of Star Wars: Episode I to the beginning of Episode III. He also stressed that there would be nods to the later films in the game, and the setting of The Empire Strikes Back's Bespin for the demo level seemed to back up that statement. The action started as we leapt out of a transport and down into the fray on a platform below. We immediately had to deal with a number of battle droids. There was a bit of a delay between our swinging gestures and the Jedi swinging his lightsaber, but his motions seemed to clearly match our own. We noticed that we had a good deal of freedom to decide what techniques we wanted to use, and it was fun to kick some droids, slash others, reflect blasts back at others, and use the Force to pick up and throw others still.

After clearing the platform of battle droids, we extended both arms to levitate and cast the flaming husk of a vehicle off of a walkway so that we could advance. Leaping to a platform below, we made short work of a few more battle droids before being confronted by a pair of droidekas. By leaping over them and attacking them from behind, we were able to penetrate their defenses and destroy them. The action then cut to an interior on Cloud City where two droids with batons that emanated crackling electricity from both ends tried to stop us. Some leaps and slashes finished them off. We advanced into an adjoining hallway and faced another group of battle droids. Though we'd faced many of them by this point, it was still satisfying to use a variety of powers to deal with the group, and kicking one droid into another was especially enjoyable. A cutscene then played that showed our Jedi and another friendly Jedi entering Bespin's carbonite chamber, where two cloaked figures confronted them, each menacingly wielding two red lightsabers. On that foreboding note, the demo ended.

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The representative talked about how the game is designed to let players get comfortable with the Force powers and lightsaber attacks in the early stages before putting them in situations later on that require skillful use of those abilities to survive and advance. He also mentioned that there's much more to Kinect Star Wars than the sort of action we experienced, and if the footage displayed before the demo during the press conference is any indication, those other aspects may include podracing, speeder bike riding, and piloting a starfighter. We also learned that the game lets a second player drop in or out at any time and saw this split-screen mode in action when two players tackled the demo simultaneously. It's a bit soon to tell whether or not the Force is strong with this one, but it's clear that it's attempting to offer a varied, engaging, and authentic Star Wars experience. We'll have more information on Kinect Star Wars in the coming weeks and months.

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