For our blog Sweaty Hands, a revolving cast of musicians, artists and video game connoisseurs reviews games for PS3, Xbox 360 and whatever other consoles exist and are playable. For this installment, filmmaker and techno-futurist Jordan Fish went to the Xbox 360 headquarters to preview the forthcoming, cutting edge gaming technology called Project Natal.
Project Natal is going to, in the words of Hunter S. Thompson to Bill Murray about the proposed sport of Shotgun Golf, "take off like a gigantic fad." It is a new technology that eliminates the need for controllers and virtual-realities your body into the game. It is fuuuuuuun to jump around and hit stuff. Look, I made a video of me and Hanly (FADER's video producer) jumping around and hitting stuff:
Yo, isn't the gender recognition thing creepy/interesting? I wonder what it would make of a transgendered peep...
Now, I can think of a few caveats with this here Twister of 2010. The first is performance: the demo we played was running off a PC and it was pretty goldarn responsive, with barely any lag between my motions and those of the on-screen character. Microsoft must bring that level of responsiveness to the Xbox 360 hardware, in a wide variety of game scenarios, or this thing is gonna be a historic bait-and-switch disappointment. I'm sure this is top priority, and it's possible the demo was emulating the 360's performance limitations. Still though, a near-production-ready Natal unit has yet to be demoed.
Also, price: this thing's gotta be cheap. As technically advanced as it's purported to be, folks should feel like they're buying a new controller, not a new system. Like a hundo or less for the peripheral with a game included, or 50 bucks extra bundled with a new 360. Otherwise it could well lose out this holiday season to a revamped Wii. History shows that Microsoft is willing sell hardware at cost in order to create a large installed base, and make its money back on software, and I'm sure they'll eat the cost of those infrared sensors if necessary.
And, the last must-have thing on my list of things is, obviously, games—cool ones. With recognizable characters. Mario games. Oh wait, no. Uh… maybe Oddworld? Yes, they need to make a new Oddworld game for Project Natal. This would surely guarantee its success. Stay tuned!
P.S. I predict Microsoft will either keep the name Project Natal or drop "Project" and just call it "Natal," because it's a catchy name... and exotic.