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Hands-on: Project Natal: Burnout

Justin McElroy

Though the big boss got to talk to that weird little android kid, my time with Project Natal was limited to using Microsoft's motion sensing technology retrofitted onto Burnout.

My expectations were pretty high, as Grant came back with some pretty glowing reviews. I figured that it would work, but it wouldn't necessarily supplant the controller as my preferred method of game interaction.

But after a few seconds with the game, I knew that it would be very hard to go back to steering with a thumb stick.

You've probably seen it in action by now, but here's the full rundown. Pretend you're steering to steer, step forward for gas, step behind you for brakes. And that's it. It's simplicity itself and it works just the way you'd hope it would, or at least it did for me, with even tiny motions being registered. I'm not positive, but I think I might have actually been better with the Natal than a standard pad.

I'll admit it: Within the first 10 seconds of driving with no controller -- despite my typically steely journalistic exterior -- I was laughing like a little kid, at an embarrassing volume.

Sure, I'm gushing, but there are limitations to my praise. First, there was no way to boost, bring up the map, change the viewpoint, etc. I know that this wasn't a fully-fleshed out game, but it did get me thinking: Will all that stuff that's not driving just become an annoyance with Natal? How much will it take me out of the experience to keep picking up the controller every few minutes?

Also, I had to stand the whole time. As a person living with chubbiness, that's not the way I want to play video games all the time. Could they design it so you could play while sitting? Most likely. But I'm remaining skeptical on behalf of all my sedentary people.

It's hard to write too much more about the experience, because it just worked, and exactly the way I hoped it would. I can't speak to any other facet of Project Natal, but pretending to drive a car with it is a hell of a lot of fun.

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