E3 2009: First play – Xbox 360 Project Natal

Believe the hype. I've just hightailed it from a hands–on play with Project Natal and can report it's every bit as cool as that slick promo video sh

Believe the hype. I've just hightailed it from a hands–on play with Project Natal and can report it's every bit as cool as that slick promo video shows. From jumping around and chucking balls to taking cars round a track, Natal makes the Wii look like an ancient piece of tech by comparison.

I got to play a simple mini game, throwing balls at a wall and trying to smash the bricks. The UI was very Nintendo, but the controls were so superior to the Wii it was frightening. Bash the ball softly and it'll come back at a slow pace. Whack it hard and you'll see it fly back past your head. You can even add spin.The attention to detail meant that I could jump about and the camera would track my movements exactly. While I'd seen this in the demo vid, I was unsure about how accurate it really would be. The answer? Inch perfect.In terms of working out, Project Natal offers a full–on calorie blitz that it's difficult to imagine Wii Fit delivering. While the latter changed everything, Project Natal has even greater potential. The Creative Director, Kudo Tsunoda, told me he'd lost 9 pounds just larking about on it.Away from the casual stuff, I got to give Burnout Paradise a try. Put your right foot forward to step on the gas, backwards to brake and use your hands like a steering wheel. This brief glimpse showed me the future of gaming. Just a slight movement turned the wheel and. Tsunoda told me that in the future, first person shooters could easily be lined up for the Natal treatment too. Point your hands weapon style and flex your hand to shoot.The fact that existing games can utilise Project Natal shows just how extensive it can be. My only fear? Microsoft won't get it out soon enough. Tsunoda told me that while 2009 was highly unlikely, next year was a definite possibility.As a gadget fanatic, I can honestly say Project Natal is the most futuristic piece of tech I have ever used. Pretending to be in Minority Report in your front room? What's not to like.