Welcome, sports fans, to the second season of living room sports entertainment with Kinect Sports Season 2.
This year we have a new line up of sports for friends, family and even unwanted guests to enjoy, that will promote leaping around the room in the name of friendly competition. Players need not break out their tracksuits as theses sports are all being played for fun, in a party atmosphere, and are not a serious sports simulation. So, with that in mind and the emphasis firmly on enjoying the company of friends whilst acting like a loon, what do we have to look forward to?
Well, starting from the very start, the menus have been given a polish, making them much cleaner than last year. For those who want to quickly get into the action and are saving their arm-waving energy for the games, voice control has also been implemented. We have already seen this in a few games for Kinect, with mixed results. But this time around it seems to work with near perfection, requiring the player to simply call their Xbox and then say the menu words rather than selecting them with arm movements. It may only be a little thing, but it is quite welcome and will look impressive in front of Kinect-virgins.
It also seems that, with the emphasis on multiplayer, Season 2 is embracing the current trend in asynchronous multiplayer, allowing the player to set challenges for offline friends to try and better when they eventually come online. Of course there are still the standard collection of multiplayer options, both online and local, but it expands the possibilities and gives gamers in a single player environment a reason to play the game beyond practice. Kinect Sports Season 2 is, after all, a party game which, much like the sports that it emulates, requires more than one player.
Talking of the sports, all six of them are new in this sequel. The collection of sports from the first game was well thought out and offered a bit of everything, so it is interesting that Rare have decided to go with six new events rather than expand on what they already had. This ensures that Season 2 sits nicely alongside the first game, rather than replacing it altogether.
In the time since the first game came out, Kinect has improved in its abilities and offers more functionality and precision. Whilst this is all good, it still requires a decent amount of room to function properly and still is not as precise as some games need. Things don’t always go according to plan and moves do not always register. While in many games of skill this would simply not be acceptable, with party games there is a certain hilarity to be found when things don’t quite work out that can be forgiven. Just be sure not to play with anyone too competitive, especially after a night down the pub.
Of the sports themselves,we have American Football and Baseball for our friends across the pond. American Football features the choosing of tactics, throwing the ball and running on the spot with a healthy bit of dodging and the occasional kick. It is not especially fluid and will likely be of very little interest to UK players, but it is more fun than the last attempt at American Football with Kinect. Also, it doesn’t really fit in with the party atmosphere that the game seems to promote. Unlike the Baseball, which is an absolute blast. Smacking a home run is incredibly satisfying and the game allows for just the right amount of depth for enjoying with friends. The Kinect unit does a great job of reading the players movements and the strength of their swing.
Which is much the same with the Golf game. Let’s face it, Golf is probably the game that we all want to play with motion control. The Kinect unit is impressive in its ability to detect the slight variations in a persons swing and display them on-screen, leading to a very impressive game of Golf. Further ading to the immersion, the player can change clubs using voice commands and even perform in-game actions using some real-world motions, such as surveying the course by holding their hand to their head in a “looking into the distance” style movement. Skiing also uses real-world motions, such as crouching to go faster and leaning to each side to steer. Again, it all works quite well and it is fun racing down the mountain alongside a buddy. The only real problem here is that the courses get old too quickly.
The onset of monotony is something that also hampers the Darts game. On the one hand it is an incredible accomplishment to have successfully recreated a precision game such as Darts for use with Kinect. It all works really well and measures the angle and strength of the throw accurately. The problem lies in the fact that it is just Darts, a game which most can play right now simply by going down to our local pub. The most enthralling game it is not. Tennis on the other hand should be filled with excitement. The only problem is that it has been done before with motion controls, and done better. The accuracy is disappointing here, with swings often making contact when they shouldn’t and not making contact when they should. It is a good laugh, but doesn’t fit in with the rest of the sports that seemed to offer so much more precision.
Beyond the main sports there are a bunch of mini games that are quick and easy to enjoy, perfect party fodder. The entire package is well done and will sit comfortably on the shelf next to Kinect Sports. Obviously some of the sports are more of a hit than others, but like finding the perfect music album, it is rare to find a compilation game where every game is as equally great as the others.
Kinect Sports Season 2 still maintains its position as the number one family friendly Kinect party game with a selection of sports that should keep most gamers happy. Played alone, the game just doesn’t cut it. But with a group of friends, or family, there is plenty here to get the party started.