Once again, we are leaping around the living room.
It has become standard now for a new motion control scheme to spawn a new collection of sports-based mini games, designed to show off not only just what the motion controls are capable of, but also to prove that all members of the family can have fun with this latest expensive addition to the living room. And so, with everyone who owns the new Xbox One owning the new Kinect 2.0, there is a massive potential audience for the latest of these sports mini game compilations, Kinect Sports Rivals.
It is surprising that Kinect Sports Rivals was not around for the launch of the Xbox One, it may have tempted more casual gamers to part with their money in exchange for Microsoft’s all-powerful box of multimedia tricks. However, better late than never, Kinect Sports Rivals has arrived and family gatherings need never be the same again.
Or do they? While different sports are inevitably offered in these compilation titles, there really is a familiar feeling to the actual gaming. Generally speaking, they involve looking silly and flapping body parts around in what is presumably simulating the actual sport, whilst in reality being nothing of the sort. There is no denying that this kind of silliness makes for great fun as a party game, but for the serious gamer, or even the more casual gamer who doesn’t happen to have plenty of friends in their living room at all times, it just doesn’t feel as immersive as controller-based games. Still, there is an audience out there for these type of games, and we will hopefully see some interesting things happening with motion controls now that every Xbox One is sold with a Kinect 2.0 unit. However, I am generalising. Back to Kinect Sports Rivals.
The new Kinect 2.0 is said to offer unparallelled precision and be a vast improvement over the last Kinect offering, and this is apparent when first starting up Kinect Sports Rivals and allowing Kinect to perform its first magic trick. It begins by scanning the player, asking them to move in certain ways, look in certain directions, and then recreates the player as a sporty avatar on the screen. It has to be said that this trick is pretty impressive, and much more forgiving than the methods certain older games would use to transport the player into the game. The resulting avatar, at least in my case, is a more “perfect” version of you. The similarities are there, but they just look so much more healthy and colourful.
Anyway, the player then gets to take their avatar and visit a wonderfully sunny island, filled with all manner of different sporting activities. The ways to play are varied, with different modes available and, thanks to the Kinect Sports Rivals Hub that can be downloaded onto the Xbox One, plenty of ways to compete with others around the world. Leaderboards for each of the sports, league ladders to climb, challenges to take part in – there will always be something for the interested player to do with Kinect Sports Rivals.
Much of the drive to continue playing will come from within the game itself, as players earn cash to spend on upgrades and such. Players will even be able to use powerups during certain games that make Kinect Sports Rivals feel more like a video game than an exercise is looking silly. As a package, Kinect Sports Rivals is pretty damn solid, but a game like this lives and dies on the quality of the motion controls are of the actual sports included.
Of the motion controls themselves, for the most part they are an improvement over the last Kinect offering. Despite claims otherwise, plenty of room is still required, and the room has to be well lit. However, Kinect 2.0 does a great job of identifying more minor movements, such as the opening or closing of the hand, or even the movement of individual fingers. Some sports worked better than others, with the overall precision being good, but not without problems.
Then there are the sports – six different mini games for players to indulge in. Bowling and Tennis will be familiar to anyone who has spent time with motion controlled gaming, and in Kinect Sports Rivals they work as well as you would expect. Both of these games are aided by the extra precision found in the controls, and the extra power of the Xbox One making them look gorgeous. However, they don’t really offer anything new (beyond the powerups already mentioned).
Wake Racing puts the player on a Jetski and has them grab hold of some imaginary handlebars. Turn them as you would real handlebars and lean to steer, while opening and closing the grip on one hand to accelerate. It is fairly simple stuff, but that doesn’t mean it is simple to avoid the rocks and deal with the waves throwing the player off course. It is a nice game, but one that would have been improved with a controller, in my opinion.
The Football game will have the player jumping between the players on their team as they swing their legs about in an attempt to score a goal. In my mind, this is the mini game that perhaps suffers most from the inaccuracies of the motion controls, and is the least successful. However, given the popularity of football games amongst gamers, it was a wise inclusion.
The two remaining games are probably the best that Kinect Sports Rivals has to offer, and both for completely different reasons.
Target Shooting is both simple, and hugely satisfying. The player simply uses their fingers to represent a gun and shoots at targets. The appeal is probably something that takes the player back to the playgrounds of their youth, but it works well and is great fun.
The last game, Rock Climbing, appeals simply because it is the most like a video game. Reaching out and grabbing handholds is only part of the fun, the player will also have to think quick and tactically as they avoid traps and the attempts at sabotage from the other climbers. When the Kinect is working as it should, this really is a good laugh.
Which therein lies the biggest hurdle for Kinect Sports Rivals, or indeed any other title coming with Kinect controls. Gamers, even the most casual, want a game that works, not works under the perfect conditions or works most of the time. Despite the improvements, Kinect 2.0 still doesn’t work as well as it should.
Kinect Sports Rivals is a great looking, highly polished motion control compilation that packs in a collection of six sports games, from average to very enjoyable quality. The problem is that Kinect still doesn’t work flawlessly for everyone, all of the time, and the novelty of these motion controlled games has worn off. If you happen to own an Xbox One and enjoyed previous motion controlled sports games, then it would be worth picking this up simply because it gives your Kinect something else to do other than greet you when you walk in a room. Kinect Sports Rivals showcases the next-gen Kinect, but is by no means an essential purchase.