The Kinect has had its critics in the past; PlayStation fans would say it is nothing more than a glorified eye toy; others that it has no need to even exist with few decent games to buy that make full use of the hardware. I personally enjoy the Kinect, and admire how far it has come on since its first release on the XBOX 360. Yes some of the original games like Kinect Adventures or Kinectimals weren’t the best of games, and due to the quality of the camera used and the technology behind it, some could say the critics were right. Now though the Kinect has taken a giant leap in terms of its looks and quality. Not only is it styled better with a new design to match the XBOX ONE, but it also has managed to become more sensitive and responsive to the smallest of movements in your body. Walking past your XBOX can now activate it by facial recognition, it can now pick up individual fingers and facial expressions rather than just picking up the main frame of your body and it can also detect which parts of your body have more stress on them when taking part in more physical games aimed at keeping you fit.
However the XBOX One hasn’t really had many games thus far designed to be specifically played with the new Kinect. There was Fighter Within which was released as one of the consoles exclusives at launch but it failed to win over many fans, so it was about time something new came along. Kinect Sports Rivals has been in the works for some time, up until its release you could download a demo allowing you to take part in one of the sports available on the full game in what was called Kinect Sports Rivals Pre-season; the sport on offer for those who never played was Wake Racing (Jet Ski racing for those I have just confused). The game also came with a special hub where you could be set challenges to unlock new content which could be used in the full game on release; things like new outfits, skins for your Jet Ski and so on. But what else has the game brought to the table since its Pre-season taster?
Well the obvious thing to point out is there are additional games you can play; as well as Wake Racing there is now also Bowling, Climbing, Football (I refuse to call it soccer), Shooting and Tennis. Now I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t slightly more content. I mean for a game that has been in the works for so long you’d think maybe a couple of extra games like Badminton or Volleyball. However the sports that the game has delivered are very good and the way it turns your body into the controller of the game by simulating the activities put before you is genius. You’ll mimic everything from pretending you are battling your way through rough waters by moving your hands and body to navigate sharp turns on the Jet Ski, to positioning your body and striking a ball in order to score the perfect goal in football.
However this is no game where you just jump in and start partaking in various activities, oh no, developer, Rare, have decided to add a bit of a story along the way to try and engage the gamer a bit more by making you the new challenger on the block looking to become the champion. This all starts with some of the Kinects new enhanced technology scanning your body and your face to create a virtual copy of yourself. I was almost scared when I saw it scan my face and I could see my mouth moving on the screen in sync with my own, it just seemed so creepy that it could capture that much detail. I did however fall in love with the Kinect despite its creepiness when it had fully loaded my virtual self and turned my beer belly into a bit of muscle.
After my creation as the new star of the game I was about to play, I was soon sent off to visit the coach after what seemed like a lifetime waiting for the game to install. Now coach is your typical drill sergeant type, you know the one you seen in the movies when US Soldiers are being trained up to be the best they can be, which I have to say isn’t as good as the Brits. However he gets the job done and teaches you all the basic controls of how to use your body and utilise special features within the game to make sure you have the best chance of taking the championship crown. As you go through the training elements you’ll meet a few different sports teams, all wanting you to join them to help them win the Kinect Sports Rivals Championship. The three teams are the Wolf Clan led by Vargu, Eagle Legion led by Blake and Viper Network led by Zara. All three teams will offer you unique challenges and give you valuable attributes to help you become champion. However the annoying thing about all these characters is they don’t half yap on at times, but you’ll soon figure that out yourself.
The more you play the game and improve on your times and scores, you’ll be rewarded with XP and fans; this also helps you to earn in-game currency to purchase new skins and outfits for your equipment and your champion. I liked how the game added this element of advancement throughout the game, rather than being too linear and just playing sports for the sake of playing them, it gives you goals to achieve and allows the game to operate on a few different levels. I mean there is nothing stopping you and your friends getting together for a bit of a laugh as you watch each other move around in ridiculous fashion, but it adds a competitive edge to the game which helps make it appealing to gamers who wish to play alone rather than in a gang.
Playing alone also has another benefit with the game; it seems to be a lot more responsive to your movement which makes for better and smoother gameplay unlike in multiplayer modes. Don’t get me wrong, it still plays well, but as the Kinect now has to focus on two people, distinguishing the movements between each and processing what it picks up, it doesn’t seem quite as sensitive to the actions of your body. That said it is still an improvement on the old Kinect where I sometimes had issues with the Kinect mixing up the players especially in smaller environments, which isn’t really an issue anymore. That’s because you no longer have to have massive spaces to play Kinect, sure it helps, but with the Kinect now able to identify you from just 1m away it means you can get it in your bedroom rather than having to take over the living room TV and annoying the people who you live with.
Graphics and sound wise the game is very solid; each character is designed well but annoying with the repetitive things they say or just the cheesy jokes they come out with, especially when they ‘re louder than the sound effects of the environments around you. I mean there is no need for them to be chatting away at times, or for their vocabulary to be so limited with the amount of time the developers spent making this game. That said what the developers have created graphically more than makes up for the annoying voiceovers; everything has been designed in great detail and it looks like they may have just scanned in a whole group of islands with the Kinect the same way it scans you into the system, it looks like something only mother nature could’ve designed.
Overall Kinect Sports Rivals had to be a game that could make people believes that the Kinect is a serious piece of hardware, and in some ways it does. The technology behind it is great being able to scan and copy the image of the player so accurately, and by being able to pick up and monitor the movements of the player’s body so well. However I think that the Kinect also needs some more serious games rather than everything being aimed at a family audience. That said Kinect Sports Rivals is great and all the sports it offers are fun and enjoyable, especially with the way you earn XP and fans throughout giving the game a purpose to play it even if you aren’t winning all the time. I would’ve liked to see maybe a few more sports added though, and who knows maybe more will comes as DLC, but the one thing I doubt they can fix is the annoying voices of the in-game characters. Still the game is worth buying in my opinion as it is something you can just pick up and play whenever you fancy a few giggles with friends or something fun to do by yourself on a rainy day.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.