Kinect Sports is the first foray into Wii Sports territory by developers Rare Ltd and publishers Microsoft as a launch title for the Kinect on the Xbox 360. The game is Kinect only and is a package of various motion controlled sports and minigames based around aspects of each of those sports. It uses the Kinect’s motion tracking to match your movements onscreen to your GamerTag’s Avatar (which recently underwent a change to elongate the limbs in preparation for use with Kinect) which will act as your in-game character unless you choose to pick one of the in-game premade avatars.
Kinect Sports offers six different sports (more if you count the individual track and field events) and a series of minigames which loosely tie in with that particular sport. The sports all have 4 difficulty modes starting with beginner and ending with master. By competing in events and beating records and opponents you gain experience which will level your profile up which shows off how good you are at the game. It is however an overall level rather than a separate level for each of the sports. You control all of the game with the Kinect from menus to gameplay but you can always fall back on the controller to get you out of any problems with Kinect recognising you as you can use the controller to return to the dashboard, pause or set up tuning for the Kinect.
The look of Kinect Sports is pretty befitting of a game such as itself; it does the job it’s supposed to and it does it nicely; it’s not going to astound anyone but neither is it going to disappoint. The crowds in the background of the games all look reasonable and the pitches, tracks and arenas all look the part. The sounds are all nice and fit the sport and actions well; with the thud of balls being hit and the thump of a body into sand all being what they should be. The commentator/announcer however is mostly indifferent to listen to though some people may find the voice annoying.
The first and most disappointing sport is the Football which is split into 3 parts, attacking, defending and saving goals. Attacking consists of kicking your foot in the direction that you want to pass the ball (from a selection the game gives you via arrows) or shooting the ball into the goal; the latter being much harder and quite difficult to get the hang of and the former being awkward at the best of times as AI or human opponents try and block your shots in order to steal the ball off of you. Defence is performing what the opponent tried to do to you when you were attacking. So to regain control of the ball you need to move yourself in front of the opponents shot, which is shown briefly before the pass is made by an arrow you can step into to get the ball. Shots on your goal put you in the place of the goalkeeper when a prompt on screen to yet your avatar to block the shot at that point on the screen. Corners and throw-ins are all automatically performed but free kicks and penalties are in your control in the same way that you would make a shot on the goal normally. Altogether, this is difficult at the best of times to negotiate but some people will find it to be more fun than others. Football can be played in single player, two player co-op and competitive modes.
The next game is Bowling which is a pretty standard affair of 10 pin bowling. You swing your arm to throw the ball and see if it knocks down the pins then you rinse and repeat until the game is over. To add spin to the ball you can bring your arm across your body or away depending on the spin type. Bowling is a hotseat game where you can play up to 4 players online or offline.
Track and Field is the most varied game mode with events consisting of: 100 metre dash, javelin, long jump, discus and 200m hurdles. All of the events bar discus have the common element of running in place to make your avatar run; whereby running in place with your knees higher makes you run at a faster sprint. 100 metre dash is just the running while hurdles has you jumping over hurdles on the track by jumping when you are close to the hurdles; which is indicated by the hurdles changing of colour from red to green. Long jump is the same as hurdles but with the track changing colour instead of the hurdles. Javelin uses the same colour change as long jump but when you get towards the end of the track you have to move your arm in a throwing motion to throw the javelin. Discus is the only event without running; instead you have to swing your arm to throw the discus and that is the only motion you need. It is however turn based so it is therefore a hotseat game for multiplayer where you can play 1-4 players online or offline.
Boxing is pretty reasonable with it being easy to pick up and play; left hand is left punch, right hand is right punch and moving your hands in the way of the opponents hits blocks punches. Heavier attacks are initiated by pulling your shoulder back more before punching, hooks by punching like a hook and uppercut by doing an uppercut. Dodging is there too in the form of moving around in front of the Kinect to dodge somewhat, though it’s more for closing in on opponents that have been knocked back by a heavy hit. The game consists of 3 rounds with you trying to knock out your opponent before he/she knocks you out. You can knock an opponent down when its health is low and stars are spinning around their head by hitting them with a heavy hit but they can still get up within the countdown period to stay in the match. If you get knocked down, you are tasked with hitting stars that fly across the screen to get back up within the time limit. If no one is knocked out in the time limit then the judges decide who wins or loses.
Table Tennis is probably the most competitive of all of the games as it starts quite slowly before rallies pick up speed and one mistake loses you the point. You start by choosing left or right handed mode by holding your hand over the side you wish to use. You control the paddle onscreen and where it goes; with different shots available depending on how you swing. Serving is performed by throwing your non-paddle hand up in the air to toss the ball and then swinging the bat to hit it. Moving around moves your avatar left and right so you can angle where you hit the ball from. This again can be played in singles and doubles with both AI and Humans in the room or over Xbox Live.
Lastly, Volleyball is the final sport chosen which is the most active (other than some of the T&F events) of the sports. As with Football goalkeeping; a prompt come up on the screen to show where you need to move your arm to hit the ball; these show for between ½ a second and a second depending on the power of the hit. It complies with the standard volleyball rules with you being able to have the ball on your side of the court for only three hits before sending it back. The partner you are with will help set you up for a smash hit if you play correctly which prompts you with a jump, upon which you need to jump and then hit the ball over the prompt. This can also be played in singles and doubles worth both AI and Humans in the room or over Xbox Live.
The minigames are all challenges based on aspects of the sports they are from. They include: keeping rallies in table tennis, saving goals, dodging things in a volleyball game, playing each individual Track and Field event etc. They are all pretty well made and easily help you sharpen your reflexes ready for the actual sport.
Party Play is the final game play option which allows for small teams of players to compete in events in a tournament to see who the best team is. There are 6 randomly chosen minigames whereby winning a game earns you more points for your team than the losing team does and the team with the most points at the end wins. Instead of avatars, you control a team mascot which represents your colour (red or blue) and is what you will be controlling during the minigames. Sometimes, the mini games will have different rules to the normal minigames like a discus event where you have to get the shortest throw distance to win.
Presentation & Audio
The graphics are good, as is all of the audio; they do the job that they’re set out to do and that’s all that is really needed. A few funny looking avatar poses might bug you but the Kinect can’t always comply with the way your arms are contorted around yourself.
The sports included are all pretty well designed though the Football (or Soccer if you prefer) is possibly the weakest of the six sports but it is redeemed by having some of the best mini-games based on it. All the games make good use of the Kinect’s capabilities though some of the motions need to be over exaggerated in order to perform at its best. The multiplayer and Party Play modes are something you need lots of room for but when you can find the space it is very enjoyable but over Xbox Live your internet connection will either make or break this feature for you.
Make no mistake; Kinect Sports is meant as a party game but still holds its own as a single player game where you can take a few minutes out of your day to play around with. It is most likely a game that will be taken out mostly for parties but there is a reasonably extensive system for wanting to get better at the sports and grind your way to becoming the best or at least just to earn the achievements.
Kinect Sports takes the success of Wii Sports and brings it into a new light which shows that motion gaming is here and is controller-less. If you want a party game or some fun Kinect action then you can’t go wrong with Kinect Sports. However, if you want story, action or a controller in your palms then at least give it a try if you can as it really shows off the technology in a way other motion controls can’t.
Kinect Sports is easily one of the best motion gaming offerings to date and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The minigames are incredibly fun and will get your blood pumping but in terms of the sports, it’s all more about your personal tastes. I personally think that the volleyball is the most fun as it’s the most active of the directly competitive sports available but I was really disappointed in the football which felt awkward to play. Funnily enough, the Super Saver football minigame is my favourite and has you diving (not literally, but moving around a fair bit) all over the place to save goals. All in all, this is one of my favourite Kinect games so far and it easily surpasses the game it was based on. This is one game that deserves to be in almost every Kinect library.
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.