Kinect Sports Rivals – Gameguide

I’m not sure who is more confused as to what Kinect Sports Rivals is supposed to be me or Microsoft Game Studios. The game takes itself quite seriously and although there is some humour it pretends to tell a story and create a background to the games which is thoroughly pointless. The sports have very little humour or lightness about them, again trying to capture the ethos of professional sport with intensity and competitive pressure. They used an island setting as part of tying the sports together into a cohesive unit but the effort just doesn’t pay off. Initially the way it is structured is fairly confusing but improves only slightly once you understand it to simply be a clunky menu system. It turns into a complete mess if you try and use the Kinect to select anything. I found myself using the controller to navigate around and then putting it down to play the sport which rather misses the point of a Kinect title. It does have voice commands but of course they are still turned off in little old NZ.

My first impressions were actually quite favourable, it felt like a real game rather than a few Kinect mini-games thrown together but despite this I really struggled to find any significant amount of fun. And surely given the nature and limitations of Kinect the key objective must be “fun”. I dont mean fun like the depth and intensity of Grand Theft Auto or sense of achievement in Forza, I mean laugh out loud, want to show your friends, play it on a Friday night whilst having a few beers Fun! I played the game alone, with my kids and with my friends and in all cases I struggled to find any significant amount of fun. Bowling was entertaining as I got crushed by my 5 year old daughter but it didn’t capture her attention and she didn’t play again. Of course, 5, isn’t the target market but if a 5 year old doesn’t enjoy winning against her Dad something has gone wrong (given she rejoices at beating me in any “game” including bedroom tidying, window washing and, her favourite, waking-up-really-early-after-Dad-had-a-massive-Forza-session-and-didn’t-get-to-bed-until-after-2am). So the game isn’t “Fun” but equally it isn’t a “Gaming Experience”, you aren’t going to sit by yourself and play it just to beat a computer (or a cloud based competitor). It would have passing amusement in beating your online gaming buddies but really it just falls into a grey area of not really knowing quite what it’s trying to be.

Even more disappointing than the lack of “Fun” are the sports themselves; Jet Ski racing, climbing, shooting, bowling, tennis and football?! Apart from football you could have done all of this 10 years ago on the Wii. if this is as far as motion gaming has come no wonder Sony made the camera optional and Sony had the advantage of being able to play semi-serious shooters. The shooting in Kinect Sports Rivals amounts to tracing patterns with your finger (think Fruit Ninja but standing 2 metres from a giant smart phone). Football is the most novel and challenging of the sports and actually makes you move around but it’s not football, it’s more like Table Football. You pass between static players and then shoot tit-for-tat. It’s ok but not great. I found the most fun was Bowling. It is the only sport that allows more than 2 players and was natural, accurate and accessible to all ages. Climbing, shooting and tennis are all exactly as obvious as you expect and the Jet-ski racing is a small step up from holding your hands out like you are driving a car in Forza 4. Some effort has been made to inject player development into the game with power-ups, upgradeable equipment and being able to change outfits but a sports based motion game will live or die by the fun of playing the sports and it just doesn’t hit the mark.

It’s not all doom and gloom, as a vehicle to show case the powers of Kinect 2.0 I feel it is hugely successful. However before I say anything else I must admit this is my first experience of Kinect so take the extra “half a star” I gave the game for its superb Kinection with a grain of salt. The first truly remarkable experience I had was with the creation of my Sports Champion; the manner in which it scans your real self to create your avatar is astonishing! It’s a bit time consuming (and makes adding in extra players on the fly rather tedious as everyone wants their own avatar) but it is brilliantly done. This ability to pick up fine detail carries over into the sports. Its ability to identify small movements (closed fist vs open fist, finger pointing or twisting your hand) is remarkable, sure it’s not perfect but its damn close. And I should mention I took very little effort to change my environment to suit the Kinect I just put it above the TV, ran the set up and started playing. It did pick up 2 strange large dark spaces (one a piece of modern art on our wall and the other where the wall stopped) which meant we had to stand fairly still in the right place to get the best results but overall I was really impressed.

And so that is probably the point, this game is technically excellent and well polished. Graphics are tight and smooth. The facial recognition and the way it creates your champion is remarkable. Sadly the sports are trite; hovering on the edge of boring and the “rivals” aspect adds little as most people will intend to play this together with friends. Overall its worth having in your collection to see what the Kinect can do but I suspect it’ll soon be part of a console bundle and that is about where it belongs.

Reviewed on: XBox One

Rating: G

Reviewed by: Aaron



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