Kinect Sports is Rare's attempt at creating a Wii Sports clone designed to utilise the Kinect Sensor. Like the Nintendo title it's so obviously attempting to emulate, Sports is a collection of mini-games and party modes designed to include as many people as possible, while also producing enough content to satisfy gamers who choose to play by themselves. Core titles such as these are really the only software available to satisfy those who chose to splash out on Microsoft's pricey accessory (pre-Child of Eden release) so how does it measure up?
Out of the main gametypes, football is perhaps the most heavily advertised, appearing on the TV adverts and the cover. It plays like a videogame version of Subbuteo; you receive the ball and then choose either which way to pass or whereabouts to shoot depending on your position on the pitch. You can't run with the ball and you have very little choice in the direction of play, but as a mini-game it's rather fun, and the difficulty does impact the speed of play and test the reactions of the player. Variations on the theme include shot-taking and penalty-saving, and probably the most fun can be found in Xbox Live play after a few drinks.
Another well-worked gametype is bowling. Direct comparisons between the same activity on the Wii is inevitable, and the Kinect version certainly matches its Standard Definition cousin. Considering the lack of a Wiimote the game still feels accurate, and you'll be hitting strike after strike in no time. One particularly challenging variation is Pin Rush bowling, with an achievement available for scoring over 300 points in a single game. In practice, this resulted in me windmilling my arms around like a lunatic chucking bowling balls down the lanes like an overzealous shotputter, an activity that was, to my humiliation then broadcast back to me full screen. Damnit!
Track and Field is probably the most extensive of the mini-games, including Hurdles, Discus, Javelin, Sprint and the Long Jump. All of them are relatively simple to master, and (like every other gametype in Sports) best played as a group. The other core activities in this collection include Beach Volleyball played as a 2v2 competition and Table Tennis, both of which are pretty simple to learn and play. Boxing is the final gametype available, and seems to suffer the most from the Kinect's occasionally dodgy movement detection, with the digital image of your arms and fists simply not able to convey the accuracy required for such a sport, especially during online play.
Direct comparisons with the Wii are inevitable when talking about the Kinect sensor, and to be honest I can see both sides of the argument. While the Wiimotes are certainly more accurate for subtle movements, Kinect finds its appeal through being incredibly easy to pick up; newbies can simply jump straight in and immediately translate the gameplay into movements. By keeping the gameplay simple, Rare have diminished long term appeal in exchange for playability, and it's a payoff that works extremely well, especially for larger groups.
The downloadable 'Mini Games' mode create variations on the core gametypes and creates team scores and mascots to enable even more people to gather round and participate. I suppose reviewing Kinect like a typical game isn't practical, there's no plot or characters, longevity is measured by how many mates you have around, or how much alcohol you've managed to consume (and remain standing). The visuals are pretty but not especially so, but the music and sounds do appeal thanks to some clever licencing use of pop and rock music.
The Kinect sensor itself is both a blessing and a curse. You need plenty of space for even a single person to play, forget multiplayer unless you have a good 12ft of sideways space available in your living room. While the movements required are simple the Kinect occasionally fails to translate these onto the screen, especially those requiring depth movements. Still, considering the tech involved it's more than adequate for its purposes, and the lack of buttons of controller makes it accessible to everyone, even those (and they do exist) who struggled with the buttons on the Wiimote.
Reviewing this title was a challenge. Without a storyline to keep you interested it does come down to how much effort you wish to put in, combined with how long you can put up with the repetitive gameplay and slightly annoying soundbites. Still, it's an ideal party game based on popular sport that ensures there'll be something that appeals to everyone. Until Kinect can be built into a more meaningful platform for a traditional title, these mini-game collections are going to have to sustain early adopters, and as far as mini-game collections go Kinect Sports is a fairly decent attempt.
Kinect Sports (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Kinect Sports is Rare's attempt at creating a Wii Sports clone designed to utilise the Kinect Sensor. Like the Nintendo title it's so obviously attempting to emulate, Sports is a collection of mini-games and party modes designed to include as many people as possible, while also producing enough content to satisfy gamers who choose to play by themselves.