Kinect Sports Rivals Review – Digitize Me!
Kinect dedicated games are hard to come by. When the first Kinect hit the scene, you basically saw how dancing games, fitness games, and Kinect Sports lightly presided over the sparse genre that is Kinect games. Now that the Xbox One is here with its new and improved Kinect, next gen X1 early adopters are clamoring for something to show off the true abilities of their Kinect aside from being an expensive HD Skype camera for their gaming console.
Developed by Rare (makers of Perfect Dark and Goldeneye 007), Kinect Sports Rivals is probably the only true exhibition of the Kinect that will be made for the Xbox One for quite some time.
The whole premise of the game is that your digital athlete is joining a pro extreme sports league with various teams. Each team is themed with a their own mascot or logo just like any other sports league. Acted out in comical and interesting fashion, the leaders of these teams are all trying you out to try and recruit you to play for the glory of their team. The leaders and lackeys of each team have distinctive accents, color schemes, and such to easily distinguish the teams while playing in the various game modes. The teams are called the Wolf Clan, the Eagle Legion, and the Viper Network. The different sports include wakeracing, climbing, shooting, bowling, tennis, and soccer.
For starters, the beginning sequence of this game is EXACTLY what you’d want from a Kinect game. Looking almost like a sequence out of the Lawnmower Man, you are told to do various actions near the Kinect camera so that the game can make a cartoon CG style version of your face. Once complete (and yes, mine does look quite a bit like me), you are treated to a pretty diverse selection of facial edits and customizations.
As you go along in the game, you are even given money and experience that allow for you to customize the look of your athlete while participating in each individual sport. Some of the equipment and digs even give you bonuses and abilities appropriate to the sport. As you could imagine, DLC is and will be linked to this aspect of the game. Personally, I would have liked for more actual sports such as 3-point shooting, boxing, or golf to be the DLC.
Once you finish training in each of the sports, you are allowed to join one of the teams in the Story mode. This alliance basically is catered towards which teams’ style you like most as playing under their banner just grants you more uniforms and threads in that teams’ style.
Kinect Sports Rivals is a gorgeously bright and colorful game filled with great animation and style. The presentation is top notch with killer energetic EDM music to inspire you to drink energy drinks and stand up even while in the loading screens. (I hate that my X1 record feature was on the fritz as I can’t share clips of my gameplay)
The real question is how good the controls work for each of these games. Here’s a breakdown of my experience.
In this mini game, you pretend to race jetskis. To control your ride, you sit or stand with your arms out in front of you like you’re holding onto handle bars. As you get use to the controls you recognize that in order to get good times you must master the whole handlebar turning and leaning deal. Just as in that arcade racing game Wave Thunder, there are jumps, alternate paths, powerups, and aerial tricks that can be done. The aerial tricks power up your athlete to allow for special moves like Speed Boost and others that I’ve yet to unlock and try out.
Using the special moves is key to winning as you go along as well. There is the vocal command but that can be trick for some to use when they need it. While I didn’t have much problems getting the audio command to work there is the option to raise and lower you foot to trigger it as well.
Occasionally when I was playing sitting down, my Kinect had issues detecting my feet despite being able to see all of me while in my living room. This didn’t stop me from playing but instead placed an annoying snap screenshot of the Kinect’s view of me on the side as I played. Also, triggering the tricks while jumping was a bit unreliable as well as you had to lean and pullback on the handlebars. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t (story of our Kinect lives I suppose).
Here you climb up an indoor wall climbing style course that forces you to compete against other climbers at the same time. They can pull you off and you can counter, vice versa. The special move allows you to leap up to higher hold points at the cost of climbing stamina which must be managed. To play, you have to act out the process of reaching out and up for grasp points until your character’s hand is highlighted by green. To grip you simply close your hand. To move your character up or to that grasp point, you pull your extended arms back towards your chest. The special move requires you to jump.
I had particular problems playing this game. Due to the size of my living room, the Kinect was unable to see my feet and my hands when I stood up with my arms fully extended. So, in order to play, I had to squat down almost to my knees as I played. Not the game’s fault or the Kinect’s for that matter but still, room size requirements could be an issue for some. Of course I should have had my wife record sessions of me playing these matches though. It was hilarious listening to her and my son giggle as I squatted and hopped trying to win these particularly difficult matches.
Just as you would imagine, you are put in a finger gun battle against an opponent with different valued targets popping up on the screen. No need to ‘pull the trigger” simply point your finger over the target and it automatically shoots. Sounds easy, right? Well, the catch is that some targets are actually score penalties and some targets require you to shoot them in sequence. This requires a quick draw but also requires quick recognition as well. If you are fast enough, the very top most targets can be stolen by or from your opponent. Once powered up, a special cannon shot can blast your opponent like laser tag stealing points from him or her. The highest score at the end of a round wins!
This sport was the least fun for me. While I could see the ways the difficulty could improve, the ‘fun factor’ in pointing your finger at the screen seemed to be the least immersive of the sports.
Just as with most motion control games, bowling shines on Kinect Sports Rivals. Here the emphasis is on using the trademark pro bowling motion and release. The sensor detects when you open your hand to release as well as your wrist placement for possible hook balls. I noticed that while arm speed is somewhat important to deliver the power of the throw, the sensor wasn’t quite able to pick up hand or wrist placement as well as a result. Finding that balance wasn’t too hard as I was able to score in the 200’s relatively quickly. Unfortunately, mastering the hook was something I’ve yet to be able to do, but it’s all in the wrist!
Love this game. There was even a fun challenge (not too difficult) that found my athlete completing in a State Farm challenge against Chris Paul!
Tennis worked as you would imagine registering fore and back hands with pretty good accuracy. The odd moments during returning serves or even delivering them had a bit of accuracy issues as I couldn’t always determine how far I should or shouldn’t reach to get certain balls. Finding that power serve accuracy was a bit of a challenge as well.
This mini game was a bit odd as you know you aren’t able to run around the room in order to chase and pass the ball in your living room. Instead, you play the game more like a virtual game of foosball. Ghost defensivemen are positioned (both motionless and oscillating at times) about the field. Your men are placed in rows behind them. You must pass and lob the ball at the appropriate moments to get the ball to your scoring position. Then you must aim and shoot. All of this is timed so as you progress, the amount of time you have shortens in order to increase the difficulty. Once done, you must defend your goal.
Defending your goal is easy enough. Using your body, you reach and punch the ball away to prevent a score.
In both cases the special attacks are cool and the mode as a whole is pretty fun. This is a fast a fun game that is probably my second most fun behind bowling.
As you go from game to game, Rare does a great job of adding links to the community to get you to try and return to the game and play often (whether you have friends over or not). There are challenges, leaderboards, unlockables, and so much more that egg you on to beat your friend’s recent score or even just plain beat them when they get online.
Also, cooperative play on this game is a blast. Getting four people all in the same room to play these games would be a challenge though. In particular, the voice commands doing coop play could be a bit challenging with in room spectator noise getting in the way. Still, this is a decent party game to show off the Kinect and get people moving.
Still, I can’t help but wonder why Microsoft didn’t just pay the money for this exceptional game to be a free game for the X1 standard bundle. When the Kinect was a mandatory feature for the X1, it was important to have a game (not a feature) that showed off the abilities of the Kinect and the facial scan fun of Kinect Sports Rivals alone could have attracted families to play this game for quite some time. Instead, Microsoft has kind of short circuited good games like this which only use the Kinect by deciding to sell the Kinect-less model.