They tried it with the Xbox 360 with a couple of Kinect Sports titles, and now they’re back with another on the Xbox One. As the device is bundled with the system and plays a bigger role overall, does the quality of Kinect Sports Rivals match? Read on to find out.
Game: Kinect Sports Rivals
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Most sports games don’t really have a story outside of perhaps a manager mode or becoming a pro if we use FIFA or Madden as an example. Kinect Sports Rivals (KSR ) however, isn’t your conventional sports game. Quite simply, you are a newbie to a rather sport infused island. There are 3 main teams on this Island who compete with each other to be best of the best. You begin by meeting “Coach” who gives you the basic tutorial for each of the Sports. There are six to chose from, these being; Wake Racing (on Jet skis), Tennis, Target Shooting, Soccer (which we all know is actually Football), Bowling and Rock Climbing.
Once you have the basics down, you are approached by the 3 teams 1 by 1. Eagle Legion starts off proceedings and basically asks you to help them out for a Wake Race. Once you win, which trust me, you will, they explain that they think you’re great and show early signs of being amazing, perhaps an exceptional member of the Eagle Legion! Before getting ahead of themselves though, they realise that there are 2 other groups to meet. Both of these being the Wolf Clan and Viper Network.
As with the Eagle Legion you are enlisted to help each team for the odd sports based task here and there. After doing the rounds a few times, Coach sends you on another Wave Race to prove that you are the best of the rookies, after winning that you can chose which team you wish to join.
At the point of writing this review, I have chosen Wolf Clan, my reasoning for this was mainly that the Wolf is my favourite of the 3 animals on offer. Since choosing a faction to be part of however, I haven’t had to do anything involving a clan since. After release, you’ll start to see that your team has a global significance that you can partake in by completing challenges in-game issued via the news network.
I absolutely love the bright vivid colours that accompany KSR. They really get you in the mood for summer and I would gladly holiday on the KSR Island if I could.
I also like how they have tried to make everything seem that bit more extreme, the arena’s are mostly forgotten and you are made to serve aces on the edge of a cliff, or scale the side of an ocean tanker during a rock climb. We’ll ignore for now that these said tankers seem to be able to stand perfectly upright without any supports right on the tip of its bow.
The water effect is probably where you will see the XB1 actually using some of the power within because in general everything else is pretty standard. The water itself looks great and the waves certainly play their part while you navigate the race courses on your jet ski just as you’d expect from something like Wave Race. There are also rumours of a Shark ruling certain seas but I’m yet to find the big beasty.
As you would get with most tennis games, there is a tracer that alters in colour depending on shot type, and to a lesser extent in the Soccer too. It gives an arcade effect but it’s nothing that should bother anyone.
There’s not a whole lot one can say about the sound which to me is a good thing. The sound track is comprised of artists such as Calvin Harris and Daft Punk. while you’re navigating its nice to hear familiar tunes and as you are stood, you may find yourself dad dancing on the spot.
David Tennant guides you through setting up a player with the facial recognition feature and in-game noises are everything you’d expect. You could criticise the game for not having a varied engine noise on different Jet Skis but I’m not going to. Each sport doesn’t need anything other than what it gets. Besides, the noises should be the least of your worries, there’s winning to be done!
To play KSR you will mostly be standing in front of your Kinect sensor and moving from side to side. If you find it tiresome menu hopping with Kinect you can use your game pad but that’s as much use as you’ll get out of it. If you prefer playing games with something in your hands then it’s best you put the idea of KSR to bed now. For the most part the game play is alright but I have been reduced to Kinect Rage a few times because it won’t register my movement correctly.
To start off with you have the chance to create a Champion using Kinects machine vision. This builds your champion to look like you and can even tell your hairstyle. If you don’t like what you see then you can restart the process or just tweak certain aspects yourself before you accept it.
Within each sport, you need to level up in order to unlock new outfits and kit that hold different power ups. There’s both an RPG element to the unlocks because you start with basic stats that get progressively better, as well as a hint of Mario Kart because you can do things to try and mess with your opponent in the way that a Red Turtle Shell is a menace to anyone ahead of you.
Each sport has 3 power ups that will either boost you in some way like having perfect timing in Tennis or they will cause your opponents harm like the Blast wave in Climbing. The ides in each sport it to figure out what will best suit you and then gear up accordingly because you can only take one with you into the field of battle. These power ups can sometimes be the difference in winning or losing. A cheeky use of the Hand Switcher in bowling during the last frame will make your opponent bowl with their left arm if they’re right handed. When there are but a few points between you and victory, you must be ruthless!
So, the sports, I’ll break each of them down in order of my favourites to give you an idea of how each one plays.
Well we all know how to bowl right? In the whole game this is the sport that is a great game to play with friends.
The Kinect sensor boats that it can now register when you open and close your hand, I can tell you that these claims are 100% true. Grabbing a ball and releasing it with a hint of spin is really satisfying when you get it right and score a strike!
The main issue is that sometimes you can pick up your ball only to see it then fly down the gutter despite the fact you haven’t even moved a centimetre. This is most frustrating if you’ve just bagged a Strike beforehand! Luckily it doesn’t happen too often which means that this version of bowling means even the most amateur of bowlers will be able to enjoy themselves and hit pins more often than not.
Tennis is definitely the sport that will actually raise your heart rate. But not always for the right reasons. The first time I played, I didn’t manage to register a single backhand stroke. Every time one came near me, despite watching my avatar on screen swing, the ball would turn in to Nightcrawler from the X-Men and teleport through my racket.
Despite this, after many expletives aimed in the direction of the Xbox and some practice, Tennis definitely ranks highly among the sports. For me it’s because it actually means you can move around to reach shots. That too is a slight problem though, when playing with friends in split screen I both received and gave a few accidental whacks, at least I hope they were accidental… After all the in game power ups should be enough to hinder each other!
The key to Tennis is timing, once you have the basics down you can start experimenting with slices and lobs too in order to perfect your game.
Wake Racing is really good fun and also beautiful. Racing around the harbour, through the hulls of old ships is great to do and look at. The Kinect sensor comes into its own with this sport because it reads your movements really well. As the user, you need to balance between turning and leaning in the corners to get round them, you also have to react quickly when a wave suddenly drops away revealing a mine that will not be pleasant to you when hit.
Around the courses there are jumps for you to please the crowd with, to perform a back flip it feels quite weird because you have to lean back and throw your arms out, if you don’t mind looking a bit special then it’s a great way to earn your power ups quicker. It looks good on screen too.
This is the only sport that I haven’t had any issues with my actions translating to the in game responses. You also actually feel the need to practice with this sport as the tracks do get notably harder as you progress.
This is a definite mixed bag for me. It’s simple enough to partake in each event because your actions are governed by moving just your arms. The courses progress in difficulty well as the harder stages will find you scaling a wall nicely before finding yourself having to navigate past electrified hand holds. Touch one of these and you will suffer a nasty fall.
As you climb you have the ability to yank your opponents off the wall too so you have to balance your strategy. If you take an early lead but don’t capitalise on it quickly, then you will find that you can get plucked off by others. If you hang back to try and ambush people you run the risk of losing out early. The power ups are really effective for climbing. You have a super jump that covers more ground (well, wall), a shield that will ward people away from trying to pull you off because it shocks them and a blast wave that will loosen even the tightest grip!
Sadly, the rage made its way out once or twice while climbing. Mainly because there would be times when whilst trying to swap hands on a grip in order to open up more options, my avatar would start climbing downwards! As well as this there were also times where I seemed to just let go of a hand hold for no reason despite the fact that my hand was closed.
This is down low on the list because to be honest, I’d rather play football outside and if I can’t play it outside, FIFA is far more enjoyable.
Rather than having the ability to tackle each other, you are given a shot clock as the attacker. In the time it takes to tick away you must pass the ball up the pitch and then have a shot once you get to the other end. Along the way the opposition have virtual defenders that you must navigate past with your passes. When Kinect works and doesn’t chose a player that you had no intention of passing too, thus conceding possession to your opponent, it is simple to get the ball around to your striker. If you pass to certain players on the way then you get a charged shot which gives you a better chance to score.
After playing the ball through to the leading man or woman upfront, just like a real footballer, you don’t have long to sort out your feet and unleash a blistering effort at goal. If you get it right and make the sweet connection, it feels great to watch the ball fly across the goal line. Leaping up and heading the ball in is also really satisfying. It’s just a shame that everything before that moment is quite average.
The defending player is the goal keeper and has to just wait until a shot comes in. When it does you have a few seconds to get a part of your body in the right position to save the shot.
This is my absolute least favourite of the sports. It’s disappointing because it’s so simple which makes it quite boring. To play you must hold your arm out as though a gun is in your hand. You then move it over a target to shoot it.
To try and spice it up there are certain targets you have to shoot in a sequence or while they shine gold to score maximum points. There are also targets that punish you if you hit them. The fact that you don’t pull the trigger yourself means that sometimes you may just hit one because your cross hair was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As I say this sport just isn’t that challenging because you are just stood there wafting an arm around. Occasionally you must employ a body lean to dodge a turret activated by your opponent but that’s where the excitement ends.
The fact that there are only 6 sports to choose from is probably the only thing that will hold KSR back.
As mentioned previously there are unlocks for you to work towards as you level up in each sport. The real question will be within yourself, how much do you want to keep going back to which ever sport shows itself to be your favourite?
The leader boards will also give you a target to work towards and competing against friends is always worth a chuckle, but the world rankings will also be something to test yourself against. There are 6 leagues to progress through from the Starter League all the way up to the Master League, passing Platinum on the way.
As you level up in sports your avatar gets matched with similar levelled players around the world. The better you are the harder the matches. Your Champion lives in the Cloud so if you are really good, it will represent you better when it gets put into other peoples matches. This is equally enticing for you to keep playing. At the very least, the load times in KSR are ridiculously long so that will keep you going for a while!
I really wanted Kinect Sports Rivals to be something truly epic, sadly it falls short of that. It’s not a terrible game, but as the first title for the new generation to delve into the world of Kinect, it should be better. Shooting feels like it was added as an afterthought and is so incredibly poor in terms of actually using Kinect. Standing in front of it with an arm out could be done on most consoles and when you think about it, Duck Hunt on the Nintendo actually came with a gun!
It’s great to have a game on this new generation that allows you to be in the same room as friends that doesn’t involve a sub zombie mode or being restricted to just playing FIFA, Bowling was the game that came up trumps when I got groups together to play KSR. The reason for this lies in the space you have to play. Bowling requires you to come up one by one, and despite a few Kinect glitches, anyone can get on with it really quickly without the risk of bumping in to each other.
A huge positive is that every sport can be played by both novices and experts, for this reason it really is a great game to get people playing together. The downside is that you really need the space to play. I had to re arrange my living room entirely every time I wanted to delve into KSR which is a lot of effort before even playing. Equally, if you have had a hard day, KSR isn’t the type of game you can play with your feet up.
As a party trick it has a lot of potential so I will definitely try to get folk in to play more as a group. Ultimately I think this will be a Marmite edition to the gaming world but if you do add it to your collection, I don’t think you will hate yourself for the decision, you just might not play it as much as your other games.