You are the sports star
Unless Kinect Adventure screamed “play me” when you first opened your sparkling new Kinect sensor, chances are Kinect Sports will be the first game you ever play to see if Microsoft’s new peripheral is a Wii beater. After all Wii Sports is still a very popular Wii game and Sony couldn’t resist their own sporty version for the PlayStation Move. Sensor-tive sports games will be the best game to play to compare the three whether you like it or not.
Naturally Kinect Sports offers a handful of sporty controller free games, plus training and mini games to go with. It’s a slightly predictable line-up however, with bowling, boxing, table tennis, beach volleyball, and track and field. What Kinect Sports also brings to the table though is something that the others miserably failed to do. It’s given us that much sought after football game. Suddenly we can pretend we’re active football stars without having to go out in the cold and commit to a full 90 minutes of exercise, and we can do it with our actual feet and none of those silly control pads!
Naturally as football is what I anticipated the most, football is where I’ll begin. It’s funny old game to say the least, putting you feet, head and hands into action as you take control of every position available. Once in possession of the ball, the on-screen arrows indicate where you can kick the ball. A defender will instantly run in for the block (as will your players when defending), and it’s a case of pointing your foot and kicking the air in the direction you’d like to play the ball (or block). Once at the goal you only have the goalkeeper to beat. If the opposition are attacking then you are the goalkeeper, needing to point your hands towards the on-screen marker before the ball hits the back of the net.
It’s a very fun, albeit flawed experience. If playing against the AI, or co-op with a friend, then it’s about as much fun as you can have with a console. With a friend, you’ll take it in turns to control the players, with the game indicating who is in possession. It’s hugely fun working as team, however even on the advanced difficulty setting we could win easily.
The downer comes when you play against a friend. The fun is still present, but the problems come with shooting and scoring. No matter how hard we tried we couldn’t direct a shot properly on goal. The ball would tend to go straight at the goal keeper instead of the top corner we’d aim for. This isn’t an issue in co-op or AI matches. A few grumbles later it made perfect sense why the developers did this. After all, the attacker will always aim to hit away from the keeper, the keeper will then anticipate this and presumably aim to dive across the lounge. Not so good when you’re bashing into each other. Unfortunately health and safety issues have slightly ruined this mode, so co-op or against the computer is likely what you’ll opt for.
The next sport to up the fun meter is Track and Field. This offers several different events – running, discus, javelin, hurdles and long jump. Each one testing your body to the point of knackered. Who needs fitness games? Some of them take a little while to get used to mainly because you’re having to run on the spot and then quickly pull off another action, whether it be jumping for a long jump or throwing a javelin. You’ll no doubt have several foul throws/jumps before getting the timing right. You’ll also (potentially) make a lot of noise in the process banging on the floor, particularly on wooden flooring or in an upstairs room.
Table tennis, bowling, boxing and volleyball are all as you’d expect. Each providing the fun once you’re used to how they control. Boxing is all about blocking and punching motions, and is a good way to take out your aggression. Table tennis is like holding an invisible paddle/bat and hitting your way too victory, while volleyball is hitting the area indicated on-screen to hit the ball. Bowling was perhaps the biggest disappointment as it’s been done better before, most notably on the Wii.
Overall, Kinect Sports is decent package that acts nicely as a fitness game and provides fun. It’s perhaps a little difficult to judge it at this early stage as we’re yet to see Kinect’s full potential. While the game does have many flaws in its control method, it does provide endless amounts of fitness and fun. This is exactly what we wanted from the device though, so in that respect Kinect Sports does deliver the goods. Just don’t expect it to make you want to pack away the control pad for good.