Written Tuesday, November 23, 2010 By Aleksander Gjengsto (GT: RoutineX)
Motion Sports is very much a different cookie compared to Rare’s Kinect Sports on the console. Gone are the cartoony Xbox Live Avatar inspired canvases, and in comes the more realistic environments. Gone is the AI and human opponent competition, and in comes the competition of getting high scores and winning medals. Motion Sports is made up of 6 sports – skiing, football, American football, hang gliding, horse riding and boxing – and is essentially a collection of mini-games based upon those sports. Unfortunately, Ubisoft Milan’s debut Kinect outing is a collection of mini-games that rarely reach the level of fun offered by its launch software rival.
"Motion Sports' skiing looks faster than it feels."
In truth, it’s a weird concoction of sports, and quite why Ubisoft Milan thought of putting hang gliding and horse riding along with American football and boxing is surely going to be one of the universe’s unsolved mysteries. It’s a diverse bunch, that’s for sure. That’s not to say that’s the reason that Motion Sports doesn’t deliver, the fact is that it doesn’t deliver because most of the modes rarely do what is expected of them.
Each sport has a variety of mini-games based on various focuses in said discipline. There a variety of medals to earn from bronze to diamond in each mode – screw you platinum, there’s a new material in town – and a simplistic fame meter, where you rank up depending on how much you play the modes and how much you do. And incorporating newspaper snapshots as well adds a certain level of charm to the proceedings.
Perhaps the most responsive and enjoyable of the six boxed disciplines is the skiing, which includes the traditional ski-jump, an event which has you collecting medals as you descend one of the slopes, slaloms and more. It’s the first Kinect experience that I’ve had where subtle movements were translated almost perfectly on screen, which is a bonus for Motion Sports and even Kinect as a device. If anything though, the skiing in particular suffers from a distinct lack of speed and the ski-jump is bizarrely simple.
If there’s anything that Motion Sports has done for my opinion on Kinect, it’s cemented the fact that you can’t accurately kick or throw an imaginary object on it. Motion Sports’ football mode – with penalty shootout and target scoring mini-games – as a result is completely horrendous. In one of the modes where you have to kick a ball at various scoring zones in a goal mouth, I have to say after about 100 kicks, not one went exactly where I wanted it to. I reckon I hit the post more often than I scored a goal... which if I was trying that, would be supremely impressive. But I wasn’t. Mix in the fact that sometimes it doesn’t even register the kick and right there you have a recipe for disaster.
"Aim left, kick left, ball goes right. "Soccer" at its best."
Similarly, the American football suffers from this same issue. Granted, kicking the field-goals are a little more simplistic and less reliant on accuracy than the football, but throwing a pigskin as a quarterback... it’s more luck than judgement. There are various running back and assault course challenges as well, but in truth, once you’ve done them once – and got the achievements tied to them – you’ll probably never do it again.
Talking of never doing it again... Motion Sports’ boxing... well, after being rather charmed and endeared by Kinect Sports’ version of the sport, the same cannot be said for this version. “I’m holding my arms up, block for Pete’s sake,” was uttered on more than the odd occasion – obviously more graphic and riddled with F-bombs than my paraphrase above. It’s actually one of the only modes that allows versus games – all games offer multiplayer, but it’s mostly one-on-the-screen action. It’s simple. You hold your arms up to block – don’t block too much, the opponent can whittle your defence down – and you swing your arms to punch. Well, that’s what it tells you. In fact, the only swinging you’ll be doing is your cat out the window after trying this frustrating discipline out. It’s even more broken than Fighters Uncaged... which is saying something.
The hang gliding is an interesting one, and by interesting, I mean, “standing in the middle of the room lifting your arms up and down and tilting them left and right like a loon.” If this is the future of Kinect, then colour me disinterested. Mini-games – even those based on sports – are meant to be fun, and I’m not quite sure where the fun comes into play here. “Oh but Dan, there are secrets you can find... and there are rings to go through... and you can use wind-pockets to get more air... and you can even land!!!!” Give me a break... it’s a game idea that’d be more at home on the bloody iPhone, not one sixth of a full retail title on a peripheral that costs over one hundred bucks.
"I could've sworn there should be more people on the field."
Last, and by no means least - but rather more bizarre - is the horse riding, which includes equestrianism and horse races. In fact, although it’s not that captivating as real horse riding... ... ... it is one of the few modes that works, which is a plus in the grand scheme of things. After giddying your horse into action, steering right and left by holding each corresponding arm out and jumping: that is the horse riding in a nutshell.
The achievements are probably the most well thought out aspect of the game. Harsh, but true. Other than stacking way too many achievements on getting gold, platinum and diamond medals in each discipline, Ubisoft Montreal does a pretty decent job. The mode-specific achievements are probably the best, and in fact, they’re probably the most memorable. Those gulping at getting diamond medals in every category, fear not, as they’re not that difficult in reality... well, that’s if Kinect and Motion Sports are having a good day when it comes to throwing and kicking. Which sounds easier than it actually is.
Motion Sports as it stands has flashes of brilliance with its responsive skiing and... yeah, that’s about it. There is a little fun to be had throughout though, but the damning fact comes when you realise that half of the mini-games suffer from response issues and don’t even work properly. The boxing is a shadow of what Rare has done in Kinect sports and Motion Sports is just another piece of software that proves that kicking and throwing imaginary objects either doesn’t work with the device or it simply hasn’t been perfected yet. There are some fun moments though, so it’s not too bad. Oh, and there’s horse riding... yeah, who the hell thought that was a bright idea?
The audio’s actually pretty solid, what with its infrequent but topical commentary and its Killers-inspired musical riffings.
In aiming to go down the more realistic route, the visuals are bound to come under much more scrutiny as we expect a higher standard. They simply don’t cut it. And the faces of the characters? They all seem to have a mild skin disease.
The kicking and throwing actions don’t work. The boxing doesn’t work. Most of it just doesn’t work. The skiing’s brill though...
Lots of mini games. Some work. Some don’t. Yeah... it’s that enthralling.
The achievements aren’t bad actually, although there are far too many diamond medal completion achievements. It’s brought back from the brink though with a few original ones thrown in to spice things up.
Motion Sports is unfortunately another piece of Kinect software that’s closer to shovelware than triple-A. With 6 sports, most of which don’t work fully, you’ll be hard pushed to find more than a few hours of entertainment here.
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