Gamescom 2013: Kinect Sports Rivals Body-On Preview - Rare Unleashed on Kinect 2.0
Written Thursday, August 29, 2013 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Ever since the dawn of time - or at least since the beginning of Kinect… you know, when it was called Natal - Microsoft has used Rare and its Kinect Sports franchise to show you what Kinect can really do. While the software might have been solid with Kinect 1.0, you'd have to say that if anything let it down at times it was the Kinect itself. If you were to believe rumours around the games industry, the Kinect that shipped for Xbox 360 was a shadow of the Kinect that was originally planned.
Here we are then - effectively half a generation later - and at Rare's disposal is a Kinect ten times more powerful than this current generation's Kinect. Can Rare do the unthinkable and create a motion controlled game that isn't marred by problems? Well, yes, and no.
Kinect Sports Rivals, which is now scheduled for a spring 2014 release after its recent delay, includes six motion-controlled sports for gamers to sink their teeth into. There's "soccer," tennis, climbing, wake racing, target shooting and bowling. At this year's Gamescom, Rare came equipped with two of those six: wake racing and climbing.
Built into the core of the experience is the whole "Rivals" concept. Firstly, that means you can use the Kinect 2.0 to scan yourself into your game and play as yourself. As to whether it works, let's just say it does its job; avatar Webb looked like a much-more attractive and slightly less receding real-life Webb - I did seemingly have a purple beard though for some reason. Secondly, it means that you won't be competing against random avatars anymore, but you'll instead be performing against other people's avatars, whether it be your friend's list or those who populate the servers. And thirdly, at the beginning of each event you'll have a rival who you have to beat, presumably for a bigger XP boost.
That's enough of the background of the game, let's talk about what matters most: the tech and the gameplay.
First up we were thrust into a three-lap race of Rare's wake racing mode, which is effectively jet-ski racing - think something akin to Wake Race 64 - where you trick out and race your way to first place. In terms of controls they're fairly simple: the turning is controlled with hand actions like you're riding a jet ski, tricks are executed by leaning backwards or forwards over a jump - it helps you get the speed boost quicker - and you kick your leg back to initiate the boost. That's it. The course we raced on had your typical ramps, more rampant waves as time went on, and plenty of shortcuts. There isn't much more to it, other than the big factor, and that's that it actually works. It works! It does what you want it to do. My, we nearly fainted when this happened.
Second up was climbing. Yes, climbing. Yes, we're being serious. Honestly. We wouldn't lie to you, I swear. So how does that work? Well, you reach up with your right hand, grab, pull down; reach up with your left hand, grab and pull down; then you rinse and repeat. Sure, you can choose which bracket you grab onto, but that's it. Oh, you can jump every so often and pull people off the rock face too. Exciting, huh? It's likely to keep your cousins or drunk mates busy for all of 30 seconds, but it's essentially grabbing and pulling with alternate arms until you're bored. We've seen the new hand grab and release mechanics... We get it, Rare!
Therein lies the problem with the two mini-games shown off to the media at this year's Gamescom, and that was that they felt more like tech demos than actual games you'd play with friends or family… or even your worst enemy! On the one hand you had wake racing, which you felt was included to show that Kinect 2.0 actually works, and on the other hand, you had climbing, which we kind of got the feeling was included just to show off the closed and open hand capabilities of the Kinect 2.0. Both were fun for about three seconds, and by fun, I mean bearable - and yes, I'm thinking of this from a family perspective too. Based on these two modes it's a fairly tame showing for Rare's next-gen debut if we're being perfectly honest, but it's not all bad.
If Rare sets out to prove that Kinect 2.0 is a cut above its current-generation fledgling, then it can only be looked at as a success. Kinect 2.0 works. It wasn't quite 1:1 tracking, but it's as close as we've ever seen with our well-travelled eyes. Not bad for one of the early titles built around the new tech if you ask us. Let's just hope the other four game modes are a little bit more fun, but also maintain the accuracy these two Kinect Sports Rivals modes achieved.
Kinect Sports Rivals is scheduled for a spring 2014 release.