Kinect Sports Rivals Hands-On Preview – Sports, Sports, Sports, Sports!
Written Wednesday, March 19, 2014 By Dan WebbView author's profile
“Sports, sports, sports,” that was part of the message from Microsoft when they announced the Xbox One early last year. That had nothing to do with video games though, of course. Nothing in that reveal did. Ouch. Something that does have everything to do with sports and video games is Kinect Sports Rivals. Yay, lame segues ahoy, but honestly, it feels like an apt segue all things considered.
Like the previous games that came before it, Kinect Sports Rivals boxes up six different activities and disciplines from the wonderful world of sport, and puts them all under one roof in the Rare created cutesy universe, making use of Xbox One's Kinect sensor. Games such as this can often be won and lost on the selection of said sports, and in some respects, that’s been a factor in the franchise since day one. Since its delay last year, little has been seen of the latest Kinect Sports title, until recently, that is.
First things first. At the core of the experience is your 'Champion', which is essentially a digital version of you. After being scanned into the game, you’re all set to go. Is it an accurate scan? Well, our recent hands-on did a much better job of creating a virtual me than it did at Gamescom last year, where it gave me purple hair, but it’s not perfect – it literally gave me no hair… which is a kick in the balls of my manhood from the off. That said, it’s easy to nip in and change the hair, face, clothes, facial hair, etc. In fact, there’s over 150 outfits and 200 pieces of equipment – like tennis racquets and so on.
Out of the box players will have the chance to play ten-pin bowling, target shooting, wake racing, soccer, tennis and rock climbing. Fans of the series will recognise returning favourites like bowling and tennis, which are largely untouched for the most part, but the new soccer mode has been tweaked somewhat.
Okay then, I’m just going to run through every mode – well, more importantly, the four modes we hadn’t previously gone hands-on with – as it’s probably the best way to go about things here.
Let’s talk about the two modes that have been re-imagined with the new Kinect sensor: ten-pin bowling and tennis. Ten-pin bowling is ten-pin bowling. It’s fun, it’s good, it’s more accurate than the original sensor. That’s about it. The one nifty thing that Rivals is doing though, is power-ups, allowing you to get an edge or put off an opponent. In bowling’s case, you can get a speed boost, make your opponent throw left-handed or create a crater in the lane to make it tricky for your opponent. Each sport has a selection of power-ups you can unlock that will surely make the multiplayer antics of said sports much more fun and interesting.
In terms of tennis, it’s more of the same here. Timing is key, more so than ever, and players can back spin, lob, and so on, all depending on how you position their wrist when hitting the ball over the net. It’s fun, strenuous and will provide a few laughs, for sure. It’s not a very deep mode and what you see is what you get, essentially.
Let’s talk 'soccer' for a minute. In an attempt to make Rivals’ soccer mode much more interesting, Rare has decided to focus on the glory moments of a football match i.e. the shooting and saving. The build-up play now focuses on you passing the ball past a bunch of moving dummies, so to speak, all in an attempt to set up your shot. When you’re defending, you just save the ball. It’s basic stuff really, and like everything else in Rivals, thanks to the new sensor it’s more accurate and you get a lot more control over the ball. The problem? I’m just not sure whether it’s any good. Time will tell when we get our hands on the final version.
Finally, there’s target shooting, which although basic and a little disappointing at first, can actually grow on you and become a lot of fun. Why is it disappointing? Well, cause all you do is hold your finger at the target. It shoots automatically. You basically feel like Buddy Christ from Dogma. It’s all a little ridiculous. That said, it’s actually fun, which is the main thing. As we were scoring points for hitting targets, stealing targets from our opponent and started chaining points together by shooting targets in a specific order, the mode actually grew to be one of our favourites. True story.
With a new generation comes a new generation of tech, in the form of Kinect 2.0 – or whatever gimmicky marketing name they’re using for it – it’s effectively the game’s selling point. I could sit here and spout facts and figures about the new active infra-red and the computations it does every millisecond to track your every movement, but it’d mean very little. What people essentially want to know is, what’s new and does it work?
Well, in terms of what’s new, Xbox One's Kinect now tracks hand motions, like opening and closing the hand, wrist and ankle orientation and it does a lot more computations and stores biometric positions to try and get to the bottom of the crossed limbs issues. This isn’t an exhaustive list, of course, only additions that are relevant for Rivals. All of that is great, and for the most part works and is more accurate than the original Kinect. Yet it’s still not perfect and still doesn’t do 1:1 tracking, although it is much improved over the original Xbox 360 version of Kinect.
Granted, Kinect Sports Rivals, thanks to the new Kinect sensor, is surely going to be the best Kinect Sports game to come out of Rare. Honestly though, that’s not really that hard. There is definitely more control when it comes to the Xbox One’s Kinect sensor, but still, you never truly feel like you’re in control. Take bowling for instance: it seemed like more luck than judgement when I actually got a strike. Like previous years, Kinect Sports Rivals seems to be shaping up to be some harmless fun that you whip out with your friends and family every once in a while, nothing more, nothing less. We were hoping for more, but we’ll save our final judgment for next month.
Kinect Sports Rivals is due for an April 8th and April 11th release in North America and Europe respectively.