While we've seen very different approaches from the various console makers when it comes to their motion control systems, the one constant seems to be the obligatory sports compilation release that goes along with it. With the release of Kinect Sports, Rare has put together a nice variety of sporting events to show off the capabilities of Microsoft's new Kinect hardware. But while the package is well-rounded and certainly a solid demonstration of the controller-free technology the company likes to talk so much about, there are certain hardware hindrances that keep the package from reaching its true potential.
There are six sporting events to choose from, each with its own unique set of motion controls, including soccer, bowling, track & field, boxing, beach volleyball and table tennis. You can choose to play the game's Main Event mode, in which you will be treated to the traditional sporting experience of each event, or you can play a stripped-down mini game version of an event in Mini Game mode. You can even round up a whole group of players together and split into teams for a little competition in Party Mode. If you don't have anyone on hand to play with, you can play against opponents via Xbox Live. It's easy as sending out a game request to a friend or jumping right into a Quick Match with a random online challenger.
For the most part, every sporting event in Kinect Sports is played fairly accurately to its real-life counterpart. You'll throw punches and block just as you would in a real boxing match and you'll mimic the motions of bowling as if you were throwing balls at your local lanes. Even the track & field events will have you running in place, jumping hurdles and tossing an imaginary javelin. There's even a tutorial at the beginning of each game to familiarise you with the exact controls you'll be using. Obviously some events play better and feel more authentic than others, but there's really not a throwaway in the entire bunch and despite some of the games being fairly simplified in their execution, they're about as realistic as you can get without playing the real thing. Just be prepared to really move around as these games will give you quite a workout.
One interesting and rather unique feature is the highlight video the game will display for you at the end of your performance in each event. Not only can you see an edited video of yourself in action, but you can also choose to upload it to KinectShare in order to share it with your friends. You can even upload them to popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter if you're feeling particularly proud of yourself, or just downright brave, whichever the case may be.
The biggest problem with the game lies not with the actual control system of the game, but with the limitations of the Kinect hardware. Since the movements aren't 1:1, there is a fairly noticeable hesitation between your actual body movements and the reaction of your character on screen. While this won't make much difference in some events, those that require faster reflexes and more accurate timing can be made quite a bit tricker than they should be. It's most annoying when you're taking on the computer opponents, since they don't have to deal with this control lag. Playing against human opponents is a better fit since the playing field is levelled with all human opponents having to deal with the same control response issues. In truth, it's a very minor annoyance, but something to keep in mind if you're planning to spend a lot of time playing in single player mode.
The attention to detail that's displayed in the visual presentation of Kinect Sports is more impressive. Every arena and playing field in the game is absolutely stunning to look at and there's not a single area throughout the game that won't wow you. The avatars are all well implemented and animate with the type of fluidity that seems to meld perfectly with the surroundings they're placed in. Rare has always done a brilliant job of creating impressive visual performances and Kinect Sports continues that tradition quite nicely.
The audio presentation is similarly polished: you'll be treated to everything from Queen's "We Are the Champions" to the all-time sports classic "Chariots of Fire", and these are the real deal from the original artists, not some cheap knock-off. There are even a ton of more modern pop favorites featuring artists such as No Doubt and LL Cool J. Even the announcer is extremely well voiced and does a nice job of always conveying the action taking place throughout each event. It's great to see a developer really go all-out on one of these sports packages and it adds a ton of catchiness and charm to the playing experience.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a better overall demonstration of what Microsoft's Kinect accessory brings to the table than the one found in Kinect Sports. Even with the few minor faults here and there, the game still features enough variety and fun to get your money's worth out of it. While the package certainly holds its own as a traditional sports competition, the party mode is where the game truly shines. If you're one of the ones who've invested in Microsoft's newest motion control toy, this is definitely a game you'll want to put at the top of your wish list.