Kinect Sports Xbox 360 Review

February 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Xbox 360, Features, Reviews

Publisher – Microsoft – Developer – Rare – Genre – Sports – Players – 1-4 – Age Rating – 12+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A

Instead of opting to include Kinect Sports as a pack-in game sold with every Kinect in the same manner that Nintendo bundled Wii Sports with the Wii, Microsoft decided to include Kinect Adventures instead. But what we get with Rare’s Kinect Sports is a much more rounded package than what we got with Adventures, making it a game which is well worth paying £40 for.

Kinect Sports is everything the title suggests – a collection of sporting events that makes use of the body tracking camera that is Kinect. Of course, by making use of Kinect you’re making use of your own body, so don’t blame it on the camera or the game if you tire easily.

Indeed, Kinect Sports contains six different sports to physically get yourself involved in. Included here is everything from Table Tennis, Bowling, Football, Volleyball, Boxing and Track and Field events. None of which need much explaining, although when it comes to Kinect, we all obviously want such controller free sports to work properly, so I think a little bit of explaning is in order.

We do have to take into consideration that Kinect does have its limitations, and in Kinect Sports there are a number of moments where you’ll notice this. But before highlighting these faults, let’s have a rundown of the sports. What works and what doesn’t?

Running and jumping is a tiring task.

Table Tennis has you pretending that your hand is a racquet – hitting your hand down for backspin and throwing it up for topspin and even serving the ball by tossing it up with your other hand. Bowling involves picking a ball up with your desired hand and then using the guidance to lob it along the lane as smoothly as possible. Football leaves the movement up to the AI, but passes and shots are where you come in, with the ball going in the direction that you kick it, while on defence it’s possible to sidestep into the balls path and to save shots with the keeper. Volleyball has you using your body to knock the ball back and jumping and smacking said ball for those powerful shots. Boxing isn’t quite as bad as the Wii Sports effort, but it’s certainly a similar mess that is fun at first, but has little depth, with victories feeling as if they are lacking in any real level of skill. Finally, Track and Field presents you with a number of events – Hurdles, Sprint, Javelin, Discuss Throw and Long Jump – and has you doing everything from running on the spot (measuring your progress by the height of your knees), jumping and throwing gestures.

Right, those limitations I mentioned. In bowling adding spin to the ball is done by putting your throwing arm across your body. Indeed, if you’re familiar with the sport you’ll realise that this doesn’t sound quite right – in the real thing spin is applied to the ball with the rotation of your wrist, but Kinect currently isn’t capable of reading such rotational movements. Of course, there’s lag noticeable in some of the sports as well, but Rare has done a fantastic job in attempting to hide this away with helpful on-screen and colour coordinated information, although, still, there’s only so much they could do with certain events. The hurdles for instance warn you well in advance when to jump, and this is obviously much sooner than an athlete would in real life, well unless they wanted to stumble into the incoming hurdle and fall flat on their faces. But for the most part such lag is barely noticeable and full credit must go to the talented people at Rare for using their common sense to make Kinect Sports work like a well oiled machine.

More importantly, though, Rare’s sporting themed game is huge amounts of fun. I’m particularly fond of Table Tennis, Football and Volleyball. True, Table Tennis or Volleyball don’t have the depth that the Sports Champions equivalents do, but they’re fun in their own way, while Football commands a load of open space to play it properly, although, if you can find this space, passing the ball around, shooting, defending and goalkeeping are most satisfying. Track and Field and Bowling are also lots of fun, but the former is another that requires plenty of open space and the latter, well, it does feel a bit random from time to time. The only real weak link of the package is definitely the messy Boxing – surely someone will be able to come up with a better Kinect Boxing game than this one? I certainly live in hope.

As for options, Kinect Sports has an impressive set of these. Not only do we get the different sporting events, but, courtesy of the additional mini games, we also are treated to twists on each of these sports. How long can you sustain a rally in Table Tennis? How many targets can you kick the ball into in football? How many spares can you pick up with a single ball in Bowling? How many objects can you avoid in Volleyball? These are just a few examples of these excellent mini games (some have even been added in with a free download), which, like the rest of the game, are definitely at their strongest in multiplayer.

In Table Tennis, I often forget that I'm not actually holding a physical racquet in the real world.

Multiplayer can be played in the same room or over Xbox Live. You’ll need a lot of space for best results for the former, while the performance of the latter is just as good as such a game needs to be when you’re playing online. The game actually offers very little for the solo player, so really in the long term, one way or another, you should really play with or against other players in order to have the best time.

Visually, Kinect Sports certainly has the character. While it hardly pushes the console, the overall look is also very polished and has a cartoon and charismatic appeal that will please a lot of people and, as it’s supposed to be a game that isn’t meant to be taken seriously, it’s certainly most fitting. When it comes to sound, the game has a fair number of licensed tracks that play from time to time and there’s even some decent but repetitive commentary in there.

Kinect Sports is certainly up there as one of the strongest Kinect games that I’ve played. Bar boxing, all of the included sporting events work really well, are intuitive and show off the new hardware’s capabilities. Just be warned that Kinect Sports is a game that requires a lot of physical activity (particularly in the Track and Field events), but like a stroll in the great outdoors, it’s also a game that makes exercise a whole lot of fun.