By making it so that everyone who purchases an Xbox One also has a Kinect, Microsoft has made it so that everyone with the console is capable of playing any Kinect games that may come out. Because of issues with the first version of Kinect for 360, many gamers are right to be skeptical about the capabilities of the Xbox One’s Kinect and now we have a game that will put it to the test in the form of Kinect Sports Rivals. The question is, does this game help make that Kinect worthwhile or is it just another gimmicky attempt at motion control?
Now the very first thing players will do when they play Kinect Sports Rivals is create their champion, but unlike other games this isn’t done by selecting from pre-set faces, this is done with the Kinect. Players are asked to move close to the Kinect and position their face for scanning which, for me, was a very quick and accurate procedure that had the Kinect even asking me to take off my glasses at points to properly scan and producing a character that looked similar to me in skeletal structure, although the haircut was way off.
Things such as hair style, beard, glasses, and the color of the player’s hair, eyes can be adjusted afterwards if the scanning might have missed a fine detail here and there. However the same cannot be said when another member of my family tried to make their character as the Kinect was constantly failing to finish the scan and asking them to move back and forth only to fail continuously even after numerous lighting, positioning, furniture movement. Only by luck did it finally allow him to create a character, and allow him to continue to play.
Anyways, once players create their character they are introduced to each event through a drill instructor like “Coach” which serves as a tutorial to each sport. This is a nice trickle of information and works well enough to slowly reveal events to players and instruct them on how to properly perform each act asked of them in the game, though it can be a bit slow at times… especially if there is a certain event you really want to play right off the bat.
The events in the game are unlocked in the following order, Wake Racing, Rock Climbing, Target Practice, Soccer, Bowling, and then Tennis. As such we will also be talking about these events in that order with some of them being incredibly fun, a few feeling tacked on and one that is really terrible to not only play but boring at the same time.
Wake Racing will see the player having to position their hands in front of them and steer like they would if they were actually on a jet ski. By moving one arm forward and the other backward players can turn in the direction they would as if using handlebars and acceleration is handled by closing your fists or stopping by opening them up. Players can even lean into turns to make tight turns, lean forwards or backwards to front flips and backflips while catching air and even performing no handed maneuvers if you raise your hands in the air as well.
Players are also able to use power ups such as speed boosts and other things by either saying the power out loud, the most accurate way to do so, or stomping their right foot, usable more often than not but occasionally misfires. These are useful in difficult races where players will need to race against AI and avoid mine fields making this one of the more enjoyable events in the set. These power ups are available for each event and are changed up to match the event properly and are activated the same way in each event.
Another one of the best events is Rock Climbing which seems simple at first but can be incredible fun. Players must use their arms to navigate up a rock face by reaching for handholds, closing their hands and then pulling in that direction to climb. You can jump up gaps by physically jumping and move sideways by moving your hands together to transfer hands while you reach for the next handhold.
In these stages things can be rather difficult and exciting at times, since players can grab other climbers by the feet and yank them off the wall or if they are being grabbed, try to climb as fast as possible to shake their assailant off. Things are made more difficult when shocking hand holds are added in which can cause a players stamina to drop, making it difficult to hold onto the wall with one hand and reach for another for any length of time. Despite being one of the more exciting events, it is worth noting that the Kinect can have difficulty with transferring handholds properly which can make climbing sideways a difficult endeavor.
Following that there is Shooting which is pretty much a target practice light game event where players need to simply point at the screen with their hand aimed like a gun to shoot targets and accrue points. The shooting is handled automatically and players will need to dodge left and right and aim for special targets while avoiding others to build their score. This is one of the simpler games that is fun but not as nuanced as the others.
Remember how I mentioned that there was an event that was terrible and boring? Well that one happens to be soccer. While playing as the goalie is alright as you can try to defend shots from the AI, being the shooter is a pain. Players need to pass the ball down field to themselves past stationary defenders and then trying to kick a shot past the goalie in what is the most terrible aspect of the game since not only does the Kinect seem to have issues picking up the kicks, but the entire process is a snoozefest.
Bowling in Kinect Sports Rivals is a fun little inclusion that is sure to ensnare a number of players since it is one of the easier games to step into and play. There are minor adjustments players can make by adding some spin to their ball depending on how they throw it but for the most part it is a straightforward entry that is one of the better games to be played with a group of people.
Finally in this release we have Tennis which is far more detailed than I have ever noticed before in a game such as this. Players will have to toss the ball up for a serve and then smack away at it with the racket as if they were actually playing tennis and they can follow up by trying various swinging techniques to score points. This is another game that feels great to play with another person; however there are occasional issues that spring up with accurately detecting each players’ movements.
It is worth noting that there is some semblance of a set-up within the game where players can choose between three different factions to join, the Eagle Legion, Wolf Clan, or Viper Network but this is pretty basic and forgettable since it seems to mostly get in the way of actual events and fades into the background quickly. Players can also customize all of their outfits in the game, unlock better gear with special upgrades, or take advantage of a hub app to submit photos and videos as well as compare their scores with other people.
Visuals & Audio
Gone are the times that trying to use a basic avatar was satisfactory, instead Rare has stepped up to create a gorgeous looking experience filled with bright colors and great looking environments. Thanks to the player scanning technology there are some nice looking details in each character and thanks to customization players will be playing against numerous different looking people as they play events that take place in gorgeously designed scenery.
Although it might be detrimental to your finishing position, taking a quick stop to look around at the world is a great thing to do, especially in Wake Racing and Rock Climbing, two events with scenic set ups, though the more stationary events are spiced up with special effects as well. As for the voice work in the game, it is satisfactory for the characters and the narrator and the music in the game is mostly recent music that isn’t about to offend anyone and helps provide an upbeat feeling to the whole experience.
Kinect Sports Rivals has some great events, a few that are simple but enjoyable and one that is absolutely terrible and will probably be played the least. With Wake Racing and Rock Climbing providing the best challenge and fun in the game and Bowling and Tennis coming in for some simpler but more multiplayer friendly enjoyment, Kinect Sports Rivals is still held back by nagging motion control issues that can ruin the fun.
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