Review by horror_spooky
"Wii want to play Kinect!"
Rare has a gimmick. You see, they tend to directly copy gaming ideas from Nintendo, and add their own spin on those basic mechanics established by Nintendo games. They started doing this during the Nintendo 64 era with games like Banjo-Kazooie, a Super Mario 64 clone, and Diddy Kong Racing, a Mario Kart 64 clone. This is not a bad thing. In fact, I love it. It allows great ideas to be recycled, yet still be fresh, providing for more opportunities to enjoy fantastic gameplay mechanics. Since Microsoft acquired the prolific company, Rare has continued copying Nintendo, with Kameo: Elements of Power an obvious nod towards Nintendo's Zelda franchise. Now Rare has offered up its answer to Nintendo's Wii Sports games, with Kinect Sports, one of the launch titles for Microsoft's Xbox 360 motion-control centric peripheral.
Kinect Sports is an obvious clone of Wii Sports, but that's not a bad thing at all. Kinect Sports utilizes the Kinect sensor extraordinarily well, providing for absolutely fantastic multiplayer experiences in the same room, or over Xbox Live. Rare has managed to take the best elements of Wii Sports and translate them to the Kinect. Granted, the game isn't perfect, but we'll get to that in a minute. Similarly to how I composed my reviews of Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort, I am going to conduct this review by examining each sport one by one and giving my opinion on how fun it is and how the controls are, and then I will wrap this baby up at the end with a comprehensive overall look at the game's quality.
First, I will begin with bowling. Bowling and tennis were arguably the most popular sports when Wii Sports launched alongside the Wii in 2006, so how well does bowling translate to the Kinect? Well, it's what you'd expect. The bowling mechanics in the game are identical to those found in Wii Sports. However, that's not a bad thing. It's still fun. Bowling is a blast when you get a group of people together, not to mention it provides the Kinect with the opportunity to show off it's ability to detect exactly who is playing the game at any given time. Bowling will probably be the most-played game type at parties, without a doubt.
Moving on, boxing is also a sport that was present in Wii Sports and also makes an appearance in Kinect Sports. I feel as though neither Nintendo nor Rare truly capitalized on boxing with either game, as there seems to be something a bit off with both of them. However, the boxing game type in Kinect Sports will seriously give you a work out. Since the peripheral demands that you use your entire body to play the game, you will definitely feel the burn by the time you wrap your session up. Multiplayer in boxing can be a lot of fun, but be warned that the Kinect does demand a truly obnoxious amount of space in order to function properly, and elbows may clash during heated battles...
Track & Field is next on the table, and quite honestly, it's one of my gameplay types in the game. Players have to complete a long jump, a discus throw, and a hurdle sprint, with their final scores tallied at the end to determine the winner. No other sport demands as much physical exertion than Track & Field. I've gotten better workouts from the Track & Field mode in this game than I have actually going to the gym. It certainly works on your cardio, and you feel pumped up and good after completing a session of Track & Field. Better yet, since only one person can play at a time, you don't have to worry about knocking heads while participating in the events.
Table Tennis is another sport that has been mimicked from the Wii Sports line, having debuted in Wii Sports Resort. There's not much to say about it, other than it pretty much functions exactly like it did on the Wii. It's fun, it's functional, and it can breed intense competition.
Beach volleyball is probably the worst sport on the game. I'm talking about it now so I can end this examination of all the sports on a high note with the next sport, soccer. Volleyball in this game is more or less broken. It's a chaotic mess without no real rhyme or reason. The game seems to demand specific actions from the player, but I discovered that simply swatting my hand repeatedly after my opponent served would result in me successfully returning the ball. Rallies can last forever against human-controlled opponents because of this, and really, you have to try to lose just to get the game over with. Volleyball is a test of your persistence to put up with nonsense, but that's about it.
And finally, soccer. I was surprised when I saw a lot of negative feedback directed towards the inclusion of soccer in the game, but I really liked the soccer game mode. Soccer is a battle of wits as you have to confuse the other player, tricking them into thinking you're going to pass the ball one way, only to kick it down the field in the opposite direction to a teammate geared up and ready to score a goal. Soccer is a bit more fast-paced than it is in reality in this game, but that's fine because it works well and uses every part of your body. Soccer is probably one of the most entertaining sports on the disc.
So, there you have it. Every sport in the game is at the very least fun and functional, with the exception of volleyball. Soccer is the stand-out success, as is Track & Field, and neither of these game types are available in the Wii Sports games that Kinect Sports blatantly mimics. When Kinect Sports explores the unproven, it's when it's at its brightest.
Instead of Miis, players use the Xbox version of Miis--Avatars, which were also developed by Rare. It's really neat controlling your Avatar with Kinect, but the "wow" factor disappears rather quickly. Good thing Kinect Sports has enough solid gameplay foundation to make up for that. Regardless, Kinect Sports also uses the unique features of the Kinect in other ways. There is some voice control that works rather well, but not a whole lot, unfortunately. The game also takes a bunch of pictures of you while you're playing, leading to hilarious results once you're finished playing.
Kinect Sports is a very strong argument in favor of the Kinect. While it technically doesn't really do all that much that the Wii Sports games can't do, Kinect Sports still stands strong on its own, and is a compelling case for motion control in gaming. While I'd rather see Rare move on from the Kinect Sports franchise in the future, Kinect Sports is another golden feather in the cap of the storied and legendary developer, and here's hoping that Microsoft allows them to continue producing high-quality software such as this.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/06/12
Game Release: Kinect Sports (US, 11/04/10)
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