A lot of the hype surrounding the Xbox One was centered on the new Kinect, one that claimed to be more capable, more accurate and more dynamic than the first version of the device. With such anticipation, a lot of gamers were waiting to see what exactly the new Kinect was capable of.
Sadly, the first game that attempted to showcase the Kinect, Fighter Within, was a colossal failure. And now, with Kinect SportsRivals, we have another game that attempts to show just how good the new Kinect is. This is a better game than Fighter Within, but that isn’t saying much. While it does offer a few moments of silly enjoyment, it’s hardly a testament to the capabilities of the Kinect. While Microsoft continues to claim that the new version of their motion sensing device is leagues ahead of its predecessor, we have yet to see a game that confirms this claim. You can read an interesting article on polygon, which states the kinect still isn't serious gaming hardware.
The Game Play:
As soon as you begin the game, you are presented with a player creation screen that allows you to create a digital avatar who will be competing in the various events presented. The game does this by having the Kinect scan your face and then create a likeness of you. This isn’t too reliable though. Sometimes, you might find that your digital self resembles yourself uncannily, while other times it looks like a completely different person. It’s interesting to see how the game creates your characters. Annoyingly, the game forces you to watch an introduction every single time someone stands in front of the Kinect to do a face scan. If you’re playing with your friends, expect to sit through a few minutes of intro sequences before everyone’s avatars are ready to go.
Once you do finally have your characters created, Kinect Sports Rivals begins presenting a gamut of competitions for you. You begin with a jet ski racing event. The controls here are intuitive and feel natural. For turning, you can turn your arms one way or the other, much like you would if you were operating with handlebars. You can brake by opening your right hand. Closing it again makes your character step on the throttle. You can also perform special moves like flips and drifts by leaning forward, backward or to the side. The environments are good looking and have the proper arcade feel that games like this require. Whenever your jet ski rides the waves, the graphics demonstrate the gravity and impact admirably.
The Different Events:
In the rock climbing event, you have to move your arms up and down, and then close a fist as your character comes across a handhold. Once you grab a handhold, you have to move your arms downwards to make your character push itself up from the current position. You can grab other players’ legs and send them on a joyride to the bottom. This mechanic is a lot of fun when you are playing with your friends. The camera handles suitably, giving you a sense of the height and scale of the course. This is probably as good as rock climbing can be demonstrated in a video game setting.
Surprisingly, bowling, which you would expect to be one of the easier games to mimic proper motion controls for, is less than stellar. You have to bowl in much the same manner as you would in a real alley, except here you have to really make extreme motions to impart any spin to the ball. Still, this is a fun mini-game to play for a while. Tennis is similarly underwhelming. While the graphics are good and sending a winner past an opponent looks great, it’s tough to get a grip on how timing works in the game.
The shooting and soccer events are indisputably the worst of the lot. In the shooting mini-game, you have to point at the screen and fire at targets via a crosshair. You simply have to point the crosshair at a target and the shooting happens automatically. You are presented with a series of static and moving targets, some of which you have to shoot in a certain sequence. While using your hand as a gun to shoot stuff on a screen isn’t the most exciting activity, it could have made for some old school, Duck Hunt-esque fun. But unfortunately, the targeting is far from perfect, and for an event that is about sharpshooting, this is obviously a huge problem.
In the soccer game, you have to mimic a kicking motion to pass the ball from player to player, all the while attempting to avoid the opponent’s defense. Here too, the game fails to read a significant portion of the kicks you make, which will probably have you swearing at the screen more than once. When you make a good run only to have your striker shoot straight, instead of left or right as you intended, it is not a lot of fun. When you play as the defensive team, you have control of your goalkeeper, whom you have to maneuver into position to stop scoring shots.
The story is a poor excuse to connect unrelated sports events together into a single narrative, and expectedly, it does a terrible job at explaining why you have to compete in such a wide variety of competitions. This game has its fun moments, but ultimately the inconsistency of the controls and some questionable gameplay mechanics never allow it to rise from mediocrity.