You can pretty much guarantee that a sports title will be launched alongside a newly released product and with the release of the PlayStation Move controller there has been no exception with Sports Champions, from developers Zindagi Games. Read on to see if this game stands out as a Champion in its own right amongst the rest of the Move launch titles.
Off the bat (to excuse the pun) there are a handful of arm-wielding sports on offer. I respect the developers in deciding not to feature your usual standard line-up of sport events that we’re accustomed to seeing in games. These particular events on offer are: Table Tennis, Volleyball, Archery, Gladiator Duel, Disc Golf and Bocce - so quite a risky and diverse range of sports here, that isn’t the obvious tennis, golf, boxing or bowling event, perhaps this is because these standard sporting events are already covered by such other Move launch titles like Ubisoft’s Racket Sports, EA’s Tiger Woods 11 and Brunswick Pro Bowling - so this is already quite refreshing to the eyes, ears and arms already.
So let’s kick off with Bocce, which is probably the weakest of all the events on offer here in my opinion. For the laymen, Bocce is a bit like your traditional lawn bowls, with a twist, or if you’re more into winter sports events – curling. This is where you throw a pallino ball (or jack if you will) down the field and then you take turns to get as close to this jack as possible to win the round. Now simple event locations make this game ok, but it’s in later levels where everything gets a little ‘urban’ and you find yourself tossing your balls and jacks through car tyres and Crazy Golf-like courses, which in my eyes rape away this particular event’s simplicity. The Move controller comes into its own here, showing off its precision to add spin, height and power to your thrown balls with ease, and it is this precision that is required to navigate and win some of the most complex of courses later on. Overall the game’s pace is quite slow, which maybe ideal for some, but for those younger gamers who run a little impatient from time-to-time then this event may become the most overlooked of the sports on offer.
Next up is Volleyball, where you and a partner, whether it is an AI teammate or a local buddy, face each other or form a team against two other AI opponents. Playing this event didn’t make me feel that I was in full control here. Just swinging my arms to set the ball up and again to smash it down was as close as I would get to feeling as if I was part of the game. Other than serving and setting up smashes I didn’t feel that I was making that much of an influence to the match and that I was more passively observing from the sidelines. Later on you get to learn blocks and dives, which do begin to involve you more in the game, but I was still left a little less involved in this whole event. So overall Volleyball is a little hit and miss and joins Bocce as a mode that will not see much playtime from me.
So that is the false starters out of the way; now let’s look at Sports Champions’ podium winners, kicking off with Disc Golf. The Move controller’s precision works wonders in this event. You are able to mimic how you would throw a Disc (Frisbee) in real life and see this come to life on screen within the game. Whether you are a back-handed thrower, or an all-out right arm tosser (ahem), your throw is captured in such great detail and this soon results in good progress around the golf-like courses, landing par after par, or if you’re a little limp-wristed - see your disc fly off into trees and bushes, or plummeting into scrubland and water. Your throwing angle and power is key in getting you under par in each round. Every angle is taken into consideration with your shot – if your angle it too low you’ll see your disc fly into the ground only a meter in front of your toes; angle it too high and you’ll not only see your disc swoop to great heights but it’ll also be coming back at you, and if your disc is thrown too hard you’ll be landing much further than where you want to be. I found myself throwing the kind of angle and power as I would in real-life, also releasing the disc as I would, and everything seemed to result in how it would in real-life – so all-in-all Disc Golf is great fun.
I already have an archery licence under my belt in real-life so I was keen to see how well this has been transferred to using the Move controllers. I was pleasantly surprised how this turned out, more so when using two Move controllers. The actions you need to make in picking your arrow, setting up and drawing back is very life-like, however the control over your shot is a little hit-and-miss. Most of the time I was end up pointing at the floor and I always had to point much higher than I thought I’d need to. But all-in-all this event has been well captured and there are some fun mini game modes on offer too, such as shielding your opponents targets, to hitting moving targets over long distance as well as firing at bits of small fruit to really test your long range and accuracy.
My second favourite mode in Sports Champions has to go to Table Tennis. Since Rockstar’s venture into bringing the table sport to our screens it has never really been matched, that is until now. Rockstar Games Table Tennis was tough as nuts sometimes, but nothing quite beats being able to physically be part of the action. Just like Disc Golf, all your actions are tracked one-to-one with the Motion controller, meaning topspin and backspins can be achieved with ease and well-timed smashes are a joy to pull off. Early games are very easy to complete, but once you get into the later difficulties you enter some pretty sweaty rallies between you and your opponent. Every move or action made might as well have been played standing in front of a real table, and stepping forward for net attacks or back during deep rallies brings a gaming experience that really needs to be experienced first-hand to appreciate how fun this event is.
Lastly my favourite event: Gladiator Duel. This mode could have been a game in its own right, and l hope some developer out there is already making an entire Gladiator title off the back of this particular event. Picking up two Move controllers gives you the best fun in this mode as one controller becomes your shield, while the other your sword, axe or mace - depending on which character you have chosen. Holding the T button down activates your shield and allows you to block any incoming attacks from any angle you move your controller, and with a jab forwards you can stun your character with a barging attack using your shield. Your other controller is left to swing, thrust, slash and attack your opponent from any angle you see fit. Blocking attacks with your shield charges up your Super Strike meter, which once fully charged, activated and a hit is landed will allow your character to do a signature move that will make you feel like a katana-wielding ninja. The one-to-one tracking is spot on and l can strongly see this way of control soon becoming a fresh and widely accessible approach to beat-em-up games. Physically this event can be taxing, as it should, and I hope more titles like this are released, maybe in a Star Wars flavour - drool.
Sadly multiplayer only goes as far as two local players, there are no online modes here, however there are rumours this might be soon available via a future DLC update. There is also rumour of additional sports events looming via DLC too, which if in-game unlockables are any sign of (such as unlockable tennis rackets) we may just see this in the near future – here’s hoping - and if table tennis is anything to go by, tennis will be a fantastic experience with this game’s engine.
The game’s overall presentation is simple, maybe a little rushed looking, but it serves its purpose well. With each loading screen you are given tips and reminders on the controls used for the event that you’re about to take part in. The graphics and sound in the game isn’t too shabby either, nothing jaw dropping mind, but they have been done to a polished standard, with rich characters and environments in each event. The one-to-one tracking as seen on your character is carried through very well, with very little, if any, polygon folding as you move your Motion controllers around.
Although Sports Champions houses only a handful of events, with the type of events on offer, teamed with the number of modes and challenges easily makes this game a wholeheartedly recommended instant purchase along with your Move Motion controller. I thoroughly recommend buying another Motion controller though if you only have the one, because when combined together in compatible events it really excels the fun and enjoyment of them ten-fold, especially in Gladiator Duel and Archery. I really do hope its developers and Sony acknowledge the praise this game as received by the press and reward its users with additional sports events via DLC, rather than waiting another six months or more and cash-in on a whole separate release featuring new events. Until that time comes, Gladiator Duel and Table Tennis will do just nicely for now.