Games are queuing up left right and centre to join the Kinect/Move cash cow so it was a surprise to see that Winter Sports 2011: Go For Gold decided to avoid such frivolities. It would have been the first winter sports game to utilise such technology and perhaps it may have had more sales if such technology was used. Instead what's left, and what I have to review, is your classic sports game where your standard controller is your route to glory. What's worse is that it's not even a button-bashing sports game that we all love.
Winter Sports 2011 is all about your chosen team of gifted competitors who travel around participating in various different tournaments with the ultimate aim of competing in the biggest events around. Each tournament contains various different disciplines and being a winter based game, all of the events are on snow or ice. As you progress through the career mode you'll meet tougher competition as well as having to participate in more events per tournament. Your position in each event is important as you're awarded points for 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and the team with the most points after all the events wins. It's simple stuff and easy to get to grips with.
Disappointingly the days of button bashing seems to have fallen out of the window, so gone are the days of frantic button bashing as you try to beat your opponent across the finish line and instead we're left just gliding around the majority of the events without too much thought. Take the Freeride Skiing, Snowmobile and Snowboard Cross events as an example. All the three events require you to do is use the right trigger to accelerate through the course in the fastest time possible. There are plenty ramps involved and pulling a variety of tricks is an option available should you wish to boost your score or your adrenaline bar (this helps you go faster). Due to the repetitive nature of these events it can quickly become very tedious and your mind may start wondering what's for dinner. It's a similar situation for the downhill skiing where you need to avoid the flags or a time penalty will be received. It just didn't thrill me and I'd find it difficult to believe you'd get a thrill from it either.
Amongst the array of easy disciplines available there are some more challenging events thrown in and these events are the most desirable; I'm not embarrassed to say it but the figure skating is my favourite event in the game. The dodgy dinosaur reflection on the ice is slightly annoying but Guitar Hero like timing of the button pressing can get quite hard. Pushing the buttons in time with the screen throws the skater into the air executing a triple twirl to perfection. Mistime your click and the skater may fall and will certainly lose some points in the final mark. Another choice event is the long jump Ski Flying which requires you to time your buttons in a sequence then launch yourself into the air, trying to land as far away as possible from the starting line. I've yet to master this event though so it's helpful that there's a training mode where you can just practice until your feet fall off.
Along with the career side of the game, there's a challenge mode to keep you from getting bored with the same old event all the time. The challenge mode is quite fun actually and does what it says on the tin - provides you with a challenge. They range from counting all the numbers while skiing down a slope to enter the final figure into a giant calculator at the bottom, to having to land within a certain area in the Ski Jumping. It's a good option and does extend the life of the game further, which is always a good thing.
If multiplayer is your thing then I'm afraid you'd better have offline or online friends ready to play as the online side of things is virtually a ghost town. Not really surprising given the repetitive nature of many of the events but it's still never a pretty sight to see. If you do manage to get a game there are a variety of decent game modes like Capture the Flag, Coin contest and Speed Boost race - they all sound fun.
The best things about the game (asides from figure skating obviously) is actually the graphics. The game oozes with colour all over my HDTV, and the in-game graphics are pretty good, especially from a title where I didn't expect much. The characters in-game all look like they could be based on real people, and are all very sporting in congratulating each other when an athlete has won.
The problem occurs when you look at what you get. I have no doubt that Winter Sports 2011 would have been a good seller using the Kinect technology but with no button-bashing (it's not just me that likes button-bashing is it?) the game feels very stale when playing. It's certainly not the worst game I've ever played, I just struggle to find a good reason for you to go out and buy it. Give it two weeks at least and you'll be able to pick this game up from the bargain bucket.
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