Most counties in the world have sports as their national pastime. The UK has Football, Tennis, Cricket and other random sports like Tiddlywinks and throwing marbles at other marbles. So when it comes to games, it is only natural that we have a plethora of sports titles available to us, no matter what sport you enjoy. With the 360 Kinect gaining ground, it was only a matter of time before the sports titles started to arrive.
Currently your options are pretty slim when it comes to sports based Kinect games. On one hand you have Kinect Sports and on the other hand you have MotionSports by Ubisoft. While I hate to draw parallels with other games in a review, it seems apt that these two titles are measured against each other. Imagine the scene at MS HQ. Both Rare and Ubisoft dig into a hat and pull out various sports which they have to fit into a game. Rare go first and manage to pick out Track and Field, Ubisoft pick out Horse Jumping. Rare pick out Beach Volleyball, Ubisoft pick out American Football. It is almost like fate was out to get Ubisoft.
From the initial start, everything about MotionSports seems to suggest “Half-hearted”. The menus are functional but are super bland, being comprised of square menus followed by more square menus. They are easy to navigate with Kinect but lack the charm that Kinect Sports has with its cheering crowd and Avatar motions. Also, the choices of sports seem very disconnected from each other. From Horse Jumping to American Football, then from Ski-jumping and Hang-gliding, the various sports are a little jumbled. The more I played MotionSports, the more I wish Ubisoft had just Made a Ski-Jump game, since the rest of the sports seem to be only snippets of what is possible.
As with all Kinect games, the first thing you wonder is how the game controls. As mentioned, the menus are basic but they work. Unfortunately the controls within the game are very much hit-and-miss. While the tutorials kick-start each of the sports, you often find yourself even more confused once the countdown ends and you’re thrown brutally into the game. For example, the Horse Jumping event sounds pretty easy when the game explains things to you but Kinect can be a very fickle beast and the Horse refused to jump the obstacles, no matter how many times I flailed my arms or hurled obscenities at it. I am sure the horse they gave me was faulty.
Ski-jumping sounds fun in practice but in actual play it is one of the most badly thought out events ever. Try bending down in a skiing position, then forcing you head up to look at the screen. Then start weaving left and right to avoid the various stumbling blocks and what you end up with is back-pain and a bad neck. Ubisoft did a great job with various other snowy titles that did not rely too much on realism. Since MotionSports is trying to reproduce a realistic gameplay feel, you have to put in way more effort to get simple results.
Part of the immersion factor for sports titles are the sound effects. The roar of the crowd, the shouts from the other team, the brutal cussing coming from people on Xbox Live, all of those pails into comparison with what Ubisoft gave players in MotionSports. Think of the most annoying person in the world, get them to do the Voice Over for the game and then cut out all of the nice stuff he says. MotionSports provides you with one of the most annoying, belittling and frustrating announcer you could ever want. Make a simple mistake and he starts jeering you about eloping with horses, or getting tangled in fences, also when the controls are conspiring with the announcer to annoy you, things start going downhill really quickly. If MotionSports was an actual event, so many people would be rage-quitting and hunting down the announcer. Again, Kinect Sports has the re-enforcement from the music that plays when you do well, or the comedy expressions your avatar makes when you fail miserably. One of the best parts of MotionSports is not even within the events themselves. After booting the game, you may be wondering what you had to take three demented pictures of yourself. Well after you finish an event, it provides you with a humorous cityscape, replete with TV-Screen and banners showing your grinning face off to the world, or at least to anyone brave enough to be sitting in the same room as you. Also having photos taken for various fake newspapers is also a great chance to pull stupid faces. It’s a genuinely funny and inventive moment in an otherwise sterile and ho-hum sports title.
If you have cash burning in your pocket and you have to pick a sports title to go with your shiny Kinect, your options are pretty limited. If you want a charming sports title, with replayability, humour by the bucket-load and a great use of motion controls, MotionSports is not that title.