Kinect Sports Preview
With the UK launch of Microsoft’s new peripheral just around the corner, some of you are probably wondering what titles to pick up when you collect it from your local game store. Earlier this month I, along with my mum (yes, my mum!), was invited to a special community day at the Rare studios, where we were allowed to test out their new Kinect title: Kinect Sports.
This was the first community event Rare had organised and they invited people from YouTube, Twitter and gaming websites such as ourselves. On the invite they asked if we could bring non-gamers so they could find out what they thought about the game and Kinect, so my mum was a perfect choice. After we were transported to their studios, which were in the middle of nowhere, we were taken to their cafeteria where the guys at Rare gave us a brief introduction about what we were going to get up to on the day and a demonstration of some of the game modes featured in Kinect Sports.
After the introduction we headed over to a room filled with Xbox 360s all boxed off and showcasing the separate modes inside Kinect Sports. The first mode was a football based game where you can play against the computer or another player. There were also a few challenge modes such as taking penalties or playing as the goalkeeper and trying to stop as many balls as you could within the time limit. A favourite on the day was bowling which we played with four players, although more may be allowed. The first challenge mode using the bowling lanes was to take out the pin setups with a certain number of balls, which was skill based, whereas the second challenge mode meant we had to keep chucking balls down the lane as fast as we could and try to take out as many pins as possible in the time given. The table tennis worked really well and allowed you to play either one vs. one or play together against a computer controlled team. The interesting thing about the table tennis was, there was a mode to allow you to use two paddles which caused a ton of laughter while watching the person wave their arms about like a maniac.
The boxing game was equally as comical, with people putting their arms in front of them to block and then thrashing around when trying to take down their opponent, human or AI. If you wanted to give your opponent what for, you could hold your arm back for a second and then punch to deal a powerful blow but this would leave you open should you miss. Another favourite was the beach volleyball; this had modes similar to table tennis with either one vs. one or two on a team. With volleyball you just had to look at where the ball was going to land on the screen, which was marked by a ring. A second ring would then decrease in size and once it matched the size of the first ring the ball was in range to be hit. This may sound easy but when the game occasionally tells you to jump at the same time it became a coordinated nightmare.
The last mode I experienced was the track and field events. There was sprinting which required you to just run up and down on the spot until you crossed the finish line, the hurdles which was the same thing except you needed to jump when a hurdle came up, the javelin which had you pick up the javelin, put your arm above your head and then run on the spot and throw before crossing the foul line. The long jump involved more running and then a giant leap at the end and finally, the discus, which was similar to the javelin without the running and actually just made you a little dizzy.
There was a small competition running on the day that had eight teams going against each other and playing the party mode that is featured in Kinect Sports that basically takes all the challenge modes from the game and randomly chooses one for the teams to play. The winning team not only got to play the developers (and lose) but each member on the team won a copy of Kinect Sports which was pretty nice!
All the game modes felt freakishly real and apart from obviously not having the piece of equipment for each sport in your hand or being kicked with your foot, the game actually drew me in and I was quite impressed I was able to throw a javelin over 100 metres…until I was reminded by my mother that the game wasn’t real. Speaking of my mother, she thoroughly enjoyed herself for the entire day and this was the first time, apart from playing World of Warcraft, that I had seen her play video games. She said that she could see Kinect Sports being a new way for people to keep fit and that when we get one in the house she will definitely be playing it a few times a week. She felt it was very easy to get to grips with the way the controller worked and as the game was very straightforward, such as, raising your hand above your head before starting an event, she didn’t have to keep learning while changing the different game modes.
The game wasn’t perfect however and there were a few problems that kept coming up on the day. If you were too far away or too close to the screen, the sensor couldn’t read you correctly which was a bit of a pain and in the heat of a race could make the difference between winning and losing and no one likes to lose. The game doesn’t pause when this happens but it still interrupts your rhythm. The table that the Kinect sensor was placed on also wobbled a bit when we were running and this stopped the sensor from tracking us and we had to either wait for it to sort itself out or give it a quick reset. Although these problems sound bad, they didn’t occur that often and at the end of the day I went away wondering how I’m going to be able to afford one of these bad boys this month! If you do intend to buy the Kinect controller and want a good party game then Kinect Sports is definitely the game for you and your buddies. Two weeks to go!