Since it launched in 2010, Kinect has played host to a wide range of fitness and sports titles to keep gamers active, while also enhancing the gaming experience (if flapping your arms around is your definition of fun).
Rare, the development team behind the likes of Banjo-Kazooie and Viva Piñata, were one of the first developers to embrace the motion sensor technology with the release of Kinect Sports and Kinect Sports: Season Two – the Xbox 360 equivalent of Nintendo’s highly-successful Wii Sports series.
Following on from Kinect Sports’ success on the Xbox 360, it came as no surprise when Rare announced a third game would be released on the Xbox One. Originally intended as a launch title, Kinect Sports Rivals is the first Xbox One title to fully utilise the Kinect sensor; but does it hit the target or has Rare scored an own goal?
Before any of the action takes place, players create an in-game avatar, known as a Champion. This virtual model is generated by scanning the player’s face and body using Kinect’s camera. The results are very impressive and brilliantly demonstrate the capabilities of Kinect 2.0.
However, the new Kinect is by no means perfect, as Kinect Sports Rivals demonstrates. Players will experience occasional mishaps and it can be unresponsive at times. Whereas these flaws can easily be overlooked in multiplayer, they aren’t as forgiving in single player, where they are particularly noticeable.
Following the creation of the Champion, players are introduced to the Kinect Sports Rivals Island, home to the game’s six sports: bowling, football / soccer, Jet Ski racing, rock climbing, target shooting and tennis. Each sport has been dumbed down in order to utilise the Kinect’s sensor and microphone.
Bowling is the most time-consuming sport in the game, though is also the closest to its real life counterpart. Players can pick up a virtual bowling ball with either their left or right hand and bowl it towards the pins. It’s a simple concept, but it works brilliantly.
It’s a shame the same can’t be said for football / soccer, which is arguably the game’s weakest inclusion. The sport has been skinned down to the very basics, as each team takes it in turns to attack and take control of the goalkeeper. The omission of any actual defending is perplexing as it takes away the intensity and the competitive edge.
Jet Ski racing sees players take to the ocean, steering their jet skis through checkpoints, avoiding obstacles and pulling off tricks. Whereas the vehicle’s controls can take a lot of getting used to, there’s an oddly satisfying feeling that comes with the successful execution of a backflip.
Rock climbing is arguably the title’s strongest game mode and is the sport that works best with Kinect. Players reach up with their hands to grab on to rocks, as they aim to reach the top before their opponents. The ability to be able to yank fellow competitors down makes this sport even more enjoyable in multiplayer.
Target shooting is pretty self-explanatory as players point their finger at the on-screen targets. The sport is made more enticing with the introduction of special targets and the ability to steal your opponent’s but on the whole it is a solid inclusion.
Finally, tennis is almost a carbon copy of the Wii Sports version, as players serve and swing a virtual racket. While it’s another decent addition to the title, the controls and movement don’t feel very natural and can take some getting used to.
At the very beginning of the game, only the Jet Ski racing is available, with the remaining sports being unlocked through the game’s campaign. The story consists of a number of teams looking to acquire the player’s Champion by putting them through rigorous challenges. It’s a questionable inclusion and the lack of depth makes it unmemorable. This is made worse by the fact that the cut scenes are unskippable, which can prove quite tedious, especially when having to repeat certain scenarios.
Each of the sports can also be played in multiplayer with up to four players, both locally and over Xbox Live. This is where the game really comes alive and the competition hots up. However, be warned, you’re going to need a lot of space in your living room if you’re playing on one console.
Graphically, Kinect Sports Rivals’ well designed environments and character models are bursting with colour and look spectacular in high definition. It’s a massive step up from its predecessors and is a promising sign for future Xbox One titles.
Similarly, Rare has hit the nail on the head with the audio as David Tennant, best known for his role in the science-fiction TV programme “Doctor Who”, lends his voice to the game. The Scottish actor provides a welcome introduction to the title and talks players through the Champion creation process.
Moreover, the soundtrack has been brilliantly selected to cater for the family friendly audience the game is targeted at. Covering a wide range of decades, each of the 28 tracks on the soundtrack is instantly recognisable and includes hits such as James Brown – “I Got You (I Feel Good)”, Calvin Harris – “Acceptable In The 80s” and Kasabian – “Club Foot”.
Overall, Kinect Sports Rivals is a well-developed title that can be great fun, especially in multiplayer. Nevertheless, this is short-lived due to the title’s lack of depth and the slim selection of sports on offer.
However, its main downfall is the fact Kinect isn’t as responsive as gamers would have hoped. While the occasional mishaps may not have considerable affects on the gameplay, it can be incredibly off-putting.
If you can get the players and your living room is big enough, this is certainly a game to consider purchasing. Otherwise, this may be one to avoid.
Thanks to Xbox for supplying this game for review.