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Kinect Sports Review Rewind

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On 11/10/2011 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola

Good isn't always good enough.

For families looking for a great game to enjoy together, especially during big get-togethers. If you have a Wii already and Wii Sports Resort, you can pass on this one. If you have both consoles and neither game, overall Wii Sports Resort is your better choice. Kinect Sports does some things better, but its appeal feels even more limited. If you just want a good table tennis game, Kinect Sports prevails.

As the owner of a brand new Kinect, I was somewhat surprised when I realized that Kinect Sports wasn't included. Being that it's clearly Microsoft's answer to Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort, it would only make sense to offer it to purchasers of the hands-off peripheral. Yet it's a game sold completely separate of the peripheral at full retail price. Because Microsoft has chosen to separate the game from the peripheral, they've forced Kinect Sports to stand as its own product. After some extensive time with the game, I'm not quite sure it lives up to its steep expectations.

This is not to say that it's not a competent game; it's just a tad shallow, and despite its mostly superb implementation of Kinect controls, it will grow old quickly, especially if you've gotten your fill of similar motion antics on the Wii. There is one major difference here: the implementation is much better in many cases thanks to the spatial recognition abilities of the Kinect.

Let me clarify. With the Wii, the system can only identify the particular gesture you are making. The Wii MotionPlus further improves and tweaks that recognition, but it can't also gauge if you've taken a step left or right, forward or back. The Kinect can – and it uses this extra ability to its benefit. Anyone who has had the pleasure of testing out Wii Sports Resort's table tennis mini-game will tell you that its swing precision is just about perfect. Kinect Sports goes literally one step further by including the same nuanced control while allowing you to move around the table in order to hit the virtual ping pong ball no matter where it goes.

While this is as close as you're going to get to true virtual table tennis, it's still not table tennis. As such, its shelf life is limited. Wisely, Rare has concocted a number of other table tennis mini-games to extend both the playability and novelty of the virtual sport. One such mini-game has players holding two paddles, returning a flurry of ping pong balls being served their way by a computer player. It's mostly an endurance challenge, but it's simply fun to participate in. Combine that with the whole high score aspect of the mini-game and you have a winning combination.

The game's difficulty settings are also well done. Each increase will ramp the difficulty in a meaningful way. This also helps extend how long you'll become invested in the mini-game sports collection. Unlike the Wii Sports titles, the high difficulties here will absolutely challenge you and force you to improve how you play in order to continue to compete. Of course, higher difficulty typically requires you to execute gestures more precisely and the Kinect sensor, while extremely accurate, isn't always perfect. Frustration will begin to set in when the game stops consistently registering your motions.

While I've used Table Tennis as my example, the same holds true for the rest of the sports, though all sports aren't created equal. Bowling, for instance, isn't executed nearly as well as it is in Wii Sports Resort. Slight hand gestures to put spin on the ball didn't seem to work and while it was great to line up down the lane by stepping left and right, the end result didn't feel nearly as authentic as it did in Wii Sports.

Soccer fared better overall, but was mostly uninteresting in its core mode. Here players are tasked with actually playing a full-fledged game, but most of the interactions are dynamically scripted. Each time you possess the ball you can choose to pass or shoot, while on defense you essentially always have a player in front of the ball and must stop it by merely moving your body in the trajectory of the ball. It gets boring quickly. The mini-games however were much more interesting as they let you do things like focus on just defending the goal. This is a full body effort, requiring you to stop as many shots as possible before losing all momentum. It too features high score hooks, making it a great game to compete with your family on.

Track & Field was also fun and as a collection of time and distance based challenges it perfectly fits into the high score mechanics typically featured in the mini-games. Even better, the game will track both personal and world records. It's great to know how you match up and it only further encourages you to beat your last attempt.

Like Soccer, Beach Volleyball feels extremely scripted, and as such, it boils down to gesturing properly at the right times. It's not awful, but you probably won't want to try it more than once.

Boxing rounds things out and is also an enjoyable mini-game that feels more accurate than its Wii Sports counterpart. Forcing you to get your whole body involved, you'll have to counter, avoid punches, and block. Being that it can actually see your motions, unlike Wii Sports, the things you do translate directly to what's happening on screen.

So where does all this leave us? The game unquestionably has limited mileage, but most of what's there is enjoyable. The biggest problem is that the game isn't deep or interesting enough to really stand on its own two feet. It sold me on the ability of the Kinect to properly detect the motions I made and translate them to my on screen avatar, but it's not something I'll be trotting out unless specifically requested. In that sense, it's quite a bit like Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort, but those games wore out the novelty of Kinect Sports long ago. 

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



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