Kinect Sports Reader Review
Itís easy to see why Microsoft were so keen to add Rare to their roster. For too long the Xbox brand was associated with teenage boys sitting in darkened rooms trading insults online (and some would say it still is) and various commentators were signalling the death knell of the industry if things didnít change. Microsoft had to appeal to those who didnít want to play shooters and who better than Rare, a studio with a whole string of hits on the SNES and N64, to encourage a whole slew of people who normally wouldnít go near the Xbox to Ďjump iní? While that hasnít happened exactly as planned, itís clear that Microsoftís push to capture a bigger slice of the gaming audience still sees Rare positioned at the forefront of this effort to appeal to the casual gamers out there; those who canít invest hours of their time every night on the newest release or the ones who wonít be queuing up at midnight to buy Halo. Thereís millions of people who just want to play every now and then for an hour or two with their friends and family ... and so we have Kinect, Microsoftís response to the Wii and I have to say that it really is an impressive bit of kit. The initial line-up is not what Iíd call stellar, but the first offerings are good demonstrations of what the device can do, and none more so than Kinect Sports.
Rareís first effort for Kinect has been labelled as a Wii Sports clone since day one, something that I feel is unfair. It is no different to when Rare took the foundations laid down by Super Mario 64 and tweaked and refined that design into what we know as Banjo-Kazooie. Sure, comparisons are obvious and easily made but to leave it there would be to vastly underestimate Rareís latest release. Presenting you with six main events, plus a variety of mini games and a Party Play mode that randomly selects a bunch of mini games to play in a tournament, Kinect Sports does everything that Wii Sports can, but it also gives you so much more.
Graphically everything looks really smart and really pulls you into the grand sports event mentality with menus and displays echoing what you would normally see on sports television coverage. The Rare-created avatars also come into their own here and they are injected with more life and personality than Nintendoís Miis could ever dream of. The fact that they mimic your every move before, during and after events only adds to this. Win an event and throw your arms up with glee and thereís your avatar celebrating in exactly the same way. Itís a lovely touch and really gives the game a feeling of personality and individuality and Wii Sports feels pretty sterile compared to it.
The events themselves are a lot of fun and I have to say that the selection on offer is going to be hugely subjective as one personís ďI love bowlingĒ will be greeted by ďyeah, but I love the volleyballĒ so it really does depend on what floats your boat, but they all play really well and the Kinect device does an incredible job of capturing your movements and interpreting them so that they just feel right and, more importantly, accurate. Itís a strange feeling to try and put into words but thereís never a moment when a fault occurs that you canít attribute to anything but error on your part, so no blaming Kinect when you throw your next gutter ball or miss-time a jump in the hurdles. For the record, bowling and table tennis are my favourites, with track and field a close third. Football, boxing and volleyball are good fun but after a few goes I found myself gravitating back to the first three on my list. As I said, itís all down to personal taste but there is something for everyone here.
Mini-games are great fun and present a skewed take on the main events. For example, one of the bowling games sees you throwing balls down the lane with both hands in an attempt to knock down as many pins as possible while a table tennis variant has you holding a paddle in each hand trying to return as many balls as possible. It all gets very manic and is a real laugh, especially when you have an audience of friends or relatives cheering you on. Get Party Play set up and this feeling is amplified. You divide yourselves into red and blue teams battling it out to see who will win. Itís excellently done and it can get quite heated as the events progress.
A quick word on the Kinect device itself. Rare have said that lag is on the threshold of human perception. Exactly how you measure what that threshold is isnít known to me but lag is sadly evident, but never enough to ruin the gameplay experience. Rare also use clever tricks to help combat the lag by showing onscreen prompts to place your hands, feet, whatever body part is required into position a split second quicker than is required to help get around it. Itís also important to note that you will need a big play area, particular if you are playing with a second person as when the events heat up youíll be banging and smacking each other quite regularly if youíre in anything less than six to eight feet of space.
In the long run itís quite clear that people with someone to share this game with will benefit the most from it. I for one can guarantee that every birthday or Christmas will see this being brought out to play with by myself and my family. For the solo player there is fun to be had but reduce the final score by one point as once youíve topped the leaderboards and broken the world records youíll only be having a few return visits to your favourite events.
The debate about whether you feel that Kinect is a worthwhile purchase is best saved for another day, but if you do go out and buy one then Kinect Sports should be considered as an essential addition to show off just what the device can do. On the evidence presented here the future looks very exciting. If Rare can achieve this with their first release then the mind boggles at what weíll be seeing next. I canít wait.