After an almost five-month delay, Kinect Sports Rivals is finally available on the Xbox One, and based on the way it plays, it’s hard to understand why it just didn’t come out at launch.
What Is It?
Originally planned as a launch game, Kinect Sports Rivals is the third game in the Kinect Sports series of motion sports titles and marks the first Xbox One entry in the series.
Like its predecessors before it, Kinect Sports Rivals is a package of motion-based sports minigames not unlike that of games such as Wii Sports. Among the minigames included are a jetski racer, rock climbing, target shooting, soccer, bowling, and tennis.
Why Should I Care?
Upon first popping the game in (aside from waiting for the relatively long install that we all have to get used to in this new gaming generation), players will be treated to a striking visual feast that’ll make up their new avatar. Making use of the Kinect’s camera technology, the game does its best to construct a face for the player’s avatar, and it’s actually quite impressive to see how accurate it is. Of course, I was somewhat dismayed when it got my thick build right too, and I looked like I was dressed for the “Hunger Games” or something.
But as cool as this recognition technology is, the rest of the game becomes a hate it or love it affair. As someone with a 55-inch television and a decent amount of room in my living room, I didn’t have the best experience when it came to the game’s motion gestures. To make matters worse, the single player aspect of the game forces you to get the hang of the jetski racing first, and as described in my experience with the game at last year’s GameStop Expo, it wasn’t all that fun.
The jetski game requires players to hold their arms out as if actually holding onto jetski handles. A clenched right fist allows the boat to accelerate and move faster, and the act of steering was particularly difficult. For some reason, I actually had a better handle of the boat when squatting, and it was pretty uncomfortable, especially when you have to lean forward or backward to do all the jetski jumping tricks when running over a ramp — doing so in succession leads to a speed boost. The minigame has its fun moments, but I’d much rather play a game of Wave Race.
It took around four tries to move on to a different minigame after learning the fundamentals of the jetski-racing minigame before finally gaining access to the next game. In order to gain access to multiplayer and more sports, you have to complete the training mode and first competition of each preceding sport. I just about had enough of the jetski game, so this was the only motivating factor to keep going. To make matters worse, the game’s single player mode is an extremely lame story mode with cutscenes of horrible dialog that you can’t skip.
Thankfully, the other games are a whole lot more approachable. The next game in the sequence is rock climbing, which was also playable in the demo. All players have to do is reach up for a rock, grab, and pull to continue ascending to the summit. Again, the competition is a race, and players can pull on the ankles of other players and throw them off. Jumping during the climb will also allow your rival (what Kinect Sports Rivals names your avatar) to perform a superhuman leap to higher ground. The first few rounds are relatively easy, and then they throw different nuances such as electrically-charged rocks to cause harm during your climb.
The target shooting minigame is probably the one that requires the least amount of skill. All you have to do is shoot the targets onscreen before your opponent by pointing your finger and hovering your cursor over each one. The point values of each target varies, and some targets lose you points. There are even targets you have to clear in numerical order. To toughen things up, competing rivals have access to a turret to annoy and shoot each other with.
Soccer is a minigame that Kinect Sports Rivals really could’ve done without, mainly because there’s really nothing fun about it. It’s all about timing. On offense, you have to pass the ball to your stationary teammates being covered by rivals that simply move left and right to obstruct your aim. Once you’ve moved the ball close enough to the goal, you have to time your kick and really hope the goalie doesn’t save the goal. Whether you score or not, you then take the role of the entire defense and watch the CPU, or a friend, easily get by all your stationary teammates as you attempt to block a goal yourself, which is actually pretty easy. The tutorial encourages you to do diving kicks and headshots, but they’re almost impossible to perform.
Bowling and tennis have basically gone unchanged since being featured in previous Kinect Sports releases. The main mentionable factor is that the Kinect will track movement in your joints, so you have more flexibility as to what you can do. Also, in bowling there’s no guideline you can use to judge your shot, you’re mainly trying to sync your body position with the arrows painted on the lane.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
When Microsoft basically lied when they said the Xbox One would require the new Kinect in order to function, it gave some Xbox fans a sign of hope. Maybe it was an indication that the technology actually worked well. And while it does work well, it hasn’t worked out the way most have hoped and was probably what led to the delay of Kinect Sports Rivals.
The game is fun, but it’s also no secret that some of its minigames are more fun than others. It’s even more alarming knowing that the funnest games in the package are games that fans of motion gaming have definitely played on other platforms. Kinect Sports Rivals‘ $60 price tag is a hard one to justify, and in my opinion the only thing justifying that price is the fact that the game is now the only solid Kinect-only title available on the Xbox One.
Players looking for a fun experience to have available during a social gathering at someone’s house should look no further than Kinect Sports Rivals, but they’re probably better off doing so after a price drop. Either way, this game could’ve and should’ve came out during launch because there’s no reason to have kept Xbox One owners and the Kinect’s fans waiting.