Kinect Sports is essentially Microsoft's take on the ever-popular sport compilations like the Wii's Wii Sports and PS3's Sports Champions. It puts players in control of their own Xbox 360 Avatar as they take them through one of six different sports in Olympic styled locales. The game's graphic style is bright and colorful to match that of the player's Avatar, so the graphics aren't by any means jaw dropping.
However, odds are that buyers didn't purchase Kinect for pretty looking games; instead, they're looking for motion controlled gaming. If that's true then they won't be disappointed with Kinect Sports.
Kinect Sports sets itself apart from all of the other motion-sports titles with one huge difference - full body control. All the other games in the genre utilize hand movements with controllers, but since the Kinect is a controller-free device players get to take part in the game using their entire body. There's nothing as liberating as taking a few steps back before running forward to punt a soccer ball into a net. The fact that the Kinect tracks every movement your body makes is what separates Kinect Sports from other casual sports games - it's something that simply can't be done on the Wii or PS3.
When starting up the game the first thing that everyone needs to be sure of is that they have plenty of room. The further away from the Kinect unit you can get the more accurate every action will be, so you'll need to make sure that there is a decent amount of room so you can thoroughly enjoy Kinect Sports the way it was intended. If you don't have a ton of space, then don't worry because the game still works well with the minimum amount of space required - about six feet from the camera. However, if you want two-players you're going to need a couple extra feet - and this is essential.
There are a total of six sports included on the Kinect Sports disc: Soccer, Bowling, Boxing, Table Tennis, Volleyball, and Track and Field (which is essentially its own playlist consisting of the 100 Meter Sprint, Discus, Long Jump, Javelin Throw, and Hurdles). There are also 16 mini-games that are based off of the sports, but even though the challenges are based on the same sports they are totally different experience to play. One mini-game is kind of like rapid fire bowling, where you have to keep tossing bowling balls and knocking down pins before time expires.
Each sport utilizes different types of movement, as you would expect, but some actually require physically moving around the room (i.e. moving from left to right when you're a goalie) while others have you perform actions while standing in one spot (i.e. running in place for Track and Field). It makes sense that Rare would design the game this way - because you can't actually sprint 100m around your living room, but you can move left to right to stop shots that are being taken on your net.
One feature that is awesome is the leveling system. Your level goes up with every game or mini-game that you play and informs you of just how great of an athlete you are. This level isn't something new to games of this genre at all - but at least it unlocks avatar awards and achievements as you progress, so you'll be able to represent your athletic prowess to all your friends.
Even better than leveling up is the fantastic soundtrack featured in Kinect Sports. M.C. Hammer's 'Can't Touch This' and Queen's 'We Are The Champions' are just a few of the songs the title throws on to of montages of your avatar kicking butt. The licensed music is always enjoyable and there are enough tracks to keep every instant replay entertaining and enjoyable.
Regardless of which sport you play, the action is captured fairly well by the Kinect, but it's not perfect. Sometimes I found myself trying to throw a discus -- "trying" being the key word -- and some attempts were spot on, but others flew a whopping 2 ft before hitting the ground. Motions with your hands like throwing and punching are better captured on the Wii Remote Plus or PlayStation Move, because that's the focal point of their experience - so it's not at all shocking that Kinect falls a bit short here.
There is a mild learning curve for Kinect Sports, but nothing that will turn anyone off from the experience. Luckily there are instructions that brief you on how the game is meant to be played, and after you've mastered the motions, the tutorials can be turned off - so they don't plague you for the rest of the experience. Once the game's controls are no longer an issue then the fun really begins. There is actually strategy that can be instituted in Kinect Sports, and even the slightest adjustment to the wrist can significantly impact your game.
The multiplayer options inside Kinect Sports are bountiful, but they only allow for you and one other friend to play simultaneously. You can divide up into two teams and compete in several different sports, but it sure would be fun to compete against more than one other friend at a time. Soccer is the one sport that can be a little confusing at first, because an arrow just points to one side of the screen - to tell you which player has gained possession of the ball. Once the players have established which arrow means it's their turn then it becomes less of a hassle - but the first time playing multiplayer soccer is a little frustrating.
Games similar to Kinect Sports are physically demanding, that much is obvious, but this title will give you a pretty decent sweat after 45 minutes of gameplay. I'd like to think that I'm an in-shape person, but I definitely broke a sweat after playing with the title for an hour straight. The activity is bountiful and the deodorant required to play will be too, but that's one of the reasons why Kinect was brought into the household anyway - so it shouldn't be held as a knock against it by any stretch.
The game's difficulty can be extremely challenging once you start getting to the higher levels, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Once you've upped your skills you'll find that the A.I. isn't just physically hard, but mentally engaging as well. If you're playing a sport like Table Tennis you'll have to use strategy in order to conquer your opponent. Boxing is another game that requires a decent amount of physical and mental prowess in order to walk away with a win and some experience points.
The biggest fault with Kinect Sports is the lag factor that seems like an all too common occurrence throughout the title. If you go to jump in long jump or hurdles you're going to need to do that as soon as the area turns green, but this may not be for several more virtual feet. This is because it takes the game and Kinect that long to register the player's movements. It's understandable for tech this new to have a few hiccups and it's easy to get the hang of, but it's certainly a mild inconvenience and will hopefully receive an update in the near future.
This is the game that every other sports compilation has to compare itself to now, and for good reason. It offers a ton of different sports and options and still manages to challenge players both physically and strategically. Even with the few faults that Kinect Sports has it's one of the better games Rare has released in a long time, and is a must-own for any Kinect entrepreneur.
Check out our Microsoft Kinect Review and Game Guide for further Kinect-related info and reviews.
Kinect Sports is available exclusively for Kinect on Xbox 360.