Motion controlled gaming is nothing new, and stretches back past even what the Wii brought to the table in 2006. Once Nintendo began to dominate the market, Sony and Microsoft scrambled to tap into the “casual” market, a market that they hoped would bring in the big bucks. Sony aimed to deliver with the PlayStation Move, which was essentially two advanced Wii remotes. Microsoft however tried something a little more daring, and in 2010 came the Kinect; a motion controlled device that told gamers “you are the controller”. Though the technology was pretty neat, Microsoft never quite managed to release a must-have game that utilized the Kinect. However, they're aiming to change that on the Xbox One by, you know, making the Kinect a mandatory accessory for the console. Though a little late to the Xbox One launch party, the latest Kinect experience has hit the shelves.
Developed by Rare and out now on Xbox One comes Kinect Sports Rivals, a game that single handedly tries to prove you need a Kinect. Upon starting Kinect Sports Rivals the Kinect, in it's own little charming Orwellian way, scans the players face and tries to recreate them within the game. Through having the player turn and tilt their head accordingly, the Kinect builds up a 3D model of the players face. At this point the players 3D face will resemble the evil cyborg baby from the end of the Matrix: Revolutions, but eventually form into something far less nightmare inducing. Trust me, it's actually kind of scary how much the Kinect Sports Rivals counterpart will look like you. Once that's done the real meat of the game is ahead, and thankfully comes in a few different forms, even if they don't all work that well.
There are six games on offer here, each one utilising the Kinect in very unique ways. They range from Rock Climbing, Jet Skiing, Tennis, Target Shooting, Soccer and Bowling, and are a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to quality. The Soccer game in particular is pretty awful, because rather than being able to run around and in turn enjoy dynamic, fast gameplay, it basically involves you passing the ball to a bunch of static players. It's pretty much like a game of foosball, really. The Target Shooting game also disappoints in that it's just so damn easy, merely requiring the player to hold out an outstretched hand to fire. That said, the other games on offer are not only a lot of fun, but also show of the new Kinects ability to detect slight nuanced motions on the human body.
While bowling the player can attempt to put some spin into the ball, which can lead to pretty surprising results despite intricate wrist action seemingly impossible for the Kinect to detect. This also extends to Kinect Sports Rivals best game, Rock Climbing. Rock Climbing here just feels right. From reaching out to grab a hand hold, clasping your hand down to grab onto it and hurling your free arm up into the air for another hand hold, it easily makes it the best game in Kinect Sports Rivals' arsenal. That said, the multiplayer aspect of the game is somewhat harmed by the Kinects technical limitations, and this usually comes in the form of a lag in time between you and your avatars movements. This was most prevalent while playing Tennis side-to-side with another player. It's not a game killing annoyance, but just something that may disappoint.
Sadly Kinect Sports Rivals doesn't justify packaging a mandatory Kinect in with the Xbox One. Sorry Microsoft, it's just not a must-have game. But, while it may not be a game changer, it is a fun game that’s nuanced movement detection capabilities may surprise a lot of gamers. If you're already in the market for a Kinect title, this is easily up there with the best released so far. Despite that, Kinect Sports Rivals feels like a dry run for something truly great we’ve yet to see. Your move, Microsoft.
Kinect Sports Rivals just about beats the competition and gets a 3/5.
Kinect Sports Rivals Comedy at CeX