Kinect Sports Rivals presents a new case for motion control, but will it stick?

By Dave Cook, Monday, 7 April 2014 14:00 GMT

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”Shooting is by far my favourite event, largely because it fills the gap left behind by the absence of light gun games in today’s market, and because it’s good at keeping you on your toes.”

Kinect Sports Rivals is comprised of six event types: Tennis, Shooting, Wake Racing, Rock Climbing, Soccer, and Bowling. The idea is that your rookie athlete must compete across each sport to earn fans and rank up through several divisions, defeating Rivals and earning new rewards along the way. There’s a limp story mode that sees your superstar passed around warring teams like a pack of smokes in a maximum security jail, while encountering some daft stereotypical characters. The Japanese gamer geek lad, for example, is essentially a copy of Matt Miller from Saints Row. Still not funny, either.

But largely it’s all inoffensive, fun stuff with a pop and dance soundtrack that families will no doubt enjoy battering into at the weekends. For the best part it works, and there were only a few instances that irked me, such as being unable to serve in tennis about ten times in a row for reasons unknown, and finding it hard to apply spin to my bowling ball. In both cases all I had to do was move my device a little to frame my body up better and it started working again.

Shooting is by far my favourite event, largely because it fills the gap left behind by the absence of light gun games in today’s market, and because it’s good at keeping you on your toes. It sees opposing players standing on either side of a large screen, shooting at targets before wave timers expire, while dodging points-sapping skull targets, and in some cases, blasting targets in numerical order. It’s all about speed and accuracy as you point to shoot. It works fine.

There’s also a turret below the screen that powers up over time. The first person to shoot its switch will activate the device and send a volley of blasts back at their opponent, draining their score. If you’re on the receiving end, you have to lean left and right to avoid the incoming shots, while still trying to shoot targets in the distance. It’s a clever juggling act that requires a deal of multi-tasking. I like it.

Bowling’s always been a favourite event of mine, probably because I used to play Skittles in a league back when I was a kid. Anyway, the Kinect Sports Rivals version also works when trying to nail straight shots, but I still have trouble applying spin, which is engaged by turning your wrist as you release the ball. I can fluke it at times, but it never feels consistent, which is annoying when trying to pick up spares or dastardly splits.

Bowling is fairly basic, as is Tennis, which sees you swinging your racquet arm through HUD markers in time with the ball as it bounces towards you. You can also apply top spin by slicing down, top spin by slicing up or lobbing the ball by lifting your arm straight up. I couldn’t get it to work multiple times in a row. I get the feeling I was still too close for Kinect to read me properly. In Soccer, I had to move the device so it could pick up my legs, feet and upper body simultaneously, which took some doing.

Soccer is a game of two halves – wahey! – in that players take turns attacking and defending. When approaching the goal you must kick the ball to other players on the pitch while avoiding scrolling defenders, or smashing through them with a powerful pass. I have to point out that Kinect Sports Rivals takes place in a virtual world, so you’re not literally murdering football players by kicking balls through them.

Anyway, you only have a limited amount of time to reach the goal-mouth, and once there you can tee up a powerful strike to score. When defending, your only input is as goalie, which sees you punching or batting the ball away by lining up with a HUD marker. It’s hardly skillful, but the scope for header shots adds a thin layer of engagement. I didn’t really like the soccer game, so I made my guy dance lots while skinning defenders like a pro. It’s fun to dance in Kinect Sports Rivals.

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