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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”None of these games are broken, and they worked as intended in most instances, despite my room’s space issues.”

Wake Racing has been Microsoft’s marquee event for some time now, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a bit like Wave Race, with a pack of competitors barrelling around perilous ocean circuits, bounding off waves to grab air, and weaving through checkpoint gates while avoiding mines as they go. Making a fist with your accelerator hand speeds up your ride, while leaning and swivelling your arms steers. Bowing forward or arching your body back off a big wave or ramp will pull off a stunt flip, which fills your special meter.

Every event comes with a special bar and power-ups that are tethered to your gear, which can be bought and equipped at the store using coins earned through victory. For example, the first Wake Racing skill is activated by saying ‘Speed Boost’ once the meter is full, resulting in an accelerated jolt. Other abilities will see you doubling your shooting score for a brief period, unleashing a guaranteed power shot in bowling and other boosters that can help give you an advantage. Kinect had no trouble picking up my rambling, so that’s certainly a plus-point.

The final event is Rock Climbing, which I detested at first, but after a few attempts I realised that the process of reaching out to grab handholds, balling your hand into a fist to latch on, then pulling down to your waist to hoist your athlete is a lesson in rhythm. It does take practice, but after a little while you’ll be climbing in fluid motions and if you’re good enough, pulling your fellow climbers off their perches. That’s actually quite brutal when you think about it.

So there you have it; all five events work fine with the exception of Tennis and Bowling’s spin options, and the occasional Kinect re-alignment for Soccer. The point is that none of these games are broken, and they worked as intended in most instances, despite my room’s space issues. I can’t really fault it, and the inclusion of Rivals – other players pulled from your friend list and wider community – keeps things interesting. You can choose to throw down against any Rival in either a score duel, or one-on-one event like a Wake Race, before sending them your result and challenging them to better it.


This feeds into leaderboards and ensures that you always have some form of competitive challenge funnelling through the game’s event options. After all of this I still found my interest waning after a few hours of play, and while that’s a long time to stand up and waggle limbs like Kermit the Frog on a sugar high, I don’t feel all that compelled to return. The games function well but can only offer so much depth, and while there is still a novelty to using motion to play a game in its entirety, I’d still opt for a controller every time.

Where motion works best – personally speaking – is in hybrid play, through little nuanced gestures like pushing to make Dead Rising 3 protagonist Nick Ramos shove back a gang of ravenous undead. They feel seamless and natural, which is an illusion that breaks every time I’m asked to simply move my hand through obvious HUD markers to block a shot on goal, or return a tennis serve. These moments feel like a new breed of QTE, and let down the superb fun to be had in Shooting, Wake Racing, Rock Climbing and Bowling.

You’ve probably guessed that motion doesn’t really do it for me, so there’s every chance you’ll enjoy Kinect Sports Rivals. I can guarantee that kids and parents will have a blast playing this together, and those already on board with motion control methods will be surprised at how Microsoft’s device has improved in its latest iteration. It works for the best part, and it’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here. I’m looking at you SWERY.

Disclosure: to assist in writing this piece, Microsoft sent Dave a download code for Kinect: Sports Rivals.

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Kinect Sports Rivals