Kinect Sports Review
This motion-controlled sports collection doesn't do much for solo players, but it's fun to play with friends both locally and online.
- Good variety of sporting events
- Intuitive and mostly responsive controls
- Multiplayer works well both locally and online.
- Does almost nothing to cater to solo players
- You need to exaggerate some of your movements for them to register.
Sports-themed minigame collections are practically a requisite for motion-controller launch lineups at this point. The Wii launched with Wii Sports, The PlayStation Move launched with Sports Champions, and now Kinect for the Xbox 360 is launching with Kinect Sports. This collection of "six major events from the sporting world" not only serves as a good demonstration of what Microsoft's new hardware is capable of, but is also accessible and fun for the whole family. There's not nearly as much fun to be had here solo as there is playing with friends, but provided you have plenty of space in front of your TV (ideally you should stand at least six feet away from it), and you're OK with working up a sweat while playing, you're sure to have a good time.
One of Kinect Sports' greatest strengths is that even if you choose to skip the brief but informative sport-specific tutorials before jumping into a game for the first time, you're unlikely to have much difficulty figuring out what you need to do. That's because, for the most part, you control these games by moving in much the same way that you would if you were participating in the sports for real. That doesn't mean you need to run around your living room in soccer or dive onto your hardwood floor in beach volleyball, of course, but your arms and legs definitely get a workout. This is especially true in the track and field events, which include long jump, javelin, discus, sprint, and hurdles. With the exception of discus, all of these events involve building up speed by running on the spot; the higher you lift your knees, the faster you run. You jump when you need to jump (hurdles change color as you approach them to help with your timing), you make a throwing motion as you approach the foul line with your javelin, and you swing your outstretched arm from back to front to get power behind your discus. All five of the track and field events work well, though because they're the most physically demanding , it's likely that much of your Kinect Sports time will be spent elsewhere.
The most sedate of the included sports is bowling, which works surprisingly well given the lack of a controller or--more specifically--the lack of a button with which to time the release of the ball. To bowl, you simply reach out with either hand to grab a ball, move left and right until the small highlighted targeting arrow on the lane is where you want it to be, and then make a bowling motion with your arm. The Kinect doesn't afford you quite the same level of control over your ball's trajectory as the PlayStation Move does in similar games, but the speed of your throw is believable, and it's possible to add spin to the ball by bringing your arm across your body as you release the ball. Like the bowling in Wii Sports, this is bowling boiled down to the bare essentials, but the absence of different oil patterns and ball weights doesn't make it any less fun. It's a little jarring that you occasionally end up using a ball that's adorned with advertising, and it's unfortunate that no more than four of you can play together, but bowling is still a Kinect Sports highlight that you're likely to return to time and time again.
Similarly, table tennis is a lot of fun and could hardly be simpler. Your onscreen Xbox Live avatar does just about everything that you do, which includes moving closer to or farther from the table and stepping from side to side. Using your hand as a paddle, it is effortless to perform both forehand and backhand shots, and the game is pretty forgiving as far as making contact with the ball is concerned. You can direct the ball more by stepping forward and addressing it early, and it's possible to add topspin or backspin by hitting the ball with an upward or downward motion, respectively. Your attempts to add spin to the ball aren't always recognized when you use a realistic motion, but exaggerating your movements so that the Kinect camera can more easily recognize them generally rectifies this problem. Exaggerated movements are also recommended in boxing, incidentally, where your punches and blocks (you don't control anything else) can either be at head height or body height.