Kinect Sports Rivals was originally slated to be a launch title for Xbox One, however, ended up being delayed approximately six months. I’m not exactly sure what the reason for the delay was, however, after spending some time with Kinect Sports Rivals, it all seems to work well, for the most part. There are six sports on offer with bowling, rock climbing, target shooting, soccer, tennis and and wave racing.
When you first start up the game the Kinect will take you through some steps to get you scanned in to the game so you can create your champion. Once you go through that process you see that Kinect Sports Rivals takes place on an island. There is a small “story” here where there are a few teams on the island that are highly competitive and each one looks to be trying to recruit you to their side. That is really there is to it but it helps to introduce you to all of the sports as well as give you a brief tutorial on each one so you know what you are doing.
The actual gameplay in Kinect Sports Rivals is a bit hit and miss. Bowling is a tremendous amount of fun and very intuitive. To pick up a bowling ball all you have to do is extend your arm, close your hand making a fist to grab the ball and then swinging your arm and releasing the ball just as you would do in real life. You can also move around to determine your location on the lane using “arrows” that any bowler would be familiar with in real life. Kinect was really responsive here and it could even detect when I would sort of twist my wrist to put some spin on the bowling ball as it shot down the lane.
Rock climbing is a bit of a mixed bag. The concept is easy to understand but the execution isn’t the best. You need to reach out and grab a rock with the right hand, pull your hand down to simulate your character pulling himself up, grab a rock with your left hand to repeat that process and then rinse and repeat as you scale the wall in front of you. Some of the walls do offer a puzzle element as you will have to navigate them and plan out your route so you don’t get stuck in a corner you are going to have trouble escaping. There are shortcuts to be taken as well; when you jump off the ground your character will jump up a couple of spaces and attempt to grab a rock that was previously out of their reach. It is a nice way to gain ground quickly but you need to monitor your stamina meter. If it reaches zero then you are going to be pretty useless until it recharges. There is also another competitive aspect to it where you can pull your opponents off the wall (and they can pull you off) similar to what you would see with the show American Gladiators. There were times when I knew exactly what I need to do but I couldn’t quite seem to do it. I eventually was able to get first place (and thereby pass that section) but it took me a few tries to try and learn the ins and outs of the process.
Target shooting is fairly self explanatory. I’m right handed so I stuck out my right hand to grab the pistol. Then when the round starts you simply point to your target to shoot it. They try to vary things up by giving you different objectives (such as hitting targets in a certain order) but the game is fairly simplistic and I can see people getting quickly bored with it. Soccer is another one that is a bit of a mixed bag as you seem to be playing more foosball than actual soccer. You start out with the ball and have to kick it downfield to your teammates. Everyone is stationary and you just have to pass it around and make sure it doesn’t get blocked by the other team. Once you get the goal in sight then you have to take a shot by kicking it with your foot or hitting the ball with your head. It doesn’t seem like the controls are fully 1:1 here as there is some lag here that can make it hard to get the timing down. Once you take a shot on goal then it is your turn to defend your own goal while the opposition drives the ball down the field. You are given a couple of seconds notice on where the ball is going to go which will allow you to block the shot attempt if you are quick. It is weird that this really isn’t a soccer game perse and is more of a penalty kick simulator.
The final two sports are tennis and wave racing. Tennis is a lot of fun and I found it pretty responsive. There is a little bit of lag like in soccer, however, I was able to easily overcome it here. You start out by picking which hand you want to hold your racket. Again, I’m right handed so I grabbed the racket with my right hand and my left hand held a tennis ball. I threw the ball in the air with my left hand and then smashed it with my right. When the ball was sent back to me I had a couple of different options whether I wanted to hit a normal shot back, put some top spin on it or really crush it with an overhead smash. Once I understand how to do everything I was having a lot of fun with it although my shoulder will probably be sore tomorrow.
Wave racing is the last sport and the execution on this was really well done. The controls are very responsive and, if you don’t know what you are doing, might be too responsive. You control the jet ski by holding out your arms as if you are holding on to handle bars. To speed up you close your hand making a fist and to slow down you open your hand back up. If you need to turn right you retract your right arm a bit so your racer turns right while keeping your left arm outstretched and then do the opposite if you need to turn left. When you launch yourself on a ramp you can either lean back or lean forward to cause your racer to do a trick in mid air and then straighten up so they can land properly. You also have power ups that you can use from time to time (which is true in all of the sports) and you can either verbally say their name or stomp the ground to use them. Wave racing was definitely one of my favorites although bowling was probably my number one sport in the game.
Going through the “story” unlocks different events for you and opens up the different sports on the island map. You can always go to “quick play” to play the sport of your choice but you don’t seem to get any experience doing so. You need to go through the quick story to open up each sport on the island so that you can participate in contests both locally and online over Xbox Live.
Once you have a sport unlocked you can go over to it to see what is currently available to you. When I hovered over bowling, for example, I was alerted that there was a two player ten pin contest available as well something else where I could “strike it lucky on the lanes”. Going over to the wave racing I could race side by side against my friend on the harbor trail or I could pick another option where I would “blaze the Harbor Trail.” There is also a Rivals League where you can check the league ladder to see where you are on the leaderboard among your friends as well as browse the Kinect Sports Hub.
The Kinect Sports Hub is a central place of information where you can see what you have done and what you need to do. There is a photo gallery to browse where you can view and share your champion. You can also take a look at what challenges are currently available, the latest news and upload game clips and much more. You can instantly see how many fans you have garnered so that you know how many you need to get to reach the next level and get the next prize. You can get fans by basically being flashy. If you are wave racing, for example, if you do tricks in the air or have other close calls that are exciting then you will attract more fans to you. There is local multiplayer but there doesn’t seem to be any way to do online multiplayer with friends other than issuing challenges to see if they can beat your time or whatever feat you just accomplished.
Overall Kinect Sports Rivals is a fun game. It has some issues yes, however, I had more good times than bad with this title. It is the first game that kind of shows off the power of the new Kinect sensor while also illustrating what developers need to work on and the potential that Kinect has for the future. When you are creating your champion in the beginning it scans your face and is really impressive with how accurate it is. There was a time while bowling when I put my hands in disgust on my head and my on screen character copied my exact movement. Kinect Sports Rivals isn’t perfect and there is definitely some things that need to be improved upon, however, I had a lot of fun with it and look forward to playing it some more with friends.
Originally posted on Gaming Target