Xbox 360 Review: Kinect Sports

Can Rare topple Nintendo’s sports classic with Kinect?

Ever since Wii Sports, there have been imitators aplenty. But with Kinect, it was only a matter of time before a similar game came out. What are the odds that its Nintendo’s old friend Rare that takes a stab at their own version? So, with all the history between the two…can Rare take the crown from the Wii?

Kinect Sports comes with 6 sports to play. Football, Bowling, Track and Field, Boxing, Beach Volleyball and Table Tennis. Each of these uses Kinect to track your body to replicate the appropriate actions that you would do in each sport, so Table Tennis turns your hand into a racket and the other to throw the ball into the air, while boxing obviously matches your fists.

Football in Kinect Sports isn’t like your typical game, but it’s more tactical and fun. You control the player with the ball, but all you can do is pass the ball to the next player and so on, until you reach the goal and can shoot. When the opposition has the ball, you’ll see which direction they intend to go with the ball and can block it so you regain control. There are also football mini-games like trying to save multiple shots as a goalkeeper and shooting targets in the goal while trying to get them past the keeper. I came so close to getting 100 saves yesterday and ended up with 99, but I will prevail…eventually.

Bowling feels very similar to the Wii Sports version, but it does seem more accurate and you can’t cheat your way around it like you could on the Wii. I’ve yet to get 3 strikes in a row and there are mini-games for bowling like trying to clear a number of different pin layouts with just one ball, which is incredibly tricky to say the least. It’s good fun overall, though you’ll be cursing at the AI when trying to beat him on Champion difficulty.

Track and Field is comprised of 5 different events, Sprint, Javelin, Discus, Long Jump and Hurdles. You can play these individually as mini-games or together as one main event. These are pretty exhausting, especially the Hurdles and Sprint, but I found that the Javelin and Discus games aren’t quite as accurate as I would have liked and it seems to struggle with the idea of throwing anywhere else than straight. One achievement requires you to damage some electrical equipment with the javelin, but I’m really struggling to pull it off.

Boxing should have been great, but it’s actually the weakest game of the bunch. It’s also incredibly tough and exhausting; I can’t even come close to beating the AI on Champion difficulty. You block punches to gain more powerful shots that you can unleash, but the AI can pull off some pretty strong attacks that will have you seeing stars. It doesn’t always detect every punch you swing, which is annoying when one punch can literally turn the tide of any fight.

Beach Volleyball is pretty fun, but requires fast reactions on harder difficulties. It’s more enjoyable with more players than against the AI, but it’s still a hoot to play on your own. Table Tennis is highly addictive and requires even faster reactions; one mini-game even gives you two rackets to hit back as many balls back in a time limit. I got to about 80, but need 150 for the achievement. One thing about Kinect Sports is that some of the achievements are pretty easy, I’ve got 450 points from it so far…but the rest are incredibly tough and only the truly fit and dedicated will unlock them.

The visual style of Kinect Sports mimics that of Wii Sports as it uses your Avatar, but its still charming to look at. There are some nice effects, but its all pretty simplistic. Commentary is superb and hearing the legendary Peter Dickson do voice-overs is just brilliant. The odd piece of celebration music comes when you achieve something and you are treated to a snippet of songs like We Are The Champions, Another One Bites The Dust and Chariots of Fire to name a few. There are some more great tracks that you’ll hear, but you need to hear it for yourself.

The Verdict

Despite not being an entirely original idea or not having the greatest accuracy, Kinect Sports is a highly enjoyable compilation of games that almost everyone will enjoy playing. I’d be surprised if a sequel doesn’t emerge at some point, but this is a nice first step for Rare and Kinect.