Kinect Sports Rivals Review: Hey, I'm using my Kinect!
Ok, I confess, I kept Kinect Sports Rivals on the backburner for quite a bit. It's not that I didn't want to finally get to the review, it's because I just didn't have enough time. Kinect Sports on the Xbox 360 was one of the few reasons I was happy to own a Kinect, and knowing RARE would have a follow-up title for Microsoft's next-gen console eased my mind a bit. But is it as fun as its predecessor?
Kinect Sports Rivals focuses on six different activities -- Jet Skis, Soccer, Bowling, Tennis, Rock Climbing and Target Practice -- and of course utilizes the Kinect in various ways. While most are fun, they don't all seem to utilize the tech to its full potential, and end up being wasted efforts.
Let's start with the good. Jet Skis and Bowling seem to not only show Kinect's improved functionality, but also ensure that the activities remain fun while feeling mostly authentic. Remember, you're not actually sitting in a jet ski, and you're not actually holding on to a 15 lb bowling ball. However, the gestures here are pretty spot on. Jet skiing for example allows you to play sitting or standing, based on your preference, and then can tell whether you're squeezing your hand to accelerate, or letting go to stop. Leaning your body during a turn makes you take a turn with more precision and jumping off ramps and flailing your hands in the air awards you with an added boost for showboating. It's pretty awesome and extremely responsive. There was never a time where I felt like I didn't have direct control of the vehicle. Bowling also felt pretty natural, except you had to take into account that you're basically throwing air. Still, the Kinect detects which angle you're facing, and allows you to put a spin on your throws depending on how you throw it.
Sadly, the rest of the Sports either don't end up being all that fun, or don't utilize the Kinect very well. The biggest offender here is Target Practice, which could have actually been really cool. All you're required to do is point at the screen where the targets appear, and let the game auto shoot. It's strange considering Microsoft touted the fact that it can read individual finger movements, and even recognizes when you squeeze down to accelerate when jet skiing, you don't have any kind of control over that in Target Practice. You just point. Riveting.
Rock Climbing and Soccer are pretty much the polar opposites of one another, since one focuses on using just your hands, while the other mostly your feet. Rock Climbing tasks you with reaching up and pulling down with one hand, while you then reach up with the other hand to continually pull yourself up. If that doesn't sound fun, it's because it really isn't. There are a few instances where you have to jump to take shortcuts, but that's the extent of the excitement. Soccer plays similarly to its Xbox 360 counterpart, where you have to time your kicks to get the ball past your opponent, and ultimately time your kick right and score a goal. Though slightly more entertaining than Rock Climbing, I simply couldn't get into Soccer.
Tennis is almost enjoyable, but lag keeps it from feeling as good as Wii Sports. Every swing feels like it's delayed, and timing never feels accurate. Not to mention the game sometimes purposely goes into slow motion, making accurate hits even more impossible.
The entire package is wrapped in a story mode of sorts, which has you constantly interacting with three different teams comprised of 'colorful' characters and a coach that constantly yells at you. Much of the Island's events are locked behind these story segments, which means you have to trudge through these groan-inducing cutscenes before you can get to the good stuff.
The game's one redeeming moment of brilliance was when it first scanned me in and modeled my in-game avatar after me. I was blown away by the fact that it actually looked like me. Sure, a more chiseled and built version of me, but me nonetheless.
It's not that Kinect Sports Rivals is a terrible game, but it certainly doesn't utilize the Kinect in any new meaningful ways. After Microsoft's claims of improving the Kinect, I just wanted RARE to be a little more experimental with the tech, and sadly, that doesn't happen here.