I have always been a fan of Kinect, ever since I jumped on stage with Daren and Adamski at Eurogamer to play Dance Central I got the feeling it could be really good if the technology worked well, ultimately though it was pretty flawed. It was great for games like Disneyland Adventures and issuing voice commands in Mass Effect 3 but most of the time there were too many factors that needed to be in place for it to work.
I had high hopes for Kinect on the Xbox One and at first it seemed like Microsoft had made some nice improvements; navigating the system using your voice works really well as does the auto sign in, it’s much quicker too, but despite this many of the problems seem to have crept back for Kinect Sports Rivals.
Developed by one of my favourite studios – Rare, I had high hopes for Rivals and things got off to a good start. Each person playing gets scanned in by Kinect with audio prompts from David Tennant. The process is fairly simple; it asks you to stand in front of the camera for a body scan before moving closer for your facial scan. It all looks really impressive, as you are scanning your face you can see that Kinect is picking up your facial features. You are then shown your champion, I ended up looking like Gru from Despicable Me but you can pick up little similarities. I scanned in my 5 year old and he managed the whole process without any help from me and again you could see some of his features. Having looked at other peoples scans you can see difference in each champion, even if they aren’t huge. Both our scans were done during the day and there were no problems, but when I scanned the Mrs, Kinect was asking for more light, our room is well lit but not enough for the scan, unfortunately this wouldn’t be the first problem.
Once the game properly begins you are thrown into your first tutorial for Wake Racing, if you have been playing the demo nothing has really changed. Holding your arms like riding a bike is key here, bringing your right arm back towards you will turn you right and left to go left, what did impress me was that Kinect was able to work out when you had your fist closed, which you need to do to accelerate. Hitting jumps or big waves allows you to lean forwards or backwards to perform stunts, do enough of these and you’ll fill a boost meter which is activated by stamping or using voice commands.
Once you have completed this you are introduced to the single player story, there are three factions on the island and you‘ll take part in different sports for each. It’s pretty shallow overall but it does add some longevity to the game. If you start this game and just want to play the different events you’ll have to go through the story a bit before unlocking 2-player events, which is quite frustrating when you have an eager 5-year old wanting to play too. As you work your way through the different events for the factions you’ll unlock more events and more powerups for your champion in the different sports. Each event will give you complete awards you with XP, coins and more fans. You can purchase new outfits and equipment that will give you an edge your opponents, so there is plenty of reason to win as much as possible.
So what about the different events?
Tennis and Bowling return and there isn’t much different from the previous games. Kinect does a better of job of allow you to hit more angled shots in Tennis but you have to be careful when swinging for shots, you need to be quite controlled otherwise Kinect starts to struggle. It’s sometimes difficult to judge the speed of the shots coming towards you. It’s the same case with the bowling; don’t try anything to extravagant when making your shot or Kinect will miss you completely.
The remaining sport that has come back is football, or soccer to our international friends. It’s changed a fair bit, but it’s also the most disappointing sport. Starting from your goalkeeper you make passes to three or four players before making a shot, it’s very on the rails and gets boring quite quickly.
The other two new sports are shooting and climbing, the shooting is very simplistic, you just need to point your finger in the direction of the targets, but some are worth more points and some need to be shot in a certain order. You can steal points from your opponent too if you are quick. You also have a turret to use against the other player, build up enough power and the turret will start to shoot and steal more points for you.
My favourite though is the climbing. Again, Kinect makes god use of watching your hand movements to grab onto the wall and pull yourself up, with other opponents on the wall at the same time as you can also grab them and pull them off the wall. There was a few times where Kinect would lose sight of me while reaching up, meaning progress can be lost, it’s a fun mode though and well worth playing.
The Kinect Sports Hub links with the game nicely, allowing you to check out other Rivals and leaderboards. You can view other player’s videos and also view any challenges that have come your way from other Rivals.
Kinect Sports Rivals is a mixed bag for me, some events are better than others and although there are some improvements to Kinect the same old problems kept creeping back. It’s worth getting, but proceed with caution.
MLG Rating: 6/10 Format: Xbox One Release: 11/04/14
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Kinect Sports Rivals for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 5 days on a Xbox One. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.