Kinect Sports Review

By Jake Gaskill - Posted Nov 03, 2010

Microsoft Kinect brings promises of responsive, engaging, and cutting edge experiences, and one of the shining successes amid the plethora of launch titles for the motion-based tech is Rare's answer to Nintendo's Wii Sports, the predictably titled Kinect Sports.

The Pros
  • Motion controls are natural and responsive
  • Wide variety of sports
  • Provides an enjoyable workout
The Cons
  • Weird avatar clipping/animations
  • Recognition issues with hand motions
  • Needs more throwing-based sports

Kinect Sports Review:

Microsoft Kinect brings promises of responsive, engaging, and cutting edge experiences, and one of the shining successes amid the plethora of launch titles for the motion-based tech is Rare’s answer to Nintendo’s Wii Sports, the predictably titled Kinect Sports.

Now, Nintendo changed the face of video games with the launch of the Wii and the release of Wii Sports. The motion controlled sports compilation was the perfect introduction to the new and unfamiliar world of gesture-based gaming. Given the popularity of Wii Sports, it’s no wonder that Sony and Microsoft both decided to release motion sports games of their own for the PlayStation Move and Kinect, respectively.

However, Microsoft’s Kinect Sports succeeds in one way that both Wii Sports and Sports Champions fail: no controller means no more constantly worrying that you’re going to fling a remote into your television or across the living room. And this lack of anxiety means you can more freely engage yourself in the highly physical sports available to you. This also means you’re going to need to stretch more than just your arm before you play this game. It’s a fully body workout for sure. I was limping around for days after two, admittedly long, sessions. I know now why Microsoft included the little “Feeling tired? Take a break.” alert bubble that pops up after you’ve playing for an extended period of time. 

Kinect Sports, Wee!

Kinect Sports consists of six events: boxing, bowling, ping pong, volleyball, soccer, and track and field, which contains five sports as well (sprint, hurdles, discus, javelin, and long jump). There are also eight mini-games inspired by the various sports. You can dodge incoming projectiles in Bump Bash, keep a ping pong point going for as long as possible in Rally Tally, hit as many targets as you can before time runs out in Target Kick, or play each track and field event individually (which brings the mini-game total to 13). These arcade versions provide a nice change of pace to the otherwise straightforward sports, and are packed with competitive potential.

While all of the sports work well, some, like volleyball, bowling, and ping pong, are more enjoyable than others. Even though the hand-based games can be a bit fickle sometimes, they are by far the most fun. I just wish there were more throwing-based sports like baseball, horseshoes, or even bocce ball, because those gestures look and feel the most natural, and would have been all the more fun without the constant threat of Wiimote-ish accidents.

Boxing was the low point for me, as it’s very easy to break when you’re playing against another human player (like Stephen “Epic Flail” Johnson), because all you have to do to knock the other player out in about 10 seconds is wildly motion at the screen and pretend you’re hitting a speed bag. This technique doesn’t work against the harder difficulty AI, which will dismantle you if you try to game the system, but because the punch responsiveness isn’t quite as sharp as the other sports, you end up wanting to just flail anyway, and that’s a shame.

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Xbox…Kinect…I Need Some Space

Another serious consideration is space. While some Kinect games require full body motion, it’s mostly confined to a central location, namely, directly in front of your TV. However, Kinect Sports requires quite a bit of space on your right and left, since you’re constantly lunging and jumping from side to side in events like volleyball and soccer. You’ll also need a fair bit of headroom if you’re tall, or else you can expect to punch your ceiling on a regular basis. Also, when two people are playing, it’s easy to end up hitting each other a lot depending on the sport, so keep that in mind too.

The Party Mode is perfect for…well, parties. Two teams compete in a random series of events -- a mix of abridged versions of the standard sports and the mini-games -- with points awarded after each match. It’s a great way to get a lot of people in on the action without making anyone wait around too long before they can jump in and play.

Gesturing Your Way to Gold

If you are one of the countless gamers who doubts Kinect’s technical wizardry and thinks Kinect Sports is simply a Wii Sports knockoff, you most likely won’t be convinced otherwise unless you try out the game for yourself. You might feel/look silly running in place and pretending to throw an invisible javelin, but once you realize that you have spent the past few hours playing a truly enjoyable game (that also happens to perfectly match your movements) without ever once picking up a controller, it’s impossible to be unimpressed. Just remember: stretch!