Sports Champions Review (PS3)

Sports Champions is the Playstation Move's take on Wii Sports, and it's not afraid of that comparison at all - in fact, developer Zindagi Games most likely has grown fond of hearing people say 'it's like Wii Sports, but better'. Indeed, Sports Champions is definitely the better product - a more refined experience, with slicker motion controls and deeper gameplay.

Bocce is easily our favourite
That's not to say all six included games are a delight, but as a Move launch title, Sports Champions shows off the capabilities of the new hardware remarkably well. You'll need a second Move controller to get the full multiplayer experience, but even with one controller you'll still find plenty to do.

Before we launch into the sports available, let's discuss the overall look and feel. Sports Champions is a very pretty game, with interesting and sometimes gorgeous environments and effects. The physics are really slick too, which - in a motion-control game - is rather essential. Everything feels great to waggle around, thanks to the seemingly spot-on one-to-one control.

There's absolutely loads to unlock too. Each game has multiple trophies to pick up, with ten levels in each category, each more difficult to master than the last. You've got equipment to find, extra modes to play through, costumes, characters, minigames... you may think that playing through six games won't take all that long, but if you're planning on fully completing Sports Champions, you're definitely in it for the long haul.

The one area in which Sports Champions is lacking is in personality. All the characters are dull and lifeless, given silly stereotypes and making idiotic 'Uh', 'Yeah' and 'Whoooo' noises all the time. This is a game in dire need of a roster revamp - perhaps if the Playstation Home avatars had been roped into the action, it would have given play a little more life.

On to the games then - Sports Champions comes with six sports to gesture your way through. Disc Golf is the first, ripped straight from Wii Sports Resort and given the Move treatment. Initially it all feels a little shallow - players hold the trigger on the back of the Move controller, then swing as if throwing a frisbee. The one-to-one feel between your movement and the animation on screen is lovely to behold, but you still get a sense of 'I've played this before'.

Yet give Disc Golf a little more of your time, and you'll find a hidden depth that just wasn't available in the Wii version. The disc will veer off at whichever angle you throw it, and it's incredibly precise. Your goal on each level is to throw the disc into a set of chains situated at the far side, and while you won't have any problems getting it close, it takes skill and precision to pull off hole-in-ones and close-cut shots.

It's difficult to explain how it feels the first time you make an incredible, long-range shot. The action goes into slow-mo and your view scoots into a widescreen shot. As the disc soars towards the chains, your heart really does start pumping like a maniac.

Table Tennis looks exciting, right? Well it really isn't
Gladiator Duel isn't so breath-taking, but there's still plenty of smashing fun to be had. Armed with a shield and sword, your job is to either KO your opponent or send them flying from the arena. Your shield can be held up by pulling the Move controller to your chest, while a swiping motion will have your opponent eating steel blade.

As with Disc Golf, there's far more to it that simply swinging around and hoping for the best. Block a shot, and you'll gain power. Fill your power meter, and a super strike will become available, allowing you to beat the crap out of the enemy. It's not exactly all that tactical, and you'll most likely end up swiping around the place anyway, but it definitely gives a great indication of how well sword games will work in the future.

Archery has some nice ideas, but is a little on the boring side. Targets pop up on the far side of the firing range, and the idea is to pop an arrow in the bulls eye before your opponent does. Preparing an arrow is pretty slick - you reach behind your back (as if pulling an arrow out of a quiver) and hold the trigger, then hold the Move controller as if holding a bow and arrow.

Very clever stuff, but there's only so much you can potentially do with archery. The arc of the arrow is shown, guiding you in your aiming exploits, but this actually makes the whole ordeal even easier than it needs to be. Not the least interesting game included, but definitely not the most entertaining.

Beach Volleyball is next up, and while it's good fun, you don't exactly feel like you're in control all too much. Your character runs around the court automatically, and your job is to move your hands into the different volleyball positions and hit the ball whenever appropriate.

You get the impression that you're playing a series of volleyball Quicktime events, rather than actually feeling like you're the one playing volleyball. It's still great fun to slam down the win, or set-up your team-mate for a smash. Yet out of all the sports on offer, this is probably the one that makes us scratch our heads the most - surely there were other, more interesting sports that could have made the grade over this?

Bocce is great fun, due to its simplistic yet subtly deep nature. For those who aren't quite sure what Bocce is (so that's all of you, then), it's like the classic game Boules - both players take it in turns to throw balls at a smaller ball called the boccino, and whoever lands theirs closest is the winner.

Wii Sport's Bowling game was great fun, so it comes as no surprise that Bocce is lovely too. This is probably the sport which feels the most lifelike - you could really believe that you do in fact that a ball in your hand, and the way it arcs up and into the action is so perfect. Table Tennis is our final sport, and is by far the least interesting of the lot. It plays exactly as you'd expect, yet the level of precision needed in the other games is not carried over at all here.

Swing your arms around as the ball comes over the net, and you'll most likely hit it back no matter how you move. At one point, I tried dancing on the spot while holding the Move controller, and I won an entire game while doing so. The worst part is that you really don't feel like you're hitting a ball at all - although the plus side is that it reminded us of how the Wii used to feel, and shows just how far ahead the Move really is.
That man can jump pretty high...
Not every sport is a winner, but there's no denying that Sports Champions does a great job of showcasing what the Playstation Move has in store for us over the coming years. If you're looking to pick up a Move and one launch title, make it this one - both the single player and multiplayer action are good, solid fun.

Top Game Moment: Disc Golf's slow-mo shots - it's nail-biting stuff.

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