Kinect Sports Review (Xbox360)

Motion-control is running out of sports. The Wii was greedy and had both first and second pick, going with some fairly obvious choices and then some not so obvious. Then the Move stepped in only a month ago, providing some of its own takes on motion-controls sporting capabilities. Now it is the turn of Kinect to get us all sporty-like, albeit in the comfort of our own homes.

Victory dance in three... two... one... GOOOAAALLL!

Kinect Sports doesn't exactly feature the greatest selection on sporting choices, but it still easily rivals its Wii and Playstation rivals. The games on offer range from great to average, although get a few friends around to play and you'll have an absolute ball. The game could have done with a bit more content in terms of extra modes, challenges and unlockables, but it's still a decent launch title for the hardware.

This sporting package provides six different games to play, with a variety of gameplay mechanics that really show of Kinect's capabilities. Of the six sports available, half of them are brilliant fun, while the other half are good but not as solid. In fact, Kinect Sports is at its best when it's trying something that no other motion-control system has managed to pull off yet.

The Football game is easily the most satisfying, and perhaps one of the best uses of Kinect we've seen up to know in a gaming capacity. It's simple yet extremely effective - you kick an imaginary ball in front of you to pass the ball to other players, and the direction in which you kick the ball will determine where it goes on the screen. Once you're near the goal, it's a case of giving it some welly and powering it past the keeper. Scoring is stupidly enjoyable, and even after out sixth or seventh game we were still screaming 'GOOOOOAL!' after every blast.

Defending is also absurdly simple. Whenever an opponent has the ball, an arrow appears on the pitch to show where they are about to pass it. You can take possession back by putting your foot in the line of fire. If they manage to reach your goal, you then take the role of goalkeeper, holding both arms out and reaching to stop the shot. Being the keeper is just as much fun as shooting - in fact, the Football game as a whole is immense fun, especially when you throw a second player in and play one-on-one.

Track and Field is the longest game, as it consists of five events, most of which require you run on the spot. The Sprint is just that, and keeping your knees up is the aim to scoring big. Similar to Sprint, Hurdles requires you jump every few seconds. Then you've got Javelin (run then throw) and Long Jump (run then jump). Finally there's Discus Throw, which simply asks you to launch your arm forward and is easily the weakest event.

All your times and scores at tallied up at the end of each event, and if can find some friends to play with, everything gets rather competitive. We wouldn't exactly call running on the spot that exhilarating, yet we'd be lying if we said that it wasn't enjoyable at least. The Javelin and Long Jump in particular are both great for party play.

Now we're into the realms of sports that have already been done - indeed, only the Football and the Track and Field are unique motion-control experiences, which is quite a shame. Still, you could argue that with the remaining sports, it would be crazy not to include some of them. The Bowling, for example, is an obvious choice for Kinect, although it does feel really very different to the Wii's effort.

The main difference is that the Wii gave you something to hold, and hence you had some weight in your hands and it all felt a bit more life-like. Kinect Sport's Bowling is a very different beast, and initially it's difficult to wrap your head around the idea of simply swinging your arm out as if you're holding something.

Yet give it a chance, and you'll find that there is far more depth than first meets the eye. By stepping left and right you can position yourself at the end of the lane, and throwing with a slight flick afterwards provides spin. Of course, the Wii version could do all of this, but Kinect Sports just feels far nicer. We wouldn't say that this version is better than Wii Sports - rather, it's a different take on the idea.
It's initially a strange feeling to bowl with nothing in your hand
The other three sports have all been done before too. Kinect Sport's Ping Pong is the best version we've seen so far, in that you don't simply swing your arm in the general right direction - this time, you actually need to swing in the correct position too. Your character moves exactly one-to-one with you, and so if the ball is going a little wide, you're going to have to reach out to it. It's really challenging and satisfying to win a match.

Let's finish our round-up with the least entertaining sports of offer - Volleyball and Boxing. Volleyball isn't very fun mainly because it involves pulling off a series of hand movements, rather than using the Kinect control to its full potential. You can win any match with the following string of moves - hold out hand to stop ball, jump and smash ball, repeat. There's barely any skill involved, and it's just not much fun at all.

Boxing feels too random to be entertaining. It plays out very much as Wii Sport's Boxing did, with high and low punches from both your left and right hand, and blocks via holding your hands to your face. There doesn't really feel like much power behind your strikes - even when pulling off a power punch - and even though there are tactical elements involving blocks and timing, it's just not all that fun.

So these are the sports, and for the most part they do a great job of showing off Kinect's power. We can definitely see a more unique and entertaining sports package coming out in the future (and we'd put our money on at least another one appearing within the year) but as a launch title, Kinect Sports does its job swimmingly.

The game has plenty of personality bursting from its seams to keep play fresh. Avatars are all over the place, and before and after each event you're given the chance to hold your arms above your head and wave to your fans with your Avatar's smile beaming away. Commentators announce the action for each sport, and - whisper it - aren't actually annoying in the slightest. In fact, we even found ourselves laughing at some of their jokes.

In terms of extra content, you've got a leveling system that adds experience to your score at you play. It's a nice thought, but there's not really all that much that you can do with it - it's really there just to give a feeling progression. Then there are extra challenges to play through, which take the sports and do interesting and sometimes mental things with them, such as bowling two balls at once, or keeping a rally going for as long as possible in Ping Pong.

These challenges are fun for a while, but also work against the title too, in that once we'd completed those available, it dawns on us that there really isn't that much content in Kinect Sports. Once you've played each sport for an hour or two, there aren't any extra modes to play or medals to win - your only option then is to play with friends, or continue playing single matches against computer players. This is a game that needs some sort of story mode where all six sports are putting together in increasingly difficult scenarios, but alas, no such mode exists.
Red takes down Blue with a release of wind that's silent, but deadly
Even so, if you're bagging yourself a Kinect and are trying to decide which launch titles to pick up, Kinect Sports is definitely worth considering. There are moments of pure unadulterated joy packed into this sports compilation, and although it's all over rather rapidly, it's a great ride while it lasts. Kinect Sports is out now on Xbox 360 in the US, and available November 10th in Europe.

Top Game Moment: Scoring a hat-trick in Football. GOOOOOOOAL!