Kinect Sports: Season Two Review (Xbox360)

Kinect Sports was a launch title for the new controller free device that has become one of the fastest selling electrical items. However since then we’ve seen little in the way of must have games and people’s patience is being tested. So is it up to Season 2 to give us a quality motion controlled title to last us another year?

In some ways you could be fooled for thinking that Season 2 is another cash-in, but with Rare at the helm once again with a little help from Big Park Studios, it can only mean another successful sequel. Things have changed quite significantly since last year with the menus having a much cleaner and clinical look about them. It almost looks like it has been designed to fit in with the new dashboard which will launch in November with boxes the order of the day here.

It works well however with the hand movements much faster and responsive which means you can get in the action much quicker than previously. The whole menu system has being designed with simplicity in mind including the most recent sport you played on the home menu alongside a Quick Play option, which is Party Play in disguise from last year and the Select a Sport or Challenges arena. Challenges can be sent to a friend who can try and improve on your score whilst you can also opt to play online in each sport.

When you are selecting a sport you can quickly navigate to each of the option menus at the flick of a hand to edit them as and when you need, which works much better than previously. The more user-friendly interface is a key part of how Season 2 has matured, but the best is yet to be discovered.

This time around you can use your voice to navigate in the game, be it from menus, to change options, or in the actual sports themselves. This is a prime example of how Kinect has matured over the year and it works incredibly well. There can be issues when your TV volume is ramped up, but otherwise it is a speedy system which relies on you saying ‘Xbox’ and then ‘Saying what you see...’ which means once the voice is active, you can read the wording on the menus and it’ll follow your instructions. This is a quicker way to get started and is useful if you cannot be bothered to wave your arms around all the time for meaningless menus.

Mr Voiceover man is back as you’ll recognise from the X-Factor and just about every ‘epic’ TV programme, but he’s certainly worth the money as he is the perfect host for family entertainment and parties and an integral part of the series. Alongside him are some more low-key commentators including a familiar voice for the Darts who you might recognise from a certain British Gas advert with his gruff voice perfect for the rowdy darts arena. And let us not forget the music bites which return but with many more than previously whenever you score/celebrate or achieve something during your game. Such a small 20 second clip is so pivotal in being a boost to your energy levels with the celebrate motto coming up on-screen, giving you the chance to jump up and down or make rude hand gestures.

So I’ve mentioned the menus but what about the all important sports themselves. We have a new roster of six sports and with a few sports in there to appeal to Americans, you cannot help feel its perhaps a weaker line-up for Europeans. I’ll go through each of them and give you an idea of how each one plays:

Tennis: We’ve seen tennis before in Wii Sports, so it seems this is a little late to the party. We also saw Table Tennis last year which was a good representation, so how easy is it to recreate Tennis with no controls? Luckily all your hand movements are mapped to give you the opportunity to lob, slice or smash the ball with serving seeing you throw the ball upwards. It works well and is pretty accurate but the movement is all automated, so it feels less fulfilling than other sports. The AI can obviously improve and the matches become faster paced, but you still aren’t moving your body aside from hitting the ball.

Skiing: This has the potential to be fun, lean forwards to ski faster down the mountain and head through each of the gates. The problem is, the three courses on offer are pretty basic and the mountains offer no taxing obstacles to navigate on the way down aside from a few jumps here and there. It’s more fun in multiplayer mode however as you face each other side by side competing for the best times.

Golf: Everyone has being waiting for a golf game using Kinect and now is the chance to try it out. This probably has the best controls of any of the sports, you can use your hand to your head to view the course like the professionals do (or at least so we are led to believe) though it seems a little pointless and is more of a tacked on extra. The genius part however is being able to select a club by using your voice or a quick hand gesture which as with the rest of voice commands works well. Swing your arm back and depending on the power you give it in the backswing, you’ll hit your ball down the course. The biggest flaw is the epically fast fairways where the ball never seems to stop rolling and the oddity of playing your ball out of water!

Darts: The only sport where you need to adjust the settings according to the height of your television and each person; however darts is pretty accurate when you get going. It can be tricky to hit the right shots but you can turn on the scoring assistance so you know where to hit, or you can be brave and turn it off if you can figure out the maths quickly. I can’t, so opt for it on. The AI seems quite difficult even on the easiest mode here though which can be annoying.

Baseball: Probably my favourite sport for the variety on offer. You can bat, bowl, run and catch people out. Again these are basic elements but it works and works well. The bat swinging offered little lag and you can really get some good home runs by going full pelt on your swing. Just watch out for the TV. There seems to be an overuse of celebrations though which slows the play down unnecessarily.

American Football: Finally the one I was worried about, the one that most of us Brits think is a poor man’s Rugby with far too much stop and starting. Yes, the Kinect Sports version features the dull tactical parts but you have the option to use a coach to choose tactics or you can choose your own. You can run on the spot and dash left and right to avoid the opposition as you try and score a touchdown. It’s a good introduction to the sport and I felt I learnt more from this than I’ve learnt before about the sport. The only issue is, it won’t be the sport to dig out at a party as most people won’t know what to do.

So the final verdict, is it better than last year? It offers a more complete package and the interfaces are much improved, but some of the sports lack the pace and excitement which really makes this a key party piece. It still goes down though as one of the best Kinect titles money can buy.

Top Gaming Moment: The first time you win and ‘The One and Only’ blasts out and gives you a buzz.