MotionSports Review (Xbox360)

When are sports not actually sports? The answer is, of course, when they're Motionsports! While Kinect Sports provided us with hours of upright entertainment, Motionsports: Play For Real - yes, that is its actual subtitle - attempts to wrap a bunch of minigames in a sporting veil, but no-one is fooled. It feels as if the designers sat around a table, came up with six movements the Kinect will be able to recognise, then build sports around each of them.

It wouldn't be so bad either, were it not for the fact that all the ideas are horrible. Holding our arms out straight for long periods of time and attempting quick movements with so much lag involved is a recipe for disaster, and Motionsports is all too happy to destroy your already-fleeting enjoyment whenever it can. It's not all in vain, however, as the interfaces and menus are actually pretty decent, and work much better than a lot of the other Kinect games we've seen so far.

Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow OW!

Before we begin describing in turn why each packaged sport needs some serious work, note that Motionsports is actually very well presented. The menus are laid out in a Celebrity Squares style fashion, with nine boxes in a 3x3 grid. Your shadow is projected behind the squares, and holding either arms out to a box will select it. It works amazingly well, and since you can see yourself on the screen, there's none of this wave your arm about until a cursor appear' business. Truly a concept that needs exploring further.

The game also makes full use of the camera, taking photos of you for newspaper articles and huge billboards on buildings. It does all get a little repetitive after a while, but there's no denying that it's a neat idea and gives the game some personality. Unfortunately long loading times take the edge off, forcing you to stand around between each event and wait to stupid periods of time. When it finally loads and all you've got it a tiny boxing ring with mediocre visuals, it's hard not to wonder why it took so long to drag this all out.

Now to the games on show. Horseback riding was our first escapade, although it proved to be about as excited as watching horseriding in real life. Holding our arms out in front of us as if grabbing the reins, a quick whipping motion will get the horse galloping, while 'pulling' the left or right rein causes your horse to turn. Whenever you reach a gate, jump and the horse jumps too.

Sounds simple enough, but the sensitivity is just that little too high, meaning that keeping the horse in line can be rather tricky. There's a set path to follow, and only the most patient and light-handed will actually be able to stick to it. Note that the game is frustrating rather than challenging - you never really feel fully in control, hence the immersion isn't there and everything breaks down. In a nutshell: not very fun.

Skiing is the minigame that made us say 'Owwww' the most. You play exactly how you'd expect - arms out straight like as if holding skis, and leaning left and right to turn as you pelt down a hill. As it turns out, bending your knees and holding out your arms for a couple of minutes at a time is in fact the perfect definition of 'not fun'. Every bone is our bodies was screaming for mercy and every time we finished a race, there was a huge sigh of relief. Not exactly a sign that we're having copious amounts of enjoyment.

Watch me kick this one in a straight line!

American Football is possibly the biggest non-sport in the game, mainly due to the fact that you don't actually play much american football - rather, you take part in a series of minigames that just so happen to take place on an american football field. Jump over those barriers! Duck under those barriers! Run very fast! Strip away the visuals and you've got the most simple of motion-tracking minigames that we've seen done so much better elsewhere. Yet again not worth the time of day.

Kinect Sports did boxing, and it was a pretty standard affair. Motionsports has also done boxing, and makes us realise just how good the boxing in Kinect Sports was. This is truly horrible stuff - you can simply swing your arms out in front of you over and over under your opponent is beaten into submission. There is no skill or tactics involved, nor is there any entertainment. It's swing swing swing all over, then never play it again.

The final two sports appear rather interesting at first, but turn out to be just as crappy. Hang Gliding works pretty well, asking you to hold your arms out and tilt your body in whichever direction you wish to move. This one actually feels right, and adjusting your flight positioning is effortless. Pockets of hot air rise from different points on the map, and moving over one will keep your afloat.

Unfortunately, the level design scuppers what could be really enjoyable stuff. It's not obvious where you're actually meant to be aiming for, and we floated around looking for the finish line and ended up crashing on far too many occasions. Still, we're definitely keeping our eyes peeled for hang-gliding games in the future. Imagine something like Pilotwings for Kinect - that would grab our attention!

Last and by all means least is the Football - another one that Kinect Sports had a crack at and pulled off so much better. Initially the Motionsports football actually feels very well designed - you put the ball down on the penalty spot with your hands and then kick it past the keeper to score. The level of control feels great, although there's something a little strange about it all.

We spot a rather large opening...

Soon afterwards, you realise that you've actually not got that much control at all - in fact, the game has set paths down which the ball can travel, and you are merely kicking in a general direction, and the game is choosing which path best suits your kick. Once this comes to light, you quickly realise that you're once again playing a poor man's Kinect Sports. This isn't innovation - not by a long shot - and it's not fun either.

In fact, this sentiment is felt throughout a game of Motionsports: why bother playing this mess of a game when you could be playing Kinect Sports instead? Motionsports' minigames are dull, sometimes painful, and dull again. Even when it approaches entertainment, it shoots itself in the foot with awful visuals and ridiculous game mechanics. If you own Kinect Sports, do not pick this game up. If you do not own Kinect Sports, also do not pick this game up.

Motionsports: Play For Real is available now for the Xbox 360. You'll need the Kinect hardware to play.

Top Game Moment: Everytime we finished a game of Skiing, and could sit down and rest our hurting limbs.

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