Kinect Sports Rivals is the first Xbox One game to be built around the Kinect camera and when it works it is brilliant.
Kinect Sports Rivals has 6 sports for you to take part in, with some being good fun and others being more pain then they are worth. But first things first, you need to create your champion. The first Kinect Sports is known for creating the Avatar system for Xbox 360 and the team at Rare have kicked it up well passed 11 for this game. You are asked a few simple questions, such as gender and then Kinect will scan your body and then face. The Kinect takes a whopping 80 photos of your face and then uses a range of technology to build your Kinect Sports Rivals self. Once you are happy with you base model, you can customize individual bits as you see fit, the one you see below is the base model of me, quite accurate I say.
Of course the bulk of Kinect Sports Rivals is the sports and we have 6 sports to choose from. Each sport is introduced to you by the Coach, the resident expert for all things Kinect Sports Rivals. He will give you a little motivation and then show you how each sport is played. Then you are given a chance to prove your skills before you can move on. After you learn the basics of each sport you play a round to prove to one of the three teams you have what it takes.
The sports that are on offer here are Wake Racing, Rock Climbing, Shooting Range, Soccer, Bowling and Tennis. The last 3 are back again after making debuts in the earlier games but the first 3 are all brand new. Each of the sports has a different control scheme and suits them well however there are some problems with some of the sports.
But first, Wake Racing the best of the new sports, and probably the best of the 6 of them. Wake Racing sees you take to the waters of Kinect Sports Rivals Island. Over the course of the 5, well courses you will have to put everything to the test to avoid crashing into half sunken ships or sea mines. Simply navigating the course won’t do, you need to add some flair to your races and that is where tricks come in. Launching off ramps allows you to do flips, with the more tricks you do the more fans you earn per race. But tricks are not just for the fans, they also help you to fill your power-ups.
There are three power up types, Force Field, Speed Boost and Mine Drop. You can only equip one per race, so knowing the course will help you decide which you need to take into the race. I mentioned before that tricks powers them up but also earns you fans and fans is what you need. At the end of each event you will be presented with a tally of your coin count, xp and fans. The fans follow you from event to event, XP however is specific for each sport. As you play more wake racing and earn more coins and xp you can use them to buy new suits or jet skis. Each of the available jet skis provide different options for speed and tricks.
Wake Racing is but one of the sports, the other new sports to the Kinect Sports series are Climbing and Shooting. Climbing has you standing up and mimicking the actions as if you were rock climbing. While the actions work well the game suffers because it’s quite boring. You just stand there moving your arms up or down, left or right and occasionally you jump. Climbing provides quite a work out, far more than wake racing but it’s just not fun. Shooting falls into the lack of fun group but it suffers from wonky controls.
Shooting sees you point your hand as if it was a gun, like you did when playing as a kid. You simply move your hand and the on screen reticule moves as well. However the game struggled to track my hand a lot of the time, and even when it did you can’t aim all that well on the targets. As soon as the game registers the reticule is over a target it shoots and you get points, or less points depending on the target, but sometimes it would shoot the moment it hit the target not giving you a chance to aim for the bulls eye.
The three remaining sports are returning veterans from previous entries but thanks to the new Kinect camera they feel all new again. Bowling is the only game that feels like it has not changed, because the sport of bowling has not changed, but with the advanced tracking that the Kinect is able to do now, players are able to take on more trick shots or power shots with greater ease. Soccer or Football depending on where you live is fun, if a little slow but with the new Kinect it feels more responsive than it had in previous entries. Tennis is the only game that feels almost the same as it did last time around, now I don’t know if that’s because they built such a great game last time or what but it’s fun.
Each of the sports has a range of power ups you can use, Climbing has the Shock Shield which can turn the tables when someone is attempting to pull you down from the wall. Soccer has Goal Shield which makes it harder for the opposing team to score a goal. Find the balance of your play style along with the power ups on offer will take some time, but when you get it right you will power towards becoming a champion.
Kinect Sports Rivals does have rivals in the name and that is played up by the three teams you can align with. Eagle Legion, Wolf Clan or Viper Network. Throughout the introduction to each sport you will meet the captains, Blake, Vargu and Zara. Each of the team has a very unique style and colour set so there is no chance of mixing them up.
Of course that’s all just for you, and your console. But what if you want to take things further. Well similar to the Driveatar from Forza, Rivals will have your own champion take to the digital fields of Kinect Sports Rivals when you are not even online. Your player will take part in other peoples games earning you points. So you will want to make sure that you are the best in all the sports because you never know who you will play against.
Kinect Sports Rivals has a very stylized look and it suits the game perfectly. Each of the sporting venues has a unique style that is not duplicated anywhere else. The largest space is taken up by the Wake Racing and they use all that space well. Bowling also takes place on the water, on a ship that is all decked out for the occasion. Climbing takes you to the Stone Forrest, with tennis taking place above the top of a giant stone outcrop. The remaining sports take you to stadiums which suit the sports they are showing off.
Perhaps one of the best parts of the game is the voice work, led by David Tennant as the Narrator. Guiding you around is his job and he explains things in great detail but thankfully is not boring, with the coach is brought to life by the talented William Hope of Aliens fame. The remaining characters you interact with are the leaders of the three teams and their second in charge.
The soundtrack contains a great blend of songs that will be sure to get people excited for the game. With artists like Empire of the Sun, Nero and Young London there is something for everyone here. During the sports there is a lite sprinkling of music by Rare themselves that adapts to how you are going. A simple thing to be sure but something that changes the tone of the game in ways you may not even notice.
Kinect Sports Rivals is a game that shows us why Kinect is here to stay, it provides hours of gameplay that will suit anyone. The multiplayer modes offer up same room fun for all, while taking your champion online and competing against the world will have you wanting to perfect your skills. The Kinect works well for the most part and when it does it shines. So be sure to grab Kinect Sports Rivals and get ready to take on the world.