Looking Back: A review of Kinect Sports Rivals

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Looking Back: A review of Kinect Sports Rivals

The Kinect Sports games are from a controversial time in Rare’s history, a time that when we saw the old gold logo put to rest, a new branding and a new website with little mention of Rare’s history outside of Kinect.

Many saw it as the death of Rare, people began to believe that we would never seen anything other than Kinect Sports games from the studio ever again.

As we now know, that is far from the case, E3 2015 saw return to the classic branding as will as a complete celebration of the studio’s history with Rare Replay.

Now that we know that Kinect Sports was just another part of the studio’s storied history, and not its end, I began to wonder how the games actually were. I had avoided them in the past because I knew that they would upset me. It would have been be hard to enjoy such games knowing that this was all there would be from now on.

I always felt Kinect Sports Rivals looked the best out of the three, it had a colourful fantasy Island, proper cover art, references to past Rare titles, and seemed well, what a motion sports game would be like if Rare made one.

So I picked up a copy, along with a Kinect sensor for my Xbox One, and figured I’d give the game an honest shot, now without the hanging weight of concern over Rare’s future depressing me, this was finally possible.

Gone are the generic 360 avatars, and it’s place is a neat face scanning tech that inserts you directly into the game. Made me think of the canceled feature that was planned for the original Perfect Dark. Anyway, this is actually a impressive use for the Kinect. I wouldn’t mind seeing this tech used in any future games that Rare makes that involve character creation. Imagine if you could create a pirate in Sea of Thieves in the same fashion. It would be such a time save, and end up actually looking like me for once.

Once you get into the actual game, you’ll have a series of training missions, followed by Team Story missions, which tell the story of Team Eagle, Wolf  and Viper, as the try to convince to join them. (Spoiler alert, you only get to pick one.) The story is pretty barebones, but it was nice to have actual NPC characters and some sense of purpose to give me a reason to be playing sports on some random island in the ocean.

There is also an XP like system, you gain fans to level your league status up, as well as XP in each sport, gaining you unlocks and Rare coins to spend on the equipment store, where you can buy clothes and items to increase your stats and change your power ups.

This is very welcome. I had a hard time sticking with other motion sports games, because I never felt like I was progressing through anything.

My biggest complaint with the base game, is lack of Xbox live matchmaking. You can only invite and play online with people on your friends list, and since I don’t know anyone else with this game, their was no way for me to test out online, or even earn the assorted achievements that can only be unlocked in that mode.

Also, the music. Robin Beanland is on your payroll, why not use the man to his full potential  instead of having a playlist of licensed music play over the whole game? Not that the song choices were bad mind you, just seemed a weird choice when you could have had better music made in house for cheaper.

Well, with that out off the way, let’s dig into the individual sports.

Bowling

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Probably my favorite event. With one major complaint. The name of the event is State Farm Bowling. No other sport has a real world sponsor like this, and it really pulls me out of the fantasy feel of the rest of the game. Part of me hopes a future patch will kill off the sponsorship after whatever deal they made expires.

Beyond that, you get to bowl on a delightfully futuristic bowling alley. Depending on the ball you have equipped, you will have a power up to give you extra boost. The other sports in the collection have this as well.

It seems to be a pretty solid and satisfying bowling experience, since its a turn based game, you don’t need a ton of space in your living room for multiple players. For people like me who live in a compact living space, thats a big deal.

Rock Climbing

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Rock climbing is a little bit of a mixed bag for me. It simply doesn’t work that well for my setup. If I do it standing, as the game directs me too, the kinect has a hard time seeing my hands open and close, which is essential to the sport. I finally was able to get the best results by ignoring the warnings and did the event setting on my couch. Jumping is still a pain though, since I have to do this awkward jump, and the immediately crouch down so that the game can see my hands grab the rocks above me.

Keep in mind, if you have a large living room, you probably won’t have these issues, and you may find it very enjoyable, unfortunately the fun factor of this game is very dependent on your home setup.

Soccer/Football

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Being goalie and blocking and punching shots back is a blast, however, shooting and passing feels very random and the ball seems to often go where it pleases regardless of where I kick. It’s not a bad event, just the illusion of control and immersion could be a tad better here.

Target Shooting

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First, let’s get this out of the way. This game is just you pointing your finger at the screen. That’s it. That being said, it’s still pretty fun. Their is plenty of interesting target movements, targets you have to shoot in a certain order, ones to avoid, ones to steal, and an auto turret you can activate to shoot at your opponent.

Tennis

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Little bit of a learning curve on this one, but it’s a ton of fun once you get your timing down. I struggled a bit with backhand hitbacks for awhile as well . I’ve also gotten a little too intense a couple times with this and leaped way out of range of the kinect trying to hit a ball, only to miss because it couldn’t see me that far offscreen. This was more my fault then the game though.

Wake Racing

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This is probably the most talked about sport in the collection, with some people even requesting Rare makla standalone wake racing with standard controls as well to expand upon it.

The water animation is fantastic, and one of the few motion games I’ve played where I actually forgot I was using motion controls at times in the heat of competition.

Also, I highly recommend buying the Battletoads outfit DLC for this event. There is some about riding around on jetski with the ‘toads logo on you back that feels right for some reason. (Psst. It’s because it reminds us of the Turbo Tunnel.)

In closing:

If you want a motion sports game, get this one, but it is a motion sports game, so just be aware that is what you are getting. The genre can only reach so high, and there really is no such thing as 10/10, 100 metacritic game of this nature. These games are designed for short bursts before you decide to sit on you butt and play your 10/10, 100 metacritic game for the rest of the night.  It is great for what it is, and personally my favorite of its kind. I’ve had way more fun with this game then I did with Wii Sports or Sony’s Sports Champions. So, I guess that is what matters most. Now that we know Rare is getting back to traditional games,  and that this is not the end, it’s more than okay for games like this to exist.

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