There’s a new Microsoft console out in the wild, so that means it’s also time to get people back using their Kinect sensor in earnest. Enter Kinect Sports Rivals.
Not so many years ago, the very idea of playing a video game without a regular controller seemed like madness. Then the original Wii took that concept and made its titles accessible to millions of people who never would have looked twice at a console previously.
Challenge accepted, the other console heads followed suit with the Kinect sensor doing away with the peripheral entirely. And, after a couple of years of tweaking and development, it did finally work – letting us play and interact with nothing but gestures.
Now Kinect 2.0 is here and it’s time to see what Microsoft can do with improved tech specs and a whole new generation of hardware.
The answer? Basically the same stuff.
Kinect Sports Rivals is the first dedicated Kinect title for Xbox One since its launch last year. Let’s ignore for a moment the glaring omission of such a title at launch and concentrate on what it brings to the table.
There are six minigames available – water racing, bowling, rock climbing, target shooting, tennis and soccer. You’re introduced to each by a particularly shouty Coach character and the mini-games can be played alone for kudos and to earn attention for your team, though local multiplayer or online – though not against real-time opponents.
The first thing you’ll do is let the Kinect scan you, after which it creates a stylised digital representation of your face for use. Which actually works quite well, even if its lack of confidence in my hairline was a tad disturbing.
As with pretty much every Kinect title to date, the success of the games varies quite a bit. The water racing game is one of the best, partly because the gestures are quite broad. Tilt your hands to steer, pump your fist to accelerate and wave your arms in the air for a trick. Add in a general lack of competition from the other riders and it’s an easy race to the finish line.
Rock climbing keeps things simple with its controls (and mostly succeeds because of it) while bowling generally works but is so simplistic it offers up no real challenge.
The other three are much more hit and miss affairs. Target shooting requires the sensor to pick up your forefinger and often fails. Even when it works the result lacks speed or accuracy – two aspects which are fairly important when you’re trying to shoot a thing.
Tennis can mostly be conquered by flailing around as much as possible (my go-to strategy for motion games) which leaves the disappointing soccer. Open play was obviously not likely in a Kinect title but what Rare has cobbled together is so on the rails it barely qualifies as a game, while the inputs for kicks routinely failed to trigger.
These games are made for groups though and the challenge is improved against a human opponent. But there are only so many frustrating moments and false starts that your average (even patient) human will endure and resetting and recalibrating quickly spoils any sense of fun.
When you get on an issue-free run, Kinect Sports Rivals can be fitfully entertaining and the Xbox One pushes out some fairly impressive graphics – though considering the lack of interactivity that’s not very surprising. But ultimately as the sense of wonder around controller-free gaming wears off, it quickly becomes clear that there isn’t nearly enough gameplay here to sustain most players for more than a couple of hours.