November 15, 2011
The new Kinect Sports offers players baseball, American Football, darts, skiing, tennis and golf. While the offer may at first look appealing, just minutes into each game it becomes painfully obvious that some games are better than others.
The main problems stem from the hit and miss tracking offered by the Kinect. Some games will work fantastically, tracking every minor movement making you feel that there is some genuine skill required.
Others will see you jump around like a crazy person, getting ever-more frustrated at the game's inability to detect a simple running motion. In fact, the game's inability to accurately track a player's foot movements is a standard concern throughout all of Kinect Sports: Season 2's features.
On this front American Football is without a doubt the biggest offender. The tracking in American Football is, for lack of a better word, awful. Even when following the game's voice instructions to the letter, the game feels slow and clumsy. No matter how carefully you crouch or enact the commands, the movements shown on screen feel detached from what you're actually doing. The game's running command was a particularly poor show, with the Kinect struggling to detect when we began the motion and at points stalling mid run when it finally did.
The game's baseball section also had trouble tracking foot movements.
Baseball was doubly frustrating as while the game could detect even the smallest of hand movements while bowling or batting, it struggled to tell when we began running. Also, as was the case with American Football, when the game did start tracking our feet, the animations shown on our Avatar were completely removed from our real movements.
This said, Season 2 is not without its merits. Games that only require upper body movements remain fun to play. In this regard tennis and darts particularly stand out. In tennis, the game accurately tracks your movements to the point that you can even add spin to the ball reliably, with the Kinect tracking every nuanced movement of your wrist, giving the illusion that the game actually requires a moniker of skill. The darts section was equally impressive with the Kinect tracking the weight and power of our throws, having them smoothly play out with our on-screen avatar.
At the very end of the list comes the game's new skiing mode. Skiing is by far Kinect Sports: Season 2's easiest and most intuitive offering. The mode sees you navigate your avatar through flag gates and around obstacles by shifting your body weight left or right.
Though simple, the mechanic works and the graphics contained in the mode's slopes genuinely give the illusion of speed, making it a blast to play.
Yet despite the fun of skiing, it's the addition of Kinect Sports: Season 2's challenge mode that really lets the game's good qualities shine. With the exception of American Football the mode lets you play a number of different sports challenges. For example, in tennis you have Smash Alley, a mini-game that challenges you to hit as many tennis balls as possible at a team of off-court mascots before the time runs out.
Despite the fun of the sometimes farcical challenges, the new mode's best addition is the fact that you can post your highscores online and to your friends. The ability to post the scores to your friends adds a layer of longevity to an experience that may otherwise have seen you play the challenges once and then forget about them. Having a friend beat your score online just minutes after you posted it offers a real incentive to return to the game.
The mode is doubly entertaining as you can actually send the scores as challenges to your friends, effectively meaning you can "call them out" for a sports showdown without a little thing like conflicting schedules or time difference getting in the way.
Having spent most of the review complaining about the game, so long as you avoid American Football, most of the games contained in it do provide a reasonable level of entertainment. That said, it's difficult to find anything that hasn't already been done better elsewhere. In short if you don't have a Wii and are looking for a Kinect party game that doesn't require dancing or any other form of embarrassing hip movement, then Kinect Sports: Season 2 is probably a fairly good choice -- just don't expect too much.