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Kinect Sports Rivals Review

Kinect Sports is a popular series having sold well over 8 million units on the Xbox 360. This in a way surprises me as the original Kinect was far from perfect, however at the same time there was a large appeal to the games thanks to the interesting collection of sports and the fact that the design came from a talented team such as Rare. Moving on and here we are, talking about the next generation of gaming and along with it the first Kinect Sports title to hit the Xbox One in Kinect Sports Rivals.

Obviously there is a lot hanging on Rivals since it is the first title to really test Kinect on Xbox One to the full. In all honesty it should work perfectly and anything less would quite frankly be a let down considering how technologically advanced the new Kinect is said to be. Thankfully then, I can report that Kinect Sports on Xbox One is pretty much spot on when it comes to motion tracking in each and every sport that it places in front of you and what’s even better is the fact that it’s a whole load of fun too.

Rivals main appeal will of course be it’s party pleasing qualities, however the main feature which will confront you to begin with is the team adventure mode, where you work your way through six sports, representing different teams, with the ultimate goal being to eventually select the team you would like to represent going forward. Sports included here and ultimately unlocked for quick play, are Wake Racing, Climbing, Tennis, Bowling, Football and Target Shooting. 

When you first start the game you will be required to create your champion (more on that later) and then you will head into the team story mode in order to train in each sport and unlock all of the maps and game types for each of them. The first character you will meet within the game is a rather loud mouthed American army-style coach who shows you the ropes, before introducing you to the teams. It’s at this point that you take part in the first sport, Wake Racing, where you will climb onto your Jet Ski and take on the rest of the teams. Controlling the Jet Ski is easy enough; standing in front of Kinect you steer by pulling your left hand back to turn left and the right to turn right. You can also lean back or forward to perform tricks, while later on you can shout at Kinect to activate different power-ups depending on the model of jet ski you are using. I have to say that the motion controls in Wake Racing worked perfectly for me and I didn’t really have many issues at all once I’d learned what to do.

As the story progresses all of the aforementioned sports will unlock, each of which is easy to use and pretty much fault free as far as motion control is concerned. All of the sports are pretty fun. Climbing is probably one of the most difficult as you race to the top by pulling yourself and jumping up the mountain. Tennis is as straight forward as playing the real thing, as is bowling and Target Shooting, although the latter does throw some complications in your path, such as having you shoot targets in order or avoid certain targets altogether.

The only sport which is quite different from the real thing is football, which seems to work a little like Subbuteo. Here you start off as the goalkeeper, passing the ball to each member of the team, while trying to avoid the opposing players, who are sometimes stationary and sometimes move around at random. To score a goal you simply pass the ball, either in a standard way or by swerving or chipping it, before eventually getting it to the striker who’ll put it in the net providing you head or kick the ball with perfect timing in the correct direction. When defending the goal your only role is to block the ball from hitting the net, therefore the only player you control is the goalkeeper, which is a shame really as it would have been fun to get some tackles in as an outfield player. As with other sports there are power ups and different modes that you can play, however by far my most favourite feature about the football is being able to celebrate and watch the on screen avatar mimic your actions. 

Once you complete a mission in Rivals mode you’ll notice that you earn fans and gain experience. This allows you to customise your character by unlocking and purchasing new equipment, be that clothing, a new Jet Ski, different style of football, tennis rackets and more. I have to say that it’s nice to have some reward for your hard work and it’s important to be able to make your character feel that little bit more unique.

Away from the main story mode there are plenty of other ways to play. One such option comes courtesy of the companion app, Kinect Sports Rivals Hub, which allows you to challenge players and check out your progress via the leaderboards. Using the hub you’ll be able to take part in unique events and a monthly campaign for which Rare is promising prizes. Obviously I’ve yet to see the main benefits of Kinect Sports Hub as the game has not launched to the public at the time of writing and therefore I can’t comment on this feature too much.

One way to play which I can comment on is Quick Play mode. Choosing this option allows you to have up to four players take part in the sport of your choice. This will no doubt be an important feature for Rivals, since it’ll no doubt be the type of game that is pulled out mostly during social gatherings. In most sports on offer players will take turns at standing in front of Kinect, however in a few, such as Tennis, two players are able to game together and this is where the most fun is to be had.

So far I’ve gushed plenty of praise on the game, so now I’d like to get some of the things which frustrate off my chest. First up is the much lauded Create your Champion feature, which has you stand in front of Kinect in order for it to recreate you within the game. Now maybe I’m just too handsome for the camera to comprehend, but it seems to me like it just grabs a random avatar from within the game’s stockpile and just changes the features around a little at random, hoping that it’ll bare a slight resemblance to your true self. I tried this avatar creator on more than one occasion and each time got different results, despite using the same lighting conditions and trying at the same time of day. What’s more frustrating is that some of the characters it did come up with looked exactly like my rivals within the game. Now this would be a great feature if it worked, however I don’t feel that it’s as great as it’s made out to be.

Another frustration about Kinect Sports Rivals is that the story mode is a little lame. The characters in each team feel pretty much uninspired and seem to spout out uninteresting lines of dialogue pretty much every time they are on screen. This is almost certainly worse during the action, for example.. I’d just knocked down nine pins in bowling and was winning the frame by a clear 90 points and despite this was told that we’d no doubt lose (or something along those lines) because I’d missed the last pin. Throw in some of the loading times and the fact that there is no way a four year old could play some of the sports within this game (I understand it’s age rated 12 but my four year old did test it out and some actions are too complicated, so I thought it was worth pointing out) and that’s all my negative points out of the way.

Despite what I’ve just touched on, anyone looking for a great game to drag out at parties will no doubt love Kinect Sports Rivals. Each of the sports are great fun to play and all work well. I could have done without the cutscenes and story mode and certainly would have preferred to the option for every thing to be unlocked from the beginning, however I can’t fault the action one little bit.

Kinect Sports Rivals is what motion sport should have been all along. It works, has well designed environments and is packed full different sports and many ways to play them. I’m not sure it’s the sort of game that you’ll play constantly, however if you have friends or family around and are looking for something to amuse, then Rivals certainly fits the bill.

Words by Joe Anderson.
@_wotta | PSN/Xbox LIVE: wotta

(Version Tested: Xbox One)


+ Motion control works well
+ Good variety of sports
+ Plenty of different maps/game modes


- Create a Champion feature feels very random
- Perhaps a little too involved for younger children
- Story and characters are annoying
- Long load times

Edited On 07 Apr, 2014

( 5 )
Im Going Space's avatar
Im Going Space 5 years ago
im sure my nephew will love it still, as he is better at the kinect games than the rest of us
WBA Baracus's avatar
WBA Baracus 5 years ago
I have been quite impressed with the jet skiing in the demo over last few months, so despite reservations have this on pre-order. The main issue with demo was the restart time. The key with these types of game when trying to shave milli-seconds off your PB is instant restart. The demo certainly didn't, so shame it sounds like full games doesn't either. Must admit I was keen to try the Create a Champion feature too, so disappointed that seems not up to scratch too. Oh well, still give it a blast.
Anonymous user's avatar
kevin 5 years ago
This has been getting truly awful reviews from the looks of things. Scoring lower than even it's predecessors on 360. Seeing as this was the only announced title Microsoft had to justify the enforced bundling of Kinect 2.0 with the Xbox One as an actual device for gaming (Which is something they seriously should have done at the console's launch) it's unbelievable they felt they could get away with something as half assed as this seemingly is.
Dead's avatar
Dead 5 years ago
If by truly awful you mean slightly above average kevin, then yes it has
Anonymous user's avatar
stuart 5 years ago
Yeah the reviews I have seen have been about 6 and 7 ish which is above average like Gloria said. I could see some of the game modes being fun with friends when the price drops but for now I will pass. I am glad they went for more realistic avatars this time though.

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