It finally works as advertised.
Microsoft continues to try and push Kinect as an imperative peripheral for their Xbox machines. Until the release of the Xbox One, I never thought that was possible. The original device was novel, but lacked the technology or horsepower to really make it feel required to the experience. Kinect Sports Rivals is the closest they have come to selling me on the device. Not only is it extremely accurate, but the events are also legitimately entertaining. Sure, I have seen some of these tricks before, but the new ones hold their own, making this a nice showpiece for the device.
My experience started off by the game scanning in my face and body to create a digital version of my out-of-shape self. It kept telling me the lighting wasn’t ideal, but it never stopped me from moving forward. Much to my surprise, the in-game version of myself was pretty accurate. They even added my glasses, knowing I had to take them off to scan my face. It was almost uncanny seeing my digital self perform some of the tasks.
Rivals also has a focus on story, which is a weird departure for a motion-controlled sports game. Thankfully it isn’t forced or even all that exciting, but it is interesting to see it here regardless.
The focus quickly shifts to the events. After getting scanned in, the tutorial begins by tossing me into the wave racing portion. The controls are really well done, but I had to adjust to not steering like I was driving a car. Opening and closing my hand served as the accelerator, while pushing my arms forward and back handled the steering. Think of it like riding a bicycle and you get the idea. The voice controls also come into play by allowing me to use my power-ups. I never had much issue with it recognizing me, as long as I was far enough away. A word to the wise – two feet is not enough room to maneuver in any of these events.
The most disappointing sections are tennis and bowling; not because they aren’t fun, but because they feel almost identical to what Wii Sports offered so many years ago. There are nuances to both not found in that version, but it never feels like anything more than a glorified clone.
Rock climbing is the most unique, and definitely the focus of the package. The motion of moving each hand and leg independently with power-ups and other climbers attempting to take me down was intense. I easily had the most fun with this event, and again the Kinect rarely served as an obstacle. Almost every action I performed manifested on the screen with little lag or hiccup.
The forgettable event comes in the form of soccer. While it sounds great in theory, the execution is seriously flawed. Even with tons of room passes never felt organic, and it simply resulted in the most frustration I had with the title. It is easily the black sheep of the family here.
Sharpshooting is exactly what I expected. I hold my hand like a gun and fire; nothing more, nothing less. Again the controls worked perfectly, but this event wore out its welcome quickly.
This left me with the usual suspects. There are definitely some great events here; Rock Climbing and Wave Racing easily stand out as my favorites. It was nice to throw down bowling and tennis again, while soccer and sharpshooting rarely get any play time from me unless they are required. The package feels great with just a few shortcomings.
Visually the style is very much over-the-top. Lots of bright colors and extreme designs flood every area. Some of the effects are gorgeous though, such as some particle effects and that water. I never noticed much of an issue with the frame rate, and the refreshing color palette helps keep things from feeling stagnate.
Kinect Sports Rivals isn’t going to sell anyone on an Xbox One, or even Kinect for that matter, but it is definitely the best use of the device to date. For those looking for a fun way to get active with their new $500 machine, this is the best example of it yet. I love Rare, and think they still make some of the best software. Rivals definitely feels polished and carrying that quality. Now please let them get back to work on a new Conker game.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.