Over three years ago the world was introduced into the realm of full-body motion control for video games. As one of Microsoft’s in-house studios, Rare was set the task of leading the new control method and created Kinect Sports. At first, Kinect (or Project Natal as it was previously known), was showcased as a powerhouse in terms of its pinpoint accuracy and realistic one-to-one body capture. However, the end product didn’t quite match the hype.
Instead of having a high amount of precision, the original Kinect Sports provided sluggish control and glitchy representations of movements the player was actually supposed to accomplish. It was still pretty awesome to see your digital hand move if you slowed down enough, but beyond the first-time thrill of controlling menu screens or jumping in the air like a lunatic to avoid obstacles, Kinect 1.0 just wasn’t powerful enough.
Enter Kinect 2.0, which is bundled with every Xbox One console; whether you like it or not, Kinect has become an Xbox staple and in my opinion that’s better than no Kinect at all. Not only has the sensor become smarter, recognising your fingers and facial movements, it’s also gotten a lot faster and closely resembles what we’ve always imagined Kinect to become. It might not be fully-blown Minority Report just yet, but it’s close enough.
Rare have been busy in the meantime, playing with the new hardware and creating their Next-Gen vision for accurate motion control with Kinect Sports Rivals. The team here at Start Replay first had a chance to get ‘hands-on’ with KSR during Gamescom 2013, and after being initiated into the world of rock climbing and wake racing, we were left incredibly impressed with what they had accomplished. Now we’ve had time with the entire product, and though we were sometimes met with mixed results, overall our experience was anything but great fun.
So let’s get down to the details of which sports are available this time around, as well as how they control. Before you embark on your fitness regime, your first task is to let the Kinect sensor scan your body and face. This was probably my most memorable experience of KSR last year, as it showcased just how accurate the hardware was at creating a virtual representation of yourself, with scarily-realistic results. There’s no denying that you’re once again going to need the space to enjoy this game, but once you’ve figured that out, nothing will stop you.
Stand up straight, legs apart and put those arms out in front of you with clenched fists, now you’re ready for a bit of Jet Skiing. Essentially trying to mimic how you would actually act on a Jet Ski, you’re given a wide open course to travel across. If you want to turn left or right, then just imagine you’re doing so in real life, albeit without the actual grips, pulling each hand back depending on where you want to go. It’s your aim to avoid mines, pull-off stunts and navigate through checkpoints.
Getting around the course proved not too much of a problem, as the camera detected my movements rather precisely, even if I did have the occasional hiccup with going in a straight line. Once you gain the ability to use power-ups, through either laying mines or gaining a speed boost, you can then initialise it with a stomp of your foot or voice activation. Wake racing was definitely one of my most fun experiences out of all the games available and I’m sure you’ll agree once you try it yourself.
Make sure to stretch those arms, you’re going to need as much flexibility as you can get. I love rock climbing in real life, but if I was poor then climbing in KSR would probably be the best alternative – next to climbing your local buildings, which I’d strongly disagree with. As expected your arms are key to this activity, and as Kinect 2.0 can locate them with a high amount of precision, it’s an extremely satisfying feeling climbing a virtual rock face hundreds of feet above the ground, I genuinely didn’t want to fall off.
As you reach up with your arm, clench your fist and pull down. Keeping your fist clenched by your waist, raise up your other arm and repeat the motion. Over the course of each level there will be varying degrees of difficulty, making you move side-ways and at certain points even forcing you to jump up high to reach a set of grips above you. I found myself pull down too fast in order to try and gain a lead when playing against a foe, but if they got ahead, I just reached out and pulled them off; don’t worry, they’ll only explode into pixels.
I have to admit I was disappointed not being able to try out this activity in the Gamescom build of the game, as I had high hopes for the mode, but unfortunately they weren’t met once I did eventually used my hand as the barrel of a gun.
As you’d expect, target shooting involves hitting a series of moving or still targets. I would’ve thought there might’ve been something intricate to the control method – perhaps pulling a virtual trigger whilst aiming – but all you have to do is point at the screen and aim. It wasn’t quite as I expected, and boy did my arm hurt afterwards, but as tame as the challenge was I did have a little fun keeping my precision
It was silly to expect Kinect’s version of soccer to give me precise control over a football, but instead of running around a virtual pitch, I was guided to the position I had kicked my ball, giving me a chance to aim and take another shot straight after.
Perhaps I’m expecting too much, especially considering there’s a limited amount of space the camera can detect, but at least I could aim the ball where I wanted it and that’s what counts. Once I arrived at the goal it was up to my judgement as to where the goal keeper would dive, and even though I’m not a loyal follower in the real world, KSR soccer was a fun enough experience to warrant a return.
If you’re like me, you’ll no doubt have fond memories of your first time bowling on the Nintendo Wii, but when I was faced with bowling without a controller, I wasn’t too sure about the results. Nonetheless I embraced the chance to use my imagination and fling my fist at the TV.
As if it were any easier, once you grab the bowling ball you can then shuffle left or right, aiming down the lane and then proceeding by swinging and releasing your grip to send the ball flying. Although I was a little skeptical, I was pleasantly surprised by the precision my virtual doppelgänger was capable of. If I could play the sport as well as I did in the game, then perhaps I might get somewhere, but without filling my ego too much, I did enjoy trying different techniques and aiming for a strike.
Similar to soccer, a game of tennis will have your character move by itself in order to get into position, so don’t worry too much about running around like a mad man. Once in position you’re then required to simply strike the ball in whichever direction you deem necessary.
I was once again satisfied with the level of precision I was capable of performing, however I did ‘accidently’ hit my teammate once or twice. It wasn’t personal, though upon reflection, I think it kind of was.
This copy of Kinect Sports Rivals was provied to us by Microsoft*
- + Most sports provide precise and accurate results
- + KSR is the perfect game to show the potential of Kinect 2.0
- + Creating your character is surreal
- - No matter how much more powerful, the new Kinect still struggles at certain points
- - You’ll need the space, otherwise you’ll be left out of the game