Xbox One owners can download a version of Kinect Sports: Rivals right now free of charge. It is being called the “Preseason”, and all that’s included is the Xbox version of Wave Race. I’ve played this mode a few times, and while I think the foundation is there for a quality motion controls experience, Kinect 2.0 simply doesn’t work as well as advertised.
Kinect Sports: Rivals upgrades the art style from the simple Avatars from the Xbox 360 days to cartoony visuals that have more definition and are more refined. The visuals, overall, are underwhelming; this is a theme throughout most of the early Xbox One and PS4 games I am coming to discover.
It’s not that I don’t like the art style, but I just want more from my eighth gen consoles. Visually, it’s hard to see very many improvements from the Xbox 360 Kinect Sports games. There are slight visual upgrades; more detailed water physics, more polished look overall…but at the end of the day, still disappointing when it comes purely to visuals.
I think that the presentation is, overall, pretty good. The menus are slick, and if it is any indication of the final product that will be available in a few months, Kinect Sports: Rivals will have a very clean and appealing look when it comes to the menus.
Kinect 2.0 simply does not work very well with this mode. Like I said, it’s basically Wave Race. Players race on jetskis through courses set in the water, hitting ramps, boosts, and the like. Various hazards such as mines make the proceedings a bit more interesting, but the course that is made available in this game is not very exciting. It’s too barebones. The point of the Kinect Sports Preseason was to sell the game to people when it comes out in a few months, and on that end, I think that it fails miserably.
Of course, Microsoft couldn’t give away a more appealing mini-game like bowling, or else people probably wouldn’t bother buying the full game anyway. However, I found this mode almost broken. It was picking up my motions, but not always accurately. For a racing game, this can create a lot of unnecessary frustration. Remember when Wave Race played fine back in the day with a controller? Yeah, me too. Are motion controls necessary here? Do they improve the experience? I don’t think so, so that begs the question, what’s the point?
Speaking of the other sports, however, Kinect Sports: Rivals is boasting a variety of other mini-games to fill out its roster of game modes. There will be bowling, rock climbing, soccer, target shooting, and tennis as well.
Bowling has been in just about every sports mini-game compilation since Wii Sports created the genre in 2006. Soccer has been done in Kinect Sports in the past, as has tennis. They are fine game modes and I’m sure that they will actually be a lot more functional than this jetski racing nonsense. Given the jetski racing’s over the top presentation with the mines and all the ridiculous powerups, I am interested to see if Kinect Sports: Rivals will take a similar approach to the more traditional sports games that are in its lineup.
Relatively unexplored territory comes from rock climbing and target shooting. Yes, target shooting has been done with motion controls before for better or worse, but we currently have no idea what form the sport will take in Kinect Sports: Rivals. Even though the game is near the end of its development cycle, we’ve only really been shown the jetski racing and CGI trailers like the ones shown at E3.
Rock climbing has been a sport that has been heavily used in the game’s marketing, however. The E3 trailer featured rock climbing quite a bit. I am curious to see how functional this is. I’m not faulting the Kinect 2.0 for the poor controls in the jetski racing necessarily, because I’ve seen for myself that the device can do cool things now and then, but I have yet to see something substantial from Kinect Sports: Rivals that proves that point. Maybe rock climbing is the ticket.
The leveling system from the earlier games returns in Kinect Sports: Rivals. Players are scored based on how well they do in each mini-game, which in turn earns them “fans”, which basically serve as XP in the game. We’ll have to wait and see what all of this unlocks when the full version releases.
Some of the cooler Kinect features that have been mentioned with Kinect Sports: Rivals aren’t available for use in the demo. That’s another reason why I feel the demo is lacking and not as sharp as it should be in order to sell people on the full game in a few months. I have faith that the finished product may turn out a lot better than what is displayed in the “Preseason”.
Kinect Sports: Rivals, despite my current worries and issues I have with the game, is undoubtedly one of the more important games in the Xbox One lineup. The game is part of a franchise that has sold millions, and it is being developed by the very talented people at Rare. With Nintendo pretty much forgoing the genre with the exception of Wii Sports Club, this leaves the door wide open for Microsoft to try to steal the casual space that Nintendo hugely controlled with the original Wii system and the “Wii” series of games.
Originally slated as a launch title (there’s even a picture of it with the “DAY ONE 2013″ emblem on the cover floating around on the Internet — guess Rare was too busy helping with Killer Instinct to finish this game in time), Kinect Sports: Rivals has been pushed into early to mid 2014, probably for the better. At this stage, the game needs serious work, which is clearly evident by this demo. In the meantime, there’s not a whole lot of games that make Kinect worthwhile, and it doesn’t look like Kinect Sports: Rivals will be the game that makes Xbox One’s Kinect an actual selling point for the system.