Accessible sports games have become the staple launch app for motion-sensing hardware. Nintendo and Sony introduced their arm-waving tech with Wii Sports and Sports Champions, respectively, and now Kinect has hopped onto the virtual ball-tossing bandwagon with Kinect Sports and MotionSports. While we had mixed feelings about the former’s sometimes wonky controls and me-too minigames, it shines like a true Hall-of-Famer next to the latter’s frustration-over-fun gameplay.
Before we get to its flaws, though, MotionSports should be recognized for getting a few things right. For starters, it adopts a more realistic presentation, forgoing the usual mii- and avatar-inspired cuteness in favor of a look that will appeal to the same fanbase annually placing Madden preorders. It also makes inventive use of player photos and video: rather than simply showing embarrassing post-game shots like most Kinect launch entries, it incorporates them into the action, putting your picture in the hands of adoring fans, on the front of the sports’ page, or on a live-feed monitor. Ubisoft Milan also changes up the familiar formula by including fewer mainstream entries, such as hang gliding, horseback riding, and skiing. All are welcome additions to the growing-stale motion sports genre and, when working properly, yield a get-off-the-couch good time. Unfortunately, MotionSport’s Kinect mechanics are some of the most unresponsive we’ve experienced, siphoning much of the fun from our living room Olympics.
On top of the aforementioned trio of gamepad-absent activities, MotionSports also includes boxing, soccer, and football. Sadly, the first two are handled much better in Kinect Sports, boasting better interfaces and more intuitive controls. Whether you’re completely missing kicks you’re certain you’ve connected with or getting KO’d because your punches aren’t landing where intended, both infuriate with lag, imprecision, and a general lack of player-directed control. Football suffers from similar control issues, as well as a truncated taste of the gridiron action; you see, rather than putting you in an actual game, you’re tasked with football-flavored minigames such as passing, dodging and kicking challenges. If supported by spot-on controls, these activities might be enough to sustain pigskin players. However, coupled with the lazy inputs, this sparse mode winds up looking like an afterthought that should have been benched.
Not surprisingly, it’s the fresher entries that kept us kicking and flailing the most. Make no mistake: their controls are wildly unpredictable as well, but at least we experienced something new when they were working properly. Hurtling down a ski slope by crouching, executing a whipping motion to accelerate your horse, and lowering your arms to perfect a hang gliding nosedive are all pretty thrilling moves that certainly hint at the promise MotionSports holds. There’s no doubt we had a blast with this latest limb-flailing entry when it was firing on all cylinders.
It’s this teasing potential, however, that makes MotionSports’ failure such a disappointment. Had the Kinect features been polished as well as they were for some of the better launch titles, its more novel ideas and new takes on underrepresented sports really could have stood out. But with controls that seemingly do whatever they want - not what the player directs - it’s hard to recommend, especially when Kinect Sports, flaws and all, produces a much more immersive experience on your pricey new hardware. If your biggest complaint about previous such entries is that they didn’t include horseback riding, hang gliding or skiing, then MotionSports might get you in front of the TV for a weekend of flawed fun. Otherwise, we suggest leaving this one on the sidelines.
Nov 16, 2010