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Back before the Wii came out, many gamers gleefully imagined the immersion and fun that motion controls could bring, while those more cynical saw it as a gimmick or something that would make you look silly. Yet how many of us predicted that some games would turn motion control into a physical chore? Again and again we’re seeing games labeled as “wrist ruining,” yet developers still aren’t getting the hint.
With any multi-event sports game, you’re virtually guaranteed to get a mix of horrible events, mediocre events, and at least a few decent or good events. With Winter Sports you get exactly one decent event, and if you’re not the type that’s patient with hyper-sensitive controls, that number drops to zero.
The warning signs begin with the opening cinematic. It’s ridiculously long and seems in awe of its own spectacle, yet the graphics are horrendous in a way that actually makes your eyeballs bored. Throughout the game you’re treated to close-ups of character models that look like mannequins that some teenagers stole, then slopped with makeup and beat with aluminum bats, before leaving them out to partially melt in the sun. The presentation makes clear this game was either rushed or lazily slapped together. Even the default sound balance is off - you can’t hear what the announcers are saying over the music.
Winter Sports claims to have 9 different events, but Skeleton, Bobsleigh and the Luge are exactly the same, while Speed Skating and Cross Country Skiing are extremely similar. So really you get 6 distinct modes of play. The sled events are entertaining for exactly one run - then the can-you-stay-on-rails gameplay tires your mind while the cranking motion to launch your sled tires your arm. Ski Jump lasts for 10 seconds, yet manages to be boring. Speed Skating involves furious controller-swinging that will put your brain to sleep and your arms to rubber before you finish the first lap. Cross Country skiing is slightly more interesting, but nearly the same thing. Curling has a confusing, inconsistent mechanic for sliding the stone, and then asks you to sweep like you’re a janitor tasked to clean a building that’s on fire. Figure skating is a flat-out insult to the word “gameplay” - the only thing you do is shake each controller to a rhythm, using a slapping motion that has nothing to do with figure skating.
And then there are the skiing events - Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G and Downhill. They all control the same, but involve different technique and rhythm. At first, the controls feel impossibly sensitive, but if you give it time, you’ll find an amazingly subtle and natural control scheme, one that seems to have no place amongst the garbage that fills the rest of the game. If the developers had ditched the whole concept and just made a skiing game using these controls (with some SSX-style mountain-roaming thrown in) they would have had a decent, if not even awesome game.
At 30 bucks Winter Sports isn’t remotely worth the money. You could get a decent rental out of it - get some friends together, laugh at each other while doing the crap events once each, then play the skiing parts until Lost is on.
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