Review: Kinect Sports Rivals – Finally, a Reason to Dust off Your Kinect

Time to get off the couch and compete. When the Xbox One first released we were all patiently looking forward for the right game to truly put the Kinect through its paces. Kinect Sports Rivals will make you jump, swing and fingerpistol against your friends. You may also burn a calorie or two.

First thing you should know is that Kinect Sports Rivals requires the Kinect sensor in order to play. Be warned that you need a lot of room. Many of the activities require lateral movement and even more so if you’re playing with a friend. In my bedroom I had it set up at six feet away from my Kinect sensor.

As a new arrival to the Island where Eagle Legion, Wolf Clan and Viper Network compete in what seems like endless competition, you’re enlisted to help in a number of different events. Impressing teams not only gets you cred but also cash rewards and fans; the former used to unlock all sorts of apparel and gear in the in-game store. The Team Story is silly and filled with characters who take jet skiing and rock climbing way too seriously. Consider this preparation for when you’re ready for action online.

Games like tennis and soccer will have you jumping side to side. If you plan playing with more people, be ready to move the action to the living so you don’t end up hitting a loved one with an errant backhand.

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There are six games that emphasize the different parts of your anatomy needed to bowl, play soccer or rock climb. Here’s a quick rundown on all the game types:

Wave Race: Grab your pretend handlebars and race your jet ski. Exaggerated leans and turns of your body are encouraged to nail hairpin turns while leaning back will result in a killer back flip. Warning though, playing more than 5 minutes will tire your outstretched arms.

Tennis: If you played virtual tennis on let’s say, a console by Nintendo, you’ll know how it works. This time though, you’ll have to do more than flick your wrists. The full range of movement needed to chase down volleys leave room for openings for the perfect shot.

Bowling: Another great game. You grab your ball, line up your body with the arrows on the lane, swing your back and let her rip. Your release and wrist movement dictate how much back spin you give the ball. It does take a couple of frames to really to nail down the arm swing and follow through.

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Rock Climbing: The most physically strenuous of the lot. I found this to be when the Kinect was most often finicky. In order to grip the hold you have to close your hand while reaching out, then pull in the direction you want to head to. There’s a rhythm that needs to be accomplished in order to reach the summit. Other players can grab your ankles if you’re too slow and send your virtual champion plummeting to his doom.

Target Shooting: Your index finger acts as a pistol as you fire at a variety of targets that pop on-screen. One cool thing is once you score enough points you can activate a turret that fires on your opponent. You’re also vulnerable to a turret strike which means you’ll have to move to body out of the way to avoid fire. Meanwhile, the targets you’re firing at will increase in difficulty.

Soccer: Hands down the most fun. It’s a essential a shoot-out mode where you take turns alternating between the goalie and the attacker. Attackers make a series of passes that charge the ball until you’re to take a shot at the goal. The key is having your leg linger left or right to get the ball passed to the goalie.

Overall, Wave Race and rock climbing are novel ideas but difficult to actually play. Bowling, Target Shooting, Soccer and Tennis are what people are going to be excited to play. As impressive as the new Kinect is, there are still times where the Kinect just loses track of you, although it’s less often than its predecessor.

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With online matches, setting one is pretty simple: pick the game you want to play and you’ll be matched up in seconds. I enjoyed any mode where it’s just me and some random guy online. Tennis and Soccer feel the most competitive online with a healthy amount of trash talking. Matches go by quick and the number of champions to face online seem to be plentiful even though I was playing a pre-release copy.

Call me a cynic but one of Kinect Sports Rivals‘ most impressive traits is that the Kinect actually works fairly well. I guess after all this time of feeling in constant odds with my old Kinect sensor, it’s finally nice to see the hardware work the way we were promised so many E3s ago on the Xbox One.

What truly is the most groundbreaking feature, however, is its robust avatar generator. It only takes a couple of minutes — all you really need to do is just stand there while the generator works its magic. The result is a champion that is eerily similar to you. Of course your champion has a lot more of a flattering physique than the real life counterpart. I’d love to see future games take advantage of the Kinect’s face scanning features. I kept thinking about how great the next epic RPG would be if it accurately captured my face to replace the main character. I took a short video of the process, mind the dancing.

Kinect Sport Rivals gave me a renewed faith for the Kinect. What Rare did was show us the technology works. Finally we’ve got a fun party game for the Xbox One that’s easy to pick up if you have the space. It’s not perfect but the title atones for past motion control sins. Most importantly, it gives us confidence for the hardware’s future.

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