With three sports titles available around the launch of Microsoft’s controller free device can Hudson’s Deca Sports Freedom offer something different compared to its rivals? With Rare’s highly polished and most popular offering being the pinnacle of sporting games thus far, Deca Sports presents some different events to make it stand out. The bottom line is, how well do the player movements hold up in the game, and more importantly, is playing the fun experience it purports to be?
Deca Sports has enjoyed some success on the Nintendo Wii platform, and so with the arrival of Kinect, this is Hudson’s first offering for the series. There are 10 distinct events on offer which include the wintry, Mogul Skiing, Snowcross and Ice Skating; the indoor events such as Dodgeball, Kendo and Boxing; outdoor events including Volleyball and tennis; and finally in a realm all on its own…paintball.
The game offers several modes of play for the lone player where you can embark on exhibition style matches of your choosing, with the option to tweak the game settings to your standard. To spice things up there’s a tournament mode where you can play the sport of your choice in a ladder type scenario against increasing difficulty opponents. Once you’ve beaten a tournament, you’ll unlock the next difficulty where once again you can choose the single event to show off. This mode is ideal for practising stronger events or even getting a feel for those you might be struggling with. Luckily before playing each event you’re able to check the tutorial which shows you what actions you need to perform. Sadly this is implemented very badly as the required actions are not shown to you other than during a loading screen. Lastly there’s versus and league modes which offer a more random element, whereby the computer chooses the events for you.
For the most part the moves you are required to perform and the on-screen actions are fairly tight, although in some events like the mogul skiing and Paintball the requirements are just too fiddly. Paintball perhaps garners the most criticism simply because what it aims to do and what actually happens are two different things. It’s interesting that an attempt was made at free roaming third person shooting, but the problem is the fiddly nature of the controls simply making it a chore to play rather than something novel and interesting. The skiing has you moving in the most unusual of manners, and could result in injury if performed over enthusiastically. Again, this perhaps boils down to the extremely uninformative tutorial simply not showing you what’s required properly.
When the game does work, then there’s some semblance of enjoyment to be had. Figure skating has you copy the icons on screen and hold various positions and is mildly amusing, the tennis on the other hand is more engaging although there’s a serious lack of player control. Simple movement is controlled by the AI and all you’re required to do is serve and return the ball. That said, the tennis event – which can also be played as doubles matches – is one of the best events on offer. The archery is another interesting event that is perhaps let down due to the method of control.Unlike the Paintball, you do get used to the input method and can work around it to have a fairly enjoyable experience. It’s interesting from a design perspective, why you’re required to turn slightly to the side of the screen to aim rather than face it head on especially as Kinect is well capable of tracking your outstretched hand as seen in the menus.
There’s an abundance of avatars on offer, which places it in the same realm as Kinect Sports. It seems avatars are the norm and probably require less resources than more detailed models. The event locations are average looking and perhaps a little uninspiring, but this is a sports game after all. Sadly there are only two camera views on offer, and in some instances more options would have been helpful as the two on offer don’t always do the job.
In terms of tracking, Kinect does a reasonable job, however seeing as this is subjective and solely based on how Kinect has been calibrated, then it’s difficult to assess. In game terms, Kinect’s tracking is mostly spot on although in reality there’s not much movement required from the player – compared to some of the other pieces of software available.
There’s a blistering soundtrack that loops over and over and completely takes you out of the game. It doesn’t change, it’s annoying and luckily can be turned off in the options. Sadly the rest of game’s audio is severely lacking. There’s no announcer or even commentators and the avatars are all mute. So you’re left with very little bar some crowd noises. Very poor overall.
With 10 events and various modes on offer, you’d think this is a game you’ll keep for a long time, whereas the reality is due to the game lacking certain elements – like consistent fun – means you’ll tire of its offering quickly. There’s a multiplayer option locally and online but with few contenders you’ll be hard pushed to make use of the online option unless you get friends to purchase the game as well.
Deca Sports Freedom is merely an O.K effort and one that fails to ignite any real passion. It’s not so much the selection of sports on offer, rather the poor implementation of actions and sheer lack of any atmosphere. You have to work a bit harder to get the most out of what’s on offer simply because the pick up and play element isn’t as forthcoming. In this regard it merely feels thrown together in haste with crucial ingredients like fun factor omitted, and thus making its competitors seem more desirable. If you’re looking to extend your Kinect library of games then Deca Sports will offer some mild entertainment, but really doesn’t have the legs to keep you entertained for weeks or months after purchase. A rental is probably your best bet.