With the Kinect launch lineup of games having several overlapped titles, two air board racers, two fitness games, two dance games and now two sports games with Kinect Sports from Rare and Motion Sports from Ubisoft Milan. Rare’s efforts are under the watchful eye of Microsoft whereas Ubisoft’s game is strictly third party. In this regard does the more realistic looking game come out on tops, or does the cute avatar drenched first party effort pip it to the post on all counts?
Where to start…Well as you would expect you’ve got several events to play which at first might seem quite enticing. The mix they’ve chosen are a blend of the obviously popular and the less obvious. Soccer and American football are perhaps the most popular sports, and so their representation here is guaranteed, however, the implementation offers a more simple and dissected approach to the sports. You’ll be required to perform penalty shoot outs, target practice on goals with the soccer, but the football offers a bit more variation. In this rendition of the sport you play in various scenarios related to the game rather than participating in matches. So it’s almost like doing exercises on the training ground. Here’s you’ll be sidestepping, jumping and ducking barriers, to throwing a pass to your receiver. It’s amusing and one of the better reaction based events on the disc, but gets dull very quickly.
If you tire of two feet firmly on the ground then there’s the rather novel hang gliding which is an interesting inclusion. It actually works quite well as you navigate your wings through hoops and then make a scored landing. It’s an neat way of using Kinect’s tracking, but despite the uniqueness of the event requires very little input from the player and makes a stark contrast to the other events which are a lot more active. It does work, but the whole set up is very vague and will probably confuse a lot of first time players. It’s like the developers simply throw you in to figure objectives out yourself via trial and error.
The horse riding is another area which is vague and has you show-jumping or racing. Again, like the hang gliding, it’s an interesting event to have, and it does actually work. You’ll be required to control the horse with simple arm movements with ducking and standing to perform jumps. You’ll also crack the reigns with arm movements to speed up your horse. The controls feel a bit twitchy here as it’s hard to turn and prep a jump whilst maintaining speed and will no doubt cause confusion amongst most pick and player participants.
The skiing is a welcome and natural feeling event as you lean, tuck and jump to navigate various events. It’s presented very well but the controls do feel a little too over sensitive at times making simple turns more tricky than they should be.
Motion Sports also features some six very different fighters in the boxing mode which is something than quite frankly needed a lot more testing so that it works. Of all the events this one becomes the most frustrating as it’s plagued with errors and inconsistencies. The biggest problem lies in the AI having an unfair advantage and then cheating to win. For some reason Kinect refuses to register your moves in this event, and it seems it happens at crucial moments during bouts. The opponents all seem to be able to block indefinitely, whereas if you do the same you get an unfair guard break, leaving you vulnerable to attack. As you progress through the fighters the number of attacks required to break your guard whittle down to just two, leaving you well at the mercy of 3 hit combos. The AI also has the knack to take half your health away with one or two blows, whereas it takes an age yo actually damage your opponents. The whole idea is half baked and because it doesn’t work very well is not worth taking seriously at all and is perhaps a bad advert for the capabilities of Kinect.
The game’s overall look is actually reasonable and on occasion can look half decent, although striving for a more realistic looking game means it’s not a patch on more traditional sporting titles. The aforementioned boxers in the boxing event look painfully ugly, and the general levels of polish for all the models and backgrounds quite low. The menu navigation in particular is very long winded and dull, which when coupled with some incredibly poor loading puts a dampener on the the experience. Sometimes you might want to easily jump in and play, and sadly this fails at providing this option. What is amusing are the various photos you the game takes when you beat events. It’s here where you can pull silly poses and view your gallery in the extras. The tracking is in general quite good, although ultimately let down by the boxing and events which are less responsive.
The audio is pretty expected, with some ambient audience noise to fill the void and an announcer who comments on your actions. He tends to get rather annoying but is a requirement for adding some much needed atmosphere to proceedings. There’s not much else to say about the audio other than it does the basic job it sets out to do.
Motion Sports features a system where you gain notoriety within the various sporting events by scoring highly and acquiring medals. As your rating increases, more events within the sports are unlocked. You can also tackle events in split-screen or by taking turns with up to four players locally which is good for party play. However the serious nature and poor loading times makes playing in a group less exciting than it could have been. It will take an afternoon of dedicated playing to see most of what’s on offer here, but gaining high scores, or beating all options will take a lot longer. The question will arise whether you’ll want to endure or not.
On paper Motion Sports sounds like a good idea, with a wide variety of events to rival Kinect Sports. Whilst some events do stand out like the hang gliding and horse racing, the one’s with the most potential are either broken or lacking in the fun factor. In fact, this sentiment can be found throughout the entire game. Where Kinect Sports offers a fun party like take on sporting action, Motion sports goes the other way and simply feels boring in comparison. That said, if you have a serious bunch of friends who are after some competitive action then there’s something to be gained from this title. If unresponsive controls, badly realised events, cheating AI and some tedious navigation appeals to you then Motion Sports is worth picking up. A rental at best.