Kinect Sports: Season Two Review
Written : Tuesday, October 25, 2011
By: Dan Webb (GT: Webb x360a)
Microsoft’s answer to Wii Sports, the aptly named Kinect Sports: Season Two, sees the Kinect flagship game back this year for another attempt to attempt to cement Microsoft's device in every family home as the new go-to toy. Why they called it Season Two and not Kinect Sports 2 though, we’ll never know. With six new sports to try your hand at, more integrated voice-control and a handful of refinements and techniques used to get the best out of Kinect, it’s time for you to get your sport on all over again. While the original Kinect Sports hardly blew us away, it was a fun Kinect title in short bursts, but does the sequel have the staying power and depth to remain a mainstay for more than a few hours and the odd family party? The short answer is no. The long answer is…
The collaboration between Rare and Big Park looks to bring you six more sports into your living room: American Football, skiing, darts, tennis, golf and baseball; with the usual array of mini-games to accompany them. The big advancement tech-wise in Kinect Sports: Season Two is the utilisation of the Kinect voice-control, but unlike Dance Central 2 and Forza 4, where it makes sense and works perfectly, the game actually makes you repeat yourself on numerous occasions, as if it’s been programmed with the hearing of a 90-year old pensioner!
"A good walk ruined."
Aside from the voice-control tech though, the biggest advancement for the franchise here is quite clearly its online multiplayer over Xbox Live, allowing players to play the title’s six sports against friendly and not-so-friendly competition, something that adds another element to the franchise and boosts its longevity in the right direction. In addition to that, players can also issue ‘challenges’ to friends in which they compete in a one-off head-to-head in one of the title’s mini-games. A simple, but great addition from Big Park and Rare, and one that’ll allow you to take up some competition against friends without having to synchronise your schedules before hand.
In terms of the sports, as far as we’re concerned the prize champion of Kinect Sports: Season Two is the darts, surprisingly. It’s Wii Sports and Kinect Sports bowling all over again and really paints the future of Kinect in a much better light. Able to detect slight movements and requiring a steady hand, it’s a game of 501s here and the game works as delightfully as you’d imagine. Being able to calibrate the board at different heights makes it easy for people of all ages and statures to jump in too, although the game does suffer from the odd hiccup when aiming for long periods with the cursor shifting an inordinate amount of space as if something interfered with the sensor. That aside, Kinect Sports: Season Two’s darts is a welcome addition to the franchise and its ability to pick up the slight movements of the hand when aiming point to some intriguing possibilities for Kinect.
Then there’s the American Football, or as I like to call it, Kinect Sports: Season Two’s shovelware. In no way as innovative or as addictive as last year’s “soccer,” the American Football is completely pointless. The mode basically consists of you running on the spot, choosing plays, bending over, pretending to throw a ball and then running on the spot again. Oh, and you can kick too – either a punt or a field-goal. There’s no defence. It’s just not that much fun and it's poorly executed.
"Swing badabadabadabada! Suh-wing bada!"
Not much better than the American Football is the title’s skiing disciplines. Skiing doesn’t fit for different reasons though. It’s not that the tech doesn’t work – you basically lean forward and side to side – or that it’s responsive, because it is, but in a bid to not overcomplicate things Rare and Big Park have made it so you can’t really go wrong, which makes it get boring quick. In the main skiing events you basically lean forward and lean left and right to control your Avatar through the gates, but because it’s a case of skiing in either the right or left channels, it’s easy to flick back and forth, and truthfully, there’s just not enough of a challenge. However, if you want a challenge, the discipline’s mini-game might have you covered there in a Krypton Factor-style ski run of sorts.
Then there’s the baseball, which although slightly more involved than the Wii’s version from back in 2006, it’s not really that much of an advancement. The pitching basically boils down to you choosing whether you want to throw it hard or soft, and either straight or with swerve on it, while the hitting is all down to timing. Unlike the Wii version from five years ago, you actually have to catch as well now, and if you don’t nail that home run you’ll be forced to run on the spot to make the first base – which is as laboured and forced as it sounds. The baseball isn’t necessarily a bad discipline per se, but it’s been done elsewhere before and considering it’s been half a decade since Nintendo did it, not much has really advanced. Plus, it’s a great way to throw your shoulder out.
In for table tennis this year, as an almost carbon copy of the sport, is your bog standard lawn tennis, but the problem here is that it reeks of Big Park more than Rare. Why, you ask? Simple, it got to the point where I was that uninspired by the whole thing I simply held the racquet out and I was still able to maintain a rally without a backswing – which reminds me of that godawful Kinect Joy Ride video where the player didn’t do anything and still came third in the race. There is enough depth for you to add backspin and topspin with your arm movements and stepping into the shots add more power, but in truth, it’s actually a step backwards from last year’s table tennis. It may have shaken off all the latency issues, but that’s only because it’s a much slower paced sport.
"You can't beat a bit of Bully."
Last, but by no means least is Kinect Sports: Season Two’s golf; a mode that although relatively shallow, can be a hell of a lot of fun. We call it shallow for one main reason, it seems like there’s only really three ways to hit the ball – short swing, medium swing and big swing. Everything you’d expect from a golf game is there though, from being able to check clubs and having to account for wind, to the ability to take practice swings and being able to view a preview of the hole; and with 9 holes with water hazards, dog legs and sand traps galore, there’s some serious fun to be had.
As far as the achievements go, Kinect Sports: Season Two’s are a lot more accessible for the masses this time around, with only the odd few requiring an insane level of speed, reflexes, agility and dexterity. Yes, some will require skill and patience – especially some of the mini-game ones – but the rest are all pretty much awarded for performing a unique act within the game’s six sports – so like a hole-in-one in golf, kicking a 40-yard field goal in American Football, throwing a 9 dart finish in darts and so on. In fact, there’s that much thought and creativity gone into the list that I’d go out on a limb and say that this is quite easily one of the most well thought out achievement lists of the year.
The problem with Kinect Sports: Season Two in hindsight really boils down to the selection of sports that Microsoft, Rare and Big Park have attempted to revolve the entire game around. Tennis is just a poorer form of the original’s table tennis, while American Football is just a complete waste of time and skiing is far too on-rails and simple that it’s not really going to grab your attention for more than a few runs. On the other hand though, the baseball is fun in short bursts, while the golf and darts really drag the game from the bottom of the barrel to resemble a game that people might want to play. There may be enough here to keep the family interested over Christmas, but if we’re being perfectly frank, we’d be more inclined to go back to the original for our festive fun than slap down £40 or $60 on this bad boy.
Mr X-Factor is back with his intros and so are the short licensed music bursts, which complements the action on-screen almost perfectly. It’s too few and far between though and there’s a lot of dead air.
The cute comic styling and Xbox Live Avatars are back once again. Colourful and decent enough.
Depending on what sport you play depends on how well it plays. Some are too simple, others control with sublime ease, while others are just a complete waste of space. There’s just not enough depth all round, in truth.
It really is a mixed bag here. A couple of sports that are godawful, a couple that are passable and a couple that are buckets of fun. It’s a step down from last year, but competitive online play is a solid addition.
Diverse, balanced and uber amounts of fun. Kudos Rare and Big Park, you’re really getting the hang of this achievement malarkey.
Kinect Sports: Season Two is a fairly mediocre follow-up to the original not so much in terms of content, but the sports you’re left to play and how they play. Online play is a great addition, as is more voice control, and the darts and the golf are great fun while they last, but the skiing is way too simple, American Football is dire, tennis is a substandard version of table tennis from the original and baseball is barely passable. So yeah, not exactly blowing us away.