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Kinect Sports Season 2

 

Kinect Sports Season 2

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Sports
 
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Kinect Sports Season Two

Features:

- Includes six all new sports to play
- Controller-free play (Kinect Required)
- In-game voice controls
- Challenge play over Xbox Live
- 1-4 players local / 2 players online
- Co-operative Play
- 1080p HDTV Support

It seems as if the motion controlled sports game is the tech demo staple of any motion control technology. We saw it with Wii Sports and both the PS3 and Xbox followed suit with their own motion controlled “sports” games when their respective motion controls came out. Marking almost a year to do the day that the Xbox Kinect was released is the release of the second Kinect Sports title: Kinect Sports Season Two. With an all-new set of sports, let’s find out how Season Two plays.

Graphics

Younger players won’t notice or care but I could not believe the amount of jaggies I see in Kinect Sports Season Two. The game’s cartoony look is fine. It works well with the use of player avatars. Everything moves along swimmingly. The sense of speed in skiing for example is good. The environments are nicely detailed and offer a nice sense of scale (see the football stadium and mountain slopes in skiing for good examples). The colours are bright and vibrant and capture the player’s attention. There are some decent textures too. For example, the dart board features good texturing that really makes it look like it is made of felt.

Sound

When it comes to how Kinect Sports Season Two sounds a few things stick out and the rest is a mixed bag of average. Some of the attention to detail impressed me. Darts, for example, even features the sound of the darts hitting the wire dividers on the board or each other. The announcer has that British accent that you’ve likely heard when watching TSN on a Saturday or Sunday morning. This will be likely lost on the younger crowd whose attention on Saturday mornings is on cartoons instead. Beyond this, the inclusion of a few musical tracks surprised me a little bit. I won’t ruin any surprises but they were good for a laugh. Everything else is passable but decidedly average.

Gameplay

I only recently got myself a Kinect (much to the joy of our Editor-In-Chief). I’ve played Wii Sports and I reviewed Sports Champions. Playing this one was one of my first experiences with the Kinect hardware. A sequel to last year’s Kinect Sports, Season Two brings a number of new elements to the table. Most notable are the six entirely new sports to play. In this package you get football, baseball, downhill skiing, golf, tennis and darts. Interesting choices to say the least. Why? While all new to the series, a few of these sports have been done before. If you’re a multiple console owner like me chances are you might have played something awfully similar before.

Season Two brings actual voice controls to Kinect Sports while playing. One of the more underrated features of the Kinect is its voice recognition. It is something that other motion control options just don’t have. Sure it is cool to navigate menus with your voice but Season Two integrates voice control right into the game play. You can choose which clubs to use in the golf game, actually say “Ready, Hut!” to hike the ball in football and call for an objection if you don’t like a call while playing tennis. There are commands for each of the sports but these are the ones that I had the most fun with. It is nice to see the developers putting voice control to good work here.

In Football you simply play offence. You hike the ball, wait for a receiver to get open (no running plays) and throw the ball to one of the three receivers. Your arm motion dictates which receiver you are throwing to (left, right or straight). Once you have the ball in your possession you run on the spot to advance down the field. There doesn’t appear to be any reward for running as fast as you can though because there is no apparent change in running speed. Tackles seem arbitrary. They just sort of happen or they don’t. The same thing on kick returns. You simply run straight forward with no controls to juke left or right. Imagine being able to juke, jump or even pull off a spin move. That sort of depth to the game play would have impressed me more.

Baseball involves pitching and catching. Similar throwing passes in Football, you simply throw the ball when pitching. It isn’t necessary to make an actual pitching motion like you see on tv. Just throw the ball. You can cross your body with your arm to throw a curve. Throw straight for a fastball. The game gives you revealing hints about the batter which will help the younger players. These hints make it a bit too easy for an adult gamer though. You also field but it is nothing more than reaching out to an on-screen cue point to catch a ball. Batting is pretty much what you’d expect. You’ve done this before in Wii Sports except here you physically make the running motion to run the base paths. Again there doesn’t seem to be any reward for running faster but you can slide by sticking one leg out when you get close to the base.

Skiing involves nothing more than crouching down, leaning side to side to go through the gates and jumping once or twice per course. I love skiing. I was more stoked to play this sport than any of the others and came away underwhelmed. Voice commands are only used to get out of the gate. I’m not sure why they would even bother to include that. Tennis and Golf didn’t hold my interest that much more. These sports have been done before and really don’t bring anything new to the table here outside of the fact you can call for an over rule on close line calls or choose your club by talking. My favorite part of tennis was the serve. It makes good use of the accuracy of the Kinect. It isn’t just swinging your arm over your head and automatically getting your serves in. Timing counts.

Last and certainly not least is darts. This is far and away my favorite sport included in this package. The controls aren’t perfect by any means but the sport itself is finally something unique. I think what makes the controls a bit finicky is because the movements you make to throw darts are relatively small. You aim, pull back to set the target and then the Kinect measures the force and accuracy of your throw back forward. It is challenging to set your aim exactly where you want it. That actually might frustrate some players but after a few games you do come to grips with things. Once you figure out how aiming works best for you, it is a lot of fun. I can see parents really enjoying this event. This event isn’t easy.

All of the sports offer different game modes and support up to four players. If you’re playing alone you can play against varying levels of AI which unlock as you beat each level. Each sport also has bonus games that can be a fun diversion. These use the core mechanics of the sport but feature different rules sets. There is also a new feature called Challenge. The Challenges all you to post scores, times and results to Xbox Live to compete against your friends. This is welcome (and probably overdue) idea which should give them game extra longevity beyond simply being a party game. For those of you that are interested, the game estimates the number of calories burned after each game session. I wouldn’t go as far as to put this one in the fitness game category though.

The problem that I have with Kinect Sports Season Two is that there is not really a lot here that makes me think “wow” and compels me to keep on playing. Some of that has to do with a “been here, done that” feel to some of the games, golf and tennis in particular. The rest has to do with the fact I think the Kinect could have been leveraged to far better effect with deeper controls for each sport. Everything just feel too limited. I’m not saying this is a bad game by any means. At 38 I am a little out of its intended demographic I am sure.


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