From the incredibly talented Midlands studio, Rare,
Consisting of Table Tennis, Athletics, Volleyball, Hurdles, Bowling and the interesting sounding Football, Kinect Sports is an attempt to try and show how much more involving a game like this can be when you don't have to worry about a controller. Taking advantage of full body tracking, many of the games are purposefully things that couldn't have been done on the Wii (such as Football) - or are at least Microsoft's attempts to make them better.
We got our hands on an early version of Kinect Sports, and tried out both the Bowling, and Football mini-games, with mixed results. For myself, the highlight was easily the bowling, which was a great show of how intuitive Kinect can be. Whereas I'd always end up bowling into the gutter on Wii Sports, on Kinect Sports, I was apparently actually managing to hold my hand straight. If you want to bowl, all you have to do is step over to the row of bowling balls, make a motion of picking a ball up (you'll see your avatar doing exactly as you do), and then, well, bowl. It's simple, and it's easy to pick up - or at least, it should be.
You see, in what's begun turning into a repeated problem, Kinect seemed to struggle when picking up Sarah. She stepped across to the virtual collection of bowling balls, but try as she might, she just couldn't pick one up. Moving further across didn't help, and nor did any sort of arm flailing. In the end, the game ended up thinking she'd picked up a ball with her left hand, when she hadn't actually moved her left hand at all, leaving her to try and bowl with her weaker arm - which ended as well as you'd have expected. That said, other than that one problem, Kinect Bowling was actually surprisingly accurate, as Sarah managed to get the ball in other people's lanes several times - and that's when it didn't go straight down the gutter. With that in mind, we're prepared to believe (or at least hope) that this was just a glitch in the early code we were playing.
In Kinect Athletics, we played the hurdles, which involved simply running up and down on the spot as quick as you possibly could, before leaping as you approached the hurdles. Here, Sarah excelled, as she left me standing (or at least running on the spot), but I couldn't help but feel a tad confused about what was going on. While in the other games, your Avatar matches your moves exactly, here, it didn't seem to - so what exactly was it tracking? Did I have to wave my arms faster? Move my legs quicker, or in a more exaggerated way? Or what? The lack of any tactile response, or any sort of feedback about what the camera's picking up seems to be another repeated problem with Kinect, as it makes it hard to judge exactly what it is that you're doing wrong, and is something we hope will change in future.
Last but not least came Kinect Football, which was again, an early version, and was actually pretty fun when we played in co-op, despite a few bugs. With Sarah and myself making a formidable team, you took it in turns to kick the ball around the pitch, gradually making your way towards the opponent's goal. As you can't control your player's movement, or any of your team's, it's pretty much an exercise in choosing the right person to slot the ball to - finding an open man, with no-one else around him, and making sure the ball gets there. The problem is, again, that was easier said than done. You see, while the game seems accurate at tracking your movements, it wasn't all that accurate when it came to tracking how we kicked the ball. Using the inside of our left foot, we tried to slot the ball to the right, but instead of doing as it would have in real life, the ball flew off to the left, straight to the feet of a waiting defender. It seems that, rather than picking up how hard you kick the ball, and where it would go, the game simply thought "left foot kicks left, right foot kicks right" - although again, hopefully this is something that'll have been fixed for the final version.
If there's one thing Kinect Sports does well, though, it's in getting you up and getting you active - letting you exercise in a way that's so entertaining it doesn't actually feel like exercise. While the games may have had some small flaws, it didn't stop them from being entertaining, and, in the case of the athletics one, it certainly didn't make them any less tiring. For people who take their fitness games seriously, something like Your Shape, or The Biggest Loser may be more fitting, but for those of you who just want something that gets you active, without even feeling like exercise, Kinect Sports could be just what you're looking for.
Kinect Sports, like the rest of the games in the Countdown to Kinect, is due out on the 10th November, and is priced at £40 RRP. In the mean time, our 'Countdown to Kinect' feature continues, with a preview of a new Kinect game every day, along with a full Kinect FAQ, detailing everything you might want to know about Kinect - so make sure you keep checking back to find out everything you need to know! Until then, we have a trailer for Kinect Sports, so you can see what it's like: