Originally intended to launch alongside the Xbox One console, Kinect Sports Rival‘s delay places it at an arguably more beneficial point in the system’s early days. An encouraging adoption rate and a price drop offer a convincing platform for developers and consumers alike, and Kinect Sports Rivals will capitalise on this by offering a product unlike anything currently on the console yet still making use of the system’s unique selling points. Sometimes being late can prove to be fortuitous, especially in the world of videogames.
Being the third title in a series developed by UK studio Rare, Kinect Sports Rivals will be a familiar experience to many. Though it has been given a fresh look and a clutch of new features it is, for the most part, the same sports simulation that many will have experienced on the Xbox 360. Wake Racing is the new addition that sells the package, falling somewhere between the cult classic Wave Race 64 and an arcade cabinet, the even is a surprisingly well tuned motion-control experience that allows the player to lean into turns and push for the win with skill rather than the trickery of the poor player detection that has been the case with so many Kinect titles in the past. In fact, in an odd turn of events, the player detection in Wake Racing is actually superior to that of the menu screens.
Rock Climbing and Shooting accompany Wake Racing as new additions to the series, but Tennis and Football events return in a much more comprehensive form than ever before. Both are more keen to reward skill and encourage practice with a revitalised progression system, as is the Bowling component. However, the latter has arguably undergone very little renovation aside from visual quality. It remains as unreliable in it’s interpretation as it was in the original Kinect Sports.
Progress in the videogame is determined in a very traditional fashion: completing events will earn you XP which will increase your level, in-game currency to purchase new items and fans which will win you special awards when hitting pre-determined numbers. However, in addition to the on-game functionality comes the Kinect Sports Rivals Hub. This external piece of software allows you to share images and items with friends, compete in organised challenges and competitions and take on your friends’ custom-created avatars based on an average of their performance stored on the infamous Xbox One cloud. This is where the ‘rivals’ part of the title comes into play, and for many will be a wonderful addition to the competitive nature of the experience. For others however, it will be utterly ignorable; as a separate entity some may even fail to exercise the software to it’s fullest, which would most certainly be a disappointing misappropriation of the quality of Kinect Sports Rivals‘ online offering.
While Kinect Sports Rivals is undeniably the best Kinect title currently available on Xbox One, it’s far from being the overwhelmingly compelling experience that we all wish Kinect will offer. It suffers from the infuriating menu design, detection issues and poor single-system multiplayer integration that has become synonymous with Kinect. There will be many who find Kinect Sports Rivals a charming family videogame, but those who do will already be convinced by the quality of motion-control gaming. Others will not allow its flaws to pass by unquestioned so readily.