Doing it wrong: How Rivals fails where Kinect Sports Season 2 succeeded

by James O'Connor 4 Comments 3 Likes 1,483 Views 11/04/2014 Back to Xbox One articles Kinect Sports Rivals

Kinect Sports Season 2 has been one of my go-to party games for a while now. If you’ve got a few beers in you – or, hell, even if you and your friends are sober but having a good enough night that you’re all wearing trackpants – it’s a janky delight. Not only are the sports fun, albeit imprecise, but the game demands you have a good time, making the Mii dance in line with your own celebrations post-game and showing back video clips of the ludicrous stunts you pulled off in front of the camera afterwards.

Kinect Sports Season 2 was a brilliant game because it accepted the limitations of the Kinect rather than trying to prove how great the thing was. It’s reliant on big moves, like when you dodge and weave between players in American football or swing a baseball bat with all your might, and the Kinect is much better at handling big moves than it is with subtle ones.

It’s filled with minigames that are easy to pick up on, and even when it doesn’t really work, it’s still a lot of fun. There’s a downhill skiing obstacle course, for instance, that is fantastic fun…even if there’s one specific, very simple obstacle that is really hard to avoid purely because of the difficulties of motion control. It doesn’t bother with a plot or any of that nonsense, and it lets you play everything on the disc right from the get-go.

I’ve only plugged a few hours into Rivals, but it seems far less inclined to assume that I’m drunk and with friends than Season 2 did.

There’s absolutely no sense that the game is aware that if I try playing rock climbing in multiplier, one climber will, inevitably, physically grab the other when trying to make that motion in the game. When I win, my character – who, despite being ‘more realistic’, looks far, far less like me than my 360 avatar did – doesn’t simulate the celebratory fist pump I make, and the game never stops to laugh at how ridiculous I look flailing around in front of the Kinect. It introduces me to teams, it makes me play tutorials to even unlock any of the’s pitched all wrong. I want something goofy and funny and accessible, and I want it the second I pop the disc in.

The priorities of Rivals are more in line with the first Kinect Sports than the second. It’s less concerned with letting you mess around with dumb technology, but instead wants to make a believer out of the player. It wants you to come away from it saying ‘hey yeah, maybe Kinect is the future’, a notion that so many of us stopped believing so long ago that it’s quite surprising when you realise that the game is trying to pitch you on the advantages of a game being able to read whether or not your hand is balled into a fist.

By the time I reached the training for soccer, which is utterly appalling, I was about ready to give up on Rivals. Kinect Sports Season 2, on the other hand, is going to keep getting dragged out. So is Kinect Star Wars, a game so unabashedly stupid that I can’t help but kind of like it, and so are The Gunstringer and Child of Eden, the only other legitimately great Kinect games I’ve played (both of which succeed by being really, really simple).

Motion controlled games can only succeed, I think, when they don’t have a clear vested interest in proving the worth of the technology, and Rivals feels a bit too much like a tech demo.

Do you think Kinect Sports Rivals is trying too hard to show off Kinect?

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Doing it wrong: How Rivals fails where Kinect Sports Season 2 succeeded Comments

  • Gryllis 341026 XP 11/04/2014
    I always thought Wii Sports Bowling - WITHOUT wrist straps on like a total badass - was the best drunk game.

    It's competitive and there's a pretty good chance someone's going to get smacked in the face with a Wiimote.
  • M@ndyz 242659 XP 11/04/2014
    so wait these are 2 different games? I should get sports season 2 then for my xbone?
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  • Tano 336770 XP 14/04/2014
    This article nails it. The game seems to have a different agenda to what we'd expect from this sort of experience. It's not inviting in the way that it wants you to play with friends in your living room: it hones it on Microsoft's obsession with online competitiveness, and individualises the experience down to a point where it feels disconnected from the events' subtle simplicity.

    Rivals does one thing right and that is demonstrate how accurate the technology CAN be with the likes of jetski racing and rock climbing, but then tennis and soccer essentially invalidate its achievements by being frustratingly broken.
  • Gryllis 341026 XP 14/04/2014

    @M@ndyz said: so wait these are 2 different games? I should get sports season 2 then for my xbone?

    Season 2 is for 360. Rivals is Xbox One.
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