Kinect Sports: Season 2 Review

By DavieMarshall, 5 years ago
If you’ve been looking forward to your chance to get up, get active and play some sports, then tomorrow is finally the day the Kinect Sports: Season 2 lands in Europe. Although the title is already out in North America, we’ve been lucky enough here at TA to get our hands on pre-release EU copies, so that we can bring you the opinions of two Newshounds, DavieMarshall and litepink, on what will no doubt be the biggest title hitting Xbox Kinect this Christmas.

_____________________________________________________________

Let’s start off at the beginning, it’s always the best way. Kinect Sports: Season Two is the sequel to runaway hit, Kinect Sports, which shifted over 3 million copies as of the middle of this year. We all saw the sequel coming, but where is the sporting focus this time around?

What’s on offer?

Well you’ll be up and active as your partake in skiing, golf, darts, tennis, American football and baseball. The first thing we can say is that it’s a good activity balance; the original struck the same kind of balance, throwing fast paced action together (most notably track and field) alongside more sedentary pursuits, such as bowling. It’s a must in these ‘mini-game’ titles. You’ll inevitably play for at least an hour, maybe two, at a time. A constant barrage of jumping, winding, running and swinging would tire out even the trimmest of gamers.

In with the old, in with the new

Kinect Sports was a huge success, and so many of the favourite features return with new additions, or extra depth. Take for example the leveling system. Whereas the first title was a simple, ‘XP point’ system, Kinect Sports: Season 2 fleshes out the concept. Now you earn ‘fans’ as you play. The better you do, the more fans you get. The more fans you get, the higher your fame level and the more rewards you unlock. Following in the footsteps of many other games are sub-challenges and rewards that can help boost your level growth. “Take Part”, gain 100 fans. “Perfect Ski Jump”, gain 200 fans. It’s simple, but it’s nice and it feels very rewarding as it sums up the last rounds performance.

You have to remember, this game wants to approach every gamer, young and old, casual and dedicated; and make them feel like they’re playing well. This system caters for all, and adds an extra sense of ‘challenge’ when playing in a group.

On top of that there’s a built in calorie counter, much improved introduction/tutorial videos, an integrated menu system (no more multi-layer menus where challenges and sports are separated and hidden) and we were both very pleased to note ramped up menu response times to sharpen up navigation. There’s a big push on voice control here too. Everything you see on screen can be actioned vocally by using the standard ‘Xbox... do this’. This extends to in game scenarios too, you can shout at the umpire, kick start a play in American football or change club. All titles should feature this level of integration.

Simple things that are minute but instantly noticeable when you load up the game for the first time.

A question of sport

Here’s where the proof of the title is to be found. Never mind menu selections and fan points. How does it play? Is it an improvement on last year’s edition? Let me and litepink guide you through our thoughts and discoveries...

Golf - Reviewed by litepink

Ultimately this game will form comparisons to Wii Sports, and rightfully so. The golf in Kinect Sports: Season Two plays similar to that of the Wii’s offering, and that’s perfectly OK because it’s a blast. The voice controls work well for selecting your clubs, although, besides setting up a shot for an achievement, you won’t need to often. You can practice your shot and replicate your swing to see where your ball will land, and sometimes here you may decide to go for the green rather than lay up. There are neat little touches like shading your eyes to peer outward and get a view of the hole, or bending over on the green to check out the layout. There’s the perfect amount of challenge here, whether against the CPU, human opponent, or going for achievements. You definitely don’t feel cheated by the controls.

Good
+ Controls very well; swinging and putting feel very natural. Listen to your caddie for added accuracy.
+ Fair amount of challenge here. You’ll feel good getting a Birdie, and give a healthy fist pump for a Hole-in-One.
+ Voice controls shine here.

Bad
- Plays a little slow with lining up and practicing shots, as well as the loading between holes.
- The nine holes vary by design, but you're left wanting just a bit more.

Darts - Reviewed by DavieMarshall

Perhaps not the most obvious choice for a title, but it is something we’ve seen tackled before, such as in Carnival Games: Monkey See, Monkey Do. The main game mode here is to reduce your score from 501 to 0, checking out on a double. It’s not adrenaline pumping, nor liken to comatose. Across the sports included in the game it’s probably the most curious inclusion. A full year in from the launch of Kinect, and one it’s AAA hitters for this year has a full mini game dedicated to Kinect recognising moving your arm back and forth. That said, it is fun if a little forgiving, and the commentary and ability to put your opponent off with silly movements and jigs stops it from feeling like a slow Sunday down a traditional English pub.

Good
+ Nice breather game
+ Easy to get to grips with thanks to responsive controls
+ Shot assist removes need to calculate scoring mentally for younger players

Bad
- Not everyone’s first choice of game to be included
- Limited use of Kinect’s abilities

American Football - Reviewed by litepink

This sport feels a bit like last year’s Football (Soccer). You’ll handle kickoff returns, passing, receiving, and field goal kicking. Wondering how they handle defense? There is none. This creates awkward moments as you watch a summary of the opponent’s scoring drive. I think more than any of the other five sports, this one lacks the most depth. You choose from the same six passing plays, with an option to call an audible. You hike the ball and wait for a receiver to get open before getting sacked. So long as the indicator above the receiver turns green they’ll catch it. When carrying the ball you run in place to progress. Sure, you can avoid tackles but it feels like you're not really in control here. I actually got a bit more into this after a few games, but not the shining star by any means.

Good
+ Getting a touchdown is always thrilling. I mean, c’mon...it’s a TOUCHDOWN!
+ Some of the American Football achievements are fun to get

Bad
- Other achievements are overly difficult
- Lacks depth, controls aren’t perfect
- No Defense, you have no control over the opponent’s score.

Skiing - Reviewed by DavieMarshall

I’ve heard it argued that all of the best sports were ‘taken’ by the original game. Not so. Skiing is a fantastic inclusion and not at all second best. It’s fast, fluid and intuitive with a real sense of speed and true arcade game play perfectly suited to party play. On my first run of the sport I nailed 95% of the gates and 100% of the jumps thanks to the responsiveness of the controls and found myself hitting ‘Play Again’ several times in a row. I only moved on because I had other aspects to look at, I could have happily spent much more time here.

Good
+ Silky smooth!
+ Jumps and landing break up ‘leaning’ style of control
+ Perfect competitive sport with high speed runs to shave milliseconds off your PB
+ Has that ‘just one more go’ factor we all love!

Bad
- Virtually none that I could see

Baseball - Reviewed by litepink

If you can understand that this has a bit of latency when it comes to Kinect detection, you’ll enjoy this a bit more. Here you’ll be pitching, fielding, hitting, and doing some base running, so you’ll have a bit more to do. You’re limited to two innings though, with no option to extend that. When hitting you aim for a green indicator to hit one in the gap, or give it a power swing to hit a homer. Sometimes you’ll have to run out a hit to first and extend your leg to slide in. This and the fielding work very well, and pitching is adequate. The hitting can be enjoyable, but there’s the aforementioned latency which may discourage some. If you hit a double, triple, or homerun, you are automatically granted these bases. Running is limited to running out singles, so this is the most suspenseful hit. Would have been nice if we were tasked with base running decisions like going for two bases, but alas, Baseball is fun because you’re getting a little bit of everything.

Good
+ While I wished things were a little more fleshed out, you do get a variety of things to do.
+ Sliding in safely is a thrill, and the strategy behind it is rewarding.
+ Like a Touchdown, actually swinging your own Homerun is also a joy.

Bad
- Latency may frustrate some gamers; fun sport but not the best to “show off”. A limitation of Kinect not the software.

Tennis - Reviewed by DavieMarshall

In something of a natural step up from Kinect Sport’s Table Tennis mode, we’re brought the full game on the full court complete with an umpire who can be heckled and made to reassess his calls. The first question I can see you all asking is; “How is depth movement controlled?”. The answer is ‘on rails’. You take full responsibility for shifting your avatar left and right as needed, much like in the original Table Tennis, whilst the forward and backward motion is controlled by the AI. It works for the game and it didn’t bother me at all. What didn’t work for me was the way in which power is controlled. If you want to drill a shot back, it’s not in the speed or force of your swing, it’s in the footwork. Stepping into the shot adds power, whilst swing only controls slice and curve. It works well once you are used to it, but for a game based around pure intuition, you often find yourself caught out and playing a deft shot where you wanted to destroy the return. Don’t let this put you off though, it’s a great sport and has a quick pace so that there’s little to no downtime between volleys and service.

Good
+ Control system copes well with court movement
+ Ability to manually serve is well implemented
+ Shot placement is nigh on perfect. Game winning shots can be placed with accuracy
+ Ability to shout at your TV to question the umpire!

Bad
- Power dictated by stepping in to shot takes some getting used to

Our final score

Overall we enjoyed our hands on time a lot. But does it stack up to last year’s offering? We were hoping for a little more from some sports. We have the challenges associated with each sport for example, but where are the mini games? Perhaps DLC will fix that in the future as we’d happily buy another course or mini game pack. The more robust competitive edge in free play sports makes it great for multiplayer, whilst the welcomed challenge system is great for those gaming on their own.

The achievement list is a bit easier this time around, with a few overly difficult stinkers thrown in. Overall though, it’s a fun list that spreads across all sports well. There’s a good mix of progression and accomplishment achievements which will reward casual players and force the achievement hunters to up their game and get practicing.

In closing and after conferring and comparing notes, we agree that if you enjoyed Kinect Sports, you’ll enjoy Kinect Sports: Season 2. Unfortunately there’s not enough here that’s completely new after a year of Kinect titles to convince you to change your mind about the hardware. However, if you're on the fence about this title, you have only to glance throughout our Good and Bad points above to see the drawbacks in some sports are easily outweighed by strong and numerous positives. We can definitely recommend a purchase and it’s certain that you won’t regret picking this up on launch day at full price.

_____________________________________________________________

With the title hitting EU shop shelves tomorrow, you could be in with a chance of winning our review copy tomorrow along with a host of Kinect and Kinect Sports: Season 2 swag to get your Kinect party started in style. Stay tuned to the front page tomorrow for more information!

Don't forget to keep an eye on the TA game page to check out community reviews as they come in. Your reviews and ratings make all the difference, so please keep your content coming in!