Kinect Sports is, for me, the current stand out title for Xbox Kinect. Kinect Adventures, most people have seen in action and it holds fewer surprises when you fire it up for the first time. Kinect Sports on the other hand isn't as over exposed and is a truly solid title.
When it comes down to it you have the main disciplines of, Football, Bowling, Track and Field, Beach Volleyball and Table Tennis. Drill down further though and you have games within these categories from Discus, Javelin and Hurdles, through to Pin Rush on the Bowling Alley, Fruit Splat under Beach Volleyball and Target Shot within Football.
There is, in short, a lot of game modes and a wide variety of activities to keep you entertained whereas it's closest rival in a similar category and style vein is Kinect Adventures and that is very much, you get what you see.
The main events see you take the 'serious' approach to the games in question and will pit you against AI opposition, human players in the same room, or players across Xbox Live to play the sport as it was more or less intended. Here you'll be competing for experience and to level up. This isn't an easy task and reaching the higher levels will require you to invest some occasional time into the game and to perform well when you do.
The graphics are 'avatarish' which seems to be in favour at the moment and they look good and do the job well. The music is fairly low key during the menu selections and no more or less annoying than you would have hoped for. Throughout the game you'll hear snatches of memorable songs as you bowl a strike, hit a personal best or break a world record. A nice touch.
The use of Kinect is superb here as the device videos you as you play and then compacts the footage down in a forty plus second montage of your 'best bits' complete with music. This you can then upload to kinectshare.com and push out to Facebook and Twitter or download a copy for your hard drive. Kinect Adventures takes snaps but the video recording here was a really impressive touch.
The control system works very well, though menu navigation could be better if it were stricter and limited to one hand. Don't try scratching your nose as you make a selection as the hand will jump across screen to line up with your now dominant hand. A small niggle but one nonetheless.
Walking through each of the main events, we start with Football. This, unlike Motion Sports penalty kick mode, is a full fledged football game and requires you to pass the ball to team mates (movement around the pitch is taken care of by the Xbox) and then to hammer the shot home when you're within range of a shot. When defending you have to try to charge down passes or take control of the keeper to throw a part of your body in the way of the ball to block the shot.
It works very well, and although there's the odd discrepancy when passing (you usually get two to three passing options shown by lines emanating from your controlled player) you ultimately feel in control and the format works well. Playable by two people at a time, you'll need a lot space unless you like bruised shins.
Next up is bowling. A nice breather game, the controls here are perfect. You really feel in control of everything that's happening and will quickly master the controls, spin and aiming technique that best suits you (no one glove fits all solution here!) and your style within a few games. Wii bowling has little on this in my opinion. Games are played across ten frames and can be played by four people in turn.
Track and Field is one of the most tiring elements of this game, as it pits you against sprinting, javelin, long jump, discus and hurdles. The mechanics of running on the spot work better than I though they ever would. The key here is to getting your knees high and employing the correct posture to gain a 'racers start'. Dipping your head at the line affords you an extra spurt of speed at the end too. Javelin is equally well controlled and is all about the technique of going from running to pitching a nicely arched throw before hitting the line. Discus is a single throwing action (harder than it sounds to get a nicely weighted throw) and hurdles is your sprinting technique with a two footed jump thrown in several times.
The key to all of the events in this category is technique. The game will be accessible to people of all ages and ability, but if you're aiming for the higher level AI competitors (Professional and Champion) you're going to need to have your technique down to pat in order to remain competitive.
Boxing was almost a dead cert in a sports title, but this is the most responsive and fluid I've seen yet. Motion Sports offering was a stuttered, shoddy and restrictive affair. Punches were limited in that you could only throw them at the speed the game could process and animate them. I.e.: Very slowly. In Kinect Sports however it's possible to throw a vast array of punches all the body in a different delivery style each time. If you want to roll the punches like you were in the gym practising on that weird elastic type thing that takes about forty punches a second, you can do that too. Immense fun and incredibly tiring, this is a game which is incredibly competitive and well put together, masked somewhat by the avatar graphics.
Beach Volleyball is your penultimate event and sees you laying up shots for your AI team mate and spiking when the chance presents itself. With the full body tracking you can head, knee or kick the ball too all with great accuracy. The style of course depends on your agility! An event which offers little variety in play but active and fun either way.
Finally we have table tennis. And this isn't just hit it back and forth until someone misses. Here Kinect's ability to recognise and intepret subtle movements is highlighted. Add top spin, left/right spin and back spin to balls with ease with a sweep of your hand as you attack the ball. Pulling off slams is incredibly satisfying too. Another great even in the bag for Kinect Sports.
All of the above events offer Beginner, Medium, Professional and Champion AI opponents (the latter two appearing in many achievements) and they don't hold back. A Champion bowler can bowl a perfect or near perfect game easily and won't hold back the punches in boxing. This is one with difficulty levels for children, and then higher levels for the 'grown ups' and more experienced gamers.
On top of this you have party play which divides your group up into two teams and gives you a mascot to represent your guys. Here the game randomly picks events and mini games for you to play and often throws in stipulations such as, you can only throw with your left hand, or you must known as many opponents out as possible. Each time the party games are different and the rules varied which is a great touch. This will go down a storm in large groups.
We haven't even touched on the mini games (which are expandable with the Free DLC pack which offers 250GS more) and the various events like Pin Rush which sees you bowling with both hands at the same time to knock down as many pins as possible. There's boxing games to knock out as many people as quickly as possible, football target shooting and many, many more that we couldn't cover here in sufficient detail.
And that I feel says a lot about this game. it packs in the content and doesn't compromise on any. Every game works perfectly and there is no issue with regards to it's integration with Kinect as with some titles (I'm looking at you Motion Sports). Fun for all the family, or alone if that's your gaming bag (as it often is mine). Get a group together and this title really comes to life however.