The news that developers Rare were doing a sequel to Kinect Sports came as a disappointment to many fans. After all, this was the company responsible for titles like GoldenEye 007, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Kameo: Elements of Power, Star Fox Adventures, and Perfect Dark Zero - to name just a few.
Over at E3 earlier this year, I spoke to Scott Henson - a former Microsoft developer behind the hardware and software design of Kinect and the new Xbox 360 console - who had recently moved his family to the UK to work for Rare as Studio Manager. As one would expect, this new acquirement shifted Rare’s game focus to Kinect and motion-controlled titles.
Despite initial concerns, Kinect Sports Season 2 is still an impressive title - considering the sheen of this genre has worn off since the launch of the Kinect hardware last year. It builds off the huge commercial success of its predecessor and, although it falters occasionally, it still feels like a more confident title than the original.
As with the first game, the mix of sports included is an unusual one. There are six in total, as follows: golf, darts, baseball, skiing, tennis, and American football. Just like Kinect Sports, all of these mini-games place your Xbox avatars in the center of the action - with you controlling them by moving your arms, legs, and even head accordingly.
Kinect Sports Season 2 even includes an additional voice activated control scheme as well, for that extra level of looking like a loon in your own lounge.
After the success of the golf portion of Nintendo’s Wii Sports, it was surprising not to see this sport appear in the first title. Five-iron fans will be pleased to hear that the golf gameplay is by far the highlight of Kinect Sports Season 2. In fact it would work well as a stand-alone game.
Players stand with their side to the TV / Kinect camera and pretend that they are holding a golf club with the ball in front of their feet, just as if they were the next Tiger Woods - without the mistress scandal, perhaps.
Lining up your shot, swinging your arms, and moving your hips are all intuitive to anyone who’s used a golf club before and the results are alarmingly accurate. The motion detection even goes so far as to let you ‘look-out’ toward the green by raising your arm to your brow as if you were peering down the course in real life. Even squatting down to inspect the lay of the land produces a new view to get that perfect putt.
Finally, the sugar-frosted coating here is voice recognition that doubles as a virtual caddie, allowing you to ask for a new club while you line up your shot. You can also yell obscenities when you miss. These don’t get recorded or add anything to the game. I’m just saying you can do it...
Playing this game without a beer in your hand and the high probability of taking someone’s eye out seems a bit lost on me. But other than that, this darts mini-game is very close to the real thing, requiring a keen eye and a steady hand.
Just like with the golf, the Kinect hardware does an excellent job of tracking your actions and even reading your intentions. For beginners, the AI competition can be hard to beat. But then this game, like nearly every Kinect title, is definitely better enjoyed with friends by your side. For that extra ‘fun factor’, try playing this game with proper darts in your hand. Just make sure your television is dart-proof.
I’ve never been a fan of baseball. In fact, it has to be one of the few sports where the professionals playing it don’t even look like healthy athletes. Baseball matches drag on for nearly three hours at a time and most of the entertainment seems to come from team mascots. However, it makes for a relatively fun addition to the Kinect Sports line-up in much the same way as Nintendo’s one did.
Both pitching and hitting the ball feel realistic, although the Kinect camera struggles to pick up on any subtle finesse like spin or wrist-movement. The baseball game is probably one of the hardest to perfect, requiring excellent timing and ‘routine-like’ gestures that you will improve on with practice. It’s basic but again, rewarding in a party atmosphere and better than watching the real thing.
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