Kinect Sports is one of few genuine hits for Microsoft's Xbox 360 peripheral, bringing a Wii Sports-like experience to the 360 - without the need for any form of controller. It's combination of six sports, some of which had multiple sub-events, was polished by developer Rare to the point that the game actually garnered pretty decent reviews - something that Kinect games have since had some trouble with (it's still the third-highest Kinect-required game on Metacritic).
A sequel, then, was in no doubt - especially given Microsoft owns Rare, and are very, very keen for the Kinect to continue its commercial success. But what's it all about? Just a few more sports or is there more to it? In order to find out, we had a hands-on session with the title and a demonstration from Rare's studio manager, Scott Henson.
The first game out of the blocks was a new one to the franchise, Darts. It supports multiple game modes, all of which centre around the core concept of throwing darts at a dartboard. Given you don't have a controller, there's no requirement for translating your desires via an arcane combination of button presses; instead, as with most of the simulated sports in the compilation, you simple ape the actions you'd take when genuinely throwing actual darts at a real board - only without the risk to life and limb that would be present were you actually hiffing pointy things around your living room.
In practice, it works incredibly well. First, you line up your shot with your hand in a forward position, then pull back to lock your target and define the power of your shot. Without exception, every single dart I threw went exactly where I'd expect the real dart to go, were I to actually have one in my hands. I'm fairly decent-ish (fair to middling, perhaps?) at the real thing, and that's exactly the sort of results I achieved when playing Kinect Sports: Season 2. It was fun and I didn't have to get the plaster of paris out afterwards - a win / win, if you will.
The second sport we got our "hands" on was Tennis, which is presented in a similar way to the Wii Sports version and, to be honest, plays fairly similarly too. Your character will move to the ball automatically, leaving you in charge of actually hitting it - which you have a surprisingly deep level of control over. You can step in to the shot to hit it hard, control the direction of your shot with your timing, and even call out an objection on a line call - which is then reviewed, TV style, by the match referee.
The only downer of the demonstration was the relative disconnection that your in-game avatars have from your actual activity - fortunately this doesn't affect your interaction with the ball, however that only adds to the slightly awkward nature of the presentation. Still, the game is still some time away and the build we saw is at least a month old, so there's a pretty good chance they'll tighten that up before it hits the shelves.
All of the sports in the compilation support head-to-head play online, letting you take on friends and family even if they're somewhere else at the time. Not only that, but there's a much deeper implementation of voice control this time around too, which is pretty handy timing for us, as we're finally getting the voice-control feature of Kinect from December-ish (it's currently exclusive to the US and Canada). Golf supports more than 300 voice commands alone! The interface has been significantly improved too, which is a pretty important upgrade given the amount of time you generally spend in it, moving between sports.
We were impressed with our time with the game, and Scott's enthusiasm and passion for the title was infectious. It's looking every bit the improved successor to the solid original that we hoped for, and has every chance to exceed the original game's critical reception when it releases in late October.
The Good: Genuinely feels like a 1:1 relationship with your real movements
The Bad: Still needs a big lounge
The Ugly: Accidentally kicking your dad in the face