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So there I was, walking in the door with a few friends and their accompanying beers. We figured we'd throw back a few and play some Kinect Sports. We all thought this would just be a knock off of Wii Sports and we were in for a slow paced easy going affair and having a few beers to kill the time in between rounds was always a good decision with the Wii.
Cut to an hour later and after a particularly heated bout of Kinect Sports Track and Field I'm leaning up against a wall desperately trying to fight down the now incredibly shaken up carbonation my stomach is trying to rid it self of and my competition doesn't look much better off. It was at this moment that I finally realized that the Kinect isn't just another Wii inspired waggle fest and Kinect Sports exemplifies this. This may be a casual friendly game but once the friendly rivalries pick up you'll be pushing yourself harder than you ever did on the Wii.
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I have to give it to Kinect Sports, at first I thought navigating menus for this review would be a chore and adding new players would be a configuration nightmare but not only is the hardware capable of easily recognizing new players when they step in or out but picking what gametype you want to play really is a breeze.
The menus are crisp and the mini tutorials before matches offer all the explanation you'll need to get playing. Thankfully the aforementioned tutorials can also be turned off because if there's one thing about most of the Kinect games that gets old fast it's watching the same tutorials over and over again.
Overall in my time playing for this Kinect Sports review I never experienced many really noticeable bugs or slowdowns. There was one occasion during the discus toss event that the Kinect seemed to lose where my hand was and I ended up throwing the discus through my players body but I'm fairly sure I just moved my hand far enough behind my body that the sensor lost it and just guessed.
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Kinect Sports offers up six events: Soccer, Track and Field, Table Tennis, Bowling, Volleyball and Boxing. Each of these events also has a set of sub game types that help to keep things fresh. That being said some of the events seem more polished than others. Boxing is fun at first until you realize that you can almost instantly KO your opponent by doing an egg beater motion with your hands. Track and field on the other hand is surprisingly excellent and by far the most active of the events.
Some of Kinect Sport's gametypes are much more nuanced than others though and while Table Tennis actually requires a decent skill level to excel at there are some events like speed bowling turn out to be a competition of who can windmill their arms the fastest. That's not saying that some of the simpler additions aren't welcome, they just don't offer much staying power compared to some of the more complex games.
By in large Kinect Sports is one of the most entertaining titles out of the Xbox 360 Kinect games available at launch.
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The graphics of Kinect Sports are just not that impressive. Sure they're crisp and the cartoonish style works for the most part but the whole look of the game seems like more like it belongs on the Wii and not the 360. I'm sure that was in some ways intentional on the developers part, but Kinect Sports feels like enough of a Wii Sports knock off without having a similar graphical style. Even if they were determined to keep that look the environments could have been much more detailed. Wind Waker back in the days of the Gamecube proved that cartoony graphics don't mean a bland game world and the Xbox 360 is leagues ahead of the Gamecube in terms of graphical power and Kinect Sports should reflect that.
On the other hand the game does run at a very smooth frame rate and there aren't any graphical hiccups to speak off so I guess there's that. Just don't expect anything impressive in the graphical department.
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As far as the sound department goes Kinect Sports does a passable job. The music is the light whimsical stuff you'd expect for a family game. It is thankfully not the cringe inducing tunes of plenty of other casual aimed games so that's a welcome fact.
The sound effects themselves are also just fine. The sound when a javelin spears into the ground is satisfying as are most of the effects in volleyball and boxing. The bowling pin noises don't seem varied enough but that's only really noticeable on the speed bowling portion so it's a minor complaint. There's nothing memorable here but at the same time you won't be annoyed either, which for a campy party game is good enough for me.
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Now this is where Kinect Sports shines, and what should really be the determining factor of if Kinect Sports is worth your hard earned cash. Luckily as long as you've got the friends to fuel a few Kinect inspired rivalries around or on Xbox live you'll almost certainly have a blast with Kinect Sports, at least at first.
The drop in local multiplayer works flawlessly, out of all the Kinect reviews i've brought in a few buddies to help with Kinect sports is the easiest to set up and play. There's no need to pause and configure the Kinect for whoever joins the match. Just have your buddy step in next to you and you're new Kinect will automatically detect them. Then just pick a game and get started.
Most of the game types are also quick enough that even if you've got a decent number of people waiting in the wings it won't be too long before they get a chance to try their hand at Kinect Sports' multiplayer.
Online multiplayer is also included and works fine, although it's hard to beat local matches for games like this and it's tough to really carry the depth of a good fist pump based taunt over the internet.
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I have to say Kinect Sports was really the game that proved the prowess of the Kinect's motion detection in my eyes. The one to one motion is fluid and works for the most part, although there are a few hiccups here and there. Also the slight bit of lag between your actions and your characters is extremely minor and doesn't come into play in most events, aside from boxing that is.
Unfortunately while boxing could have been the event that proved that the Kinect really could be used for a twitch based action game it turns out to be the worst event in the series. The lag, however slight, means that your drunken Bruce Lee inspired flailing will end up just behind what is happening on screen. It's not that noticeable but it's there just enough to make you feel not quite in control and you'll soon discover that just flailing your arms as fast as you can turns out to be the best offense.
That being said Kinect Sports does deliver on it's promise of being a fun simple party game and while the controls aren't perfect, it's hard to walk away unimpressed.
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While Kinect Sports is basically just a Wii Sports imitator it does so admirably. The games are fun and the sub game types should offer enough variety to keep you entertained. This is one of the better launch titles for the Kinect and while it's not going to convince you to shelve Halo for long it's certainly going to be worth pulling out at parties every now and again.
As a preview of what the Kinect can do it's certainly impressive and thankfully it does a fine job of proving just what the Kinect has to offer. Unfortunately it also shows some of the shortcomings of the hardware, however minor they are.