Review: Kinect Sports Rivals falls flat

Platform: Xbox One

Rare Ltd. is known for developing unforgettable games like Donkey Kong Country and Battletoads. Nowadays, they're producing more casual fare for Microsoft, in the form of the motion-controlled Kinect Sports games. While not nearly as inventive as Rare’s previous games, the first two games in the series, Kinect Sports and Kinect Sports: Season Two, were fun, and demonstrated proper use of the Kinect device for the Xbox 360.

Now with Xbox One, Rare has returned with Kinect Sports Rivals, a six-activity sports endeavor where players can compete against each other and AI-driven opponents in the hopes of ruling a sports island, which is currently being dominated by other teams. The idea has potential, but unfortunately, this time around, the Kinect device on the Xbox One isn't really an ally. In fact, it's your worst enemy.

Kinect

You'll get started by running through a forced introduction of the island before building your profile character through some nifty scan technology. After that, you'll have to endure more of the story mode before you're able to select your own activities. This is an annoying way to start the game, especially facing off with the unlikable "Sarge" military trainer you're forced to put up with. Can't we just bowl already?

After an introduction to the jet ski activity – which also ties into an unskippable event with a rogue racer – you finally get to choose your own event. Your choices are tennis, soccer, bowling, target shooting, rock climbing and jet ski racing. It’s an interesting mix at first but then the gameplay starts working against you.

Soccer isn't really soccer at all, but rather a set-up exercise where you need to kick a ball into a goal. The problem is the Kinect doesn't really read your legs all that well, even if the camera is pointed right at them. As a result, the only time you can really score a “superb” goal is by accident. This activity is well worth skipping.

KinectSportsRivals2

Bowling is okay, although not nearly as tuned in as the previous Kinect Sports games. Having to lean over so far to acquire your ball is annoying enough as it is, but then the Kinect device doesn't read you properly, so what looks like a sure strike is instead an opportunity for a spare. It's fun with friends, at least, because they'll screw up as much as you.

Target shooting is a tiresome activity, like a light gun shooter that doesn't have a trigger. You simply aim your hand at clay targets and then the gun shoots automatically once it locks on. Yawn.

Rock climbing has some ingenuity to it, especially if you're playing against a friend and manage to yank him or her off the wall. However, it takes a while to get used to, as you'll hold your arms in a place while working your way up. Purists may want to give it a shot, but it doesn't hold that much reward outside of sending your buddy off the cliff.

KinectSportsRivals

Finally, there's the activity that validates the whole package — jet ski racing. This is a lot of fun, and most of the controls are read responsively. It's questionable why you have to stomp your foot down to activate turbo, but, hey, at least the Kinect reads you there. It's even more fun with a friend, so invite them along.

The presentation for the game is solid in terms of next-gen, but hardly innovative. The character models are rather weak, and the scenarios have a little too much pizzazz about them, with fireworks going off everywhere. A straight-up sports affair, like what the previous Kinect Sports games offered, would have been preferable.

Finally, there is a hub where you can record your high scores and send challenges to others, but half the time I couldn't even get it to work properly. Hopefully Microsoft will get it patched up soon, because community would go a long way for a game such as this – even with bizarrely flawed controls.

My View

Here are the criteria I consider most important for judging Kinect Sports Rivals:

#1 Presentation -- 6/10

While the game looks solid, there are too many cut scenes to wade through. We just want to start playing the game. Plus there's too much flair and pizzazz. Enough with the fireworks already.

#2 Kinect control/gameplay -- 5/10

It's a struggle to get the Kinect to read/see the parts of your body needed for certain activities. It makes the game less fun.

#3 Sports activities -- 5/10

Even when the Kinect is reading you right, there isn't much variety in how you play certain activities. With the exception of jet ski racing, the activities are incredibly simple and become dull quickly.

#4 Multiplayer -- 7/10

Everything is better with a friend, even subpar games. Struggle and get frustrated with a friend and laugh about it later.

Overall score: 5.8

Rare kind of dropped the ball with Kinect Sports Rivals. It's not very fun to play, outside of jet ski racing, and the fact you have to wade through so much just to get to free play is tedious. Casual players probably won't mind trying out this Olympiad, but other players may want to stick to the more general – and less expensive – Xbox 360 collections.

GameCrate reviews represent the opinions of the GameCrate writer who wrote them, and not necessarily those of Newegg.