As the most nontraditional game in the rankings, Kinect Sports seemed an unlikely candidate all the way up through release. Motion gaming was not high on the list of desire when it came to sports offerings and the Kinect hardware was being questioned as to how viable its performance would be in the real world. Despite that Kinect Sports turned out to be a surprising source of pure fun providing good variety, options, and accuracy making for a very unique experience.
The ranking of games in the best of 2010 list is based on the personal amount of enjoyment had with a particular title, whether advertised features were fully delivered on, post-release support, community interaction and communication, overall gameplay experience, feature set, and online play performance. Again this is largely a personal take on the games and not a recap of those with the highest scores on Metacritic. The analysis is weighted heavily towards those which I had the most fun with while considering them as a whole and compared relatively to the field.
Kinect Sports included six different sports: Bowling, Table Tennis, Track and Field, Soccer, Beach Volleyball, and Boxing. Out of those six the Bowling and Table Tennis are the clear standouts. The others are decent with the exception of Boxing which is by far the poorest of the bunch. There are also multiple “mini-games” for each sport which are more gimmicky for a change of pace.
There is a surprising amount of control to be had even with the Kinect hardware tracking body movement. Playing Table Tennis feels semi-realistic due to the need to move side to side, hit forehand or backhand shots, and even determine what type of spin to put on the ball. With Bowling making a good throw brings about a a high level of satisfaction. You immediately get the sense of whether it is going to be a good one or a bad one just based on feel.
Online play is implemented well and can be a blast, table tennis especially. I cannot discount the laughs and feeling that taunting or being taunted brings about. Knowing that each side is actually making those motions takes it over the top. Online performance is also very solid and the games felt as though they were being played offline…no lag from either connections or the Kinect hardware.
Beyond even the initial release Microsoft and Rare have delivered by supporting the title. Just recently the “Party Pack” DLC came out and was made available for free. It added a mini-game to each of the six sports represented along with more mascots. There is also a Facebook app that ties into the game and sets up “leagues” for competition purposes which is a nice touch.
The soundtrack was also a big plus with lots of recognizable songs to play after particular events. The only real problem I had with Kinect Sports in general was the lengthy process required to move about through menus and reach the games themselves. Getting into online play can take up to nine separate confirmations in the menus.
I have always hesitated to get into motion gaming due in part to poor software or poor implementation, but also because gaming has traditionally been a way to kick back and relax. However with Kinect Sports I started to really enjoy actually getting some activity out of it. It doesn’t mean I’d want motion gaming in all sports games as it still is primarily a fit for individual sports and not team sports. But I did get to like the very different experience it brought me into while remaining fun and made even better in a social environment.
In terms of fun factor Kinect Sports topped many, if not most of the sports titles this year. However it does not provide the same depth and realism or potential longevity and only a couple of the sports included are worthwhile. Still, Kinect Sports not only delivered on the fun but brought about hope that Kinect could be implemented well in other sports games in the future.