Kinect Sports Impressions

Posted November 18th, 2010 at 12:00 pm

While my overall thoughts on the Kinect system have been surprisingly positive, when it comes to software there have been some very good games that take advantage of the technology and some disappointing ones. Kinect Sports quickly became my favorite game and over the last two weeks that feeling has not worn off. There are a couple very fun and addictive sports included along with a deep set of features including online play and Facebook tie-in “leagues”.

The two big things that really differentiate Kinect from any other motion gaming system and influences the experience heavily is the lack of the necessity of holding a controller and the camera tracking the whole body. There is so much relief that comes in watching someone bowling or spiking a volleyball towards the TV but knowing nothing is going to slip out of their hands. The full body tracking definitely brings in an element of movement that adds depth to sports that otherwise would seem forgettable.

Table Tennis

  • This is by far my favorite sport included in the game. I was actually a fan a while back of Rockstar’s Table Tennis game. This however has proven to be much more rewarding because it almost feels as though you’re really playing with a table right there. Physically having to move left and right, anticipating certain shots in that regard or setting them up, it caught me off guard just how real it felt playing. The game even allows for putting spin on the ball depending on the movement of the arm and placement of the hands.


  • There have been some good bowling games converted for motion controls but I really have enjoyed it in Kinect Sports. It is a little odd to bowl with nothing in your hands but after a few throws it starts to actually feel quite natural. Spin can be put on the balls based on the arm angle as it comes up. It really is surprising how accurate it tends to be. When I throw it well or make a mistake I usually feel it before I even see the final result on screen.

Track and Field

  • This is the major workout of all the sports. Though I began to feel it from all of them over time it just takes a single play through of Track and Field to give me my fill. When selecting Track and Field players are taken through the ringer of five different events. Those are the Discus, Hurdles, Javelin, Long Jump, and Sprint. The actual running, with the camera tracking knees being raised, and jumping for hurdles or the long jump ends up tiring players out quickly! This is especially in the case with all the events played back to back.


  • The soccer turned out interesting because there isn’t any moving around. The players all are controlled by AI in their movements and decision making comes down to which direction to pass, how to shoot, or making the save as the goalie. It doesn’t make for a smooth experience or offer anything in the way of realism but it still works in its own right.

Beach Volleyball

  • While this one isn’t bad I didn’t find it terribly compelling which is similar to how I felt about the soccer. It can be fun in ways…like making some quick reaction digs or big spikes but ultimately it just ends up being just make a save, set, or spike and not much variety beyond that. Maybe in higher difficulties it would present the need to move around more besides quick arm motions and jumping to spike.


  • It seems to be a trend that boxing ends up being the least enjoyable of sports in motion control games. In the case here it ends up being quickly tiring and somewhat frustrating as the game doesn’t pick up every punch or block. This is especially the case with multiple quick straight punches such as jabs. After playing boxing a few times I’ve had no desire for more.

Each sport also has a few additional “mini-games”. The track and field events are split up and the other sports have their own unique spins that are taken. They make for pleasant diversions and are quite fun though there isn’t much long term potential with those.

Being a first party title like Kinect Adventures this game utilizes the KinectShare website. While KA snaps photos Kinect Sports records video at different points and threads them together for highlight videos. These are often funny to watch and makes for a unique touch and social tool. The videos can be uploaded to the website and then saved for two weeks and can be downloaded or shared.

I’ve been hooked on playing random people online, particularly in Table Tennis. It is difficult to describe the level of fun provided by taunting an opponent or showing frustration through actions and having the avatar represent it on screen. It becomes hilarious, not only in doing that but in watching what opponents do. I have not experienced any lag at all which makes the online experience as enjoyable as offline. Voice actually works well which is almost a surreal experience in not having to use a headset. The microphones pick up voices clearly and the game sounds are quieted to allow voice audio to come through the TV.

Just added last week is a Facebook app which is described as being international “leagues”. Essentially you can join a “league” (or set up a private one with only friends) in any of the sports at any of the difficulty levels and battle with others for the high scores by playing the CPU in a certain number of matches. It is pretty cool to have those scores then automatically uploaded and ranked. Messages can then be sent out with current placings in each “league”.

Kinect Sports has an absolutely awesome soundtrack. There are a bunch of recognizable songs that play at certain times such as after scoring a big point in Table Tennis, throwing a strike or spare in bowling, or scoring a goal in Soccer as just a couple examples. Even though they only play for a couple seconds over the replay they really add quite a bit to the experience and I was impressed with what the popular songs that were included.

If there is one downside to Kinect Sports it is the many layers to the menu system that have to be navigated. The most tedious process is getting into online play. In order to do so nine (yes nine) different confirmations have to be made before the matchmaking process begins. By the end my arm tends to be tired from being held up that long. Even in quicker situations the accuracy in the menus can be finicky and the number of steps to get into a game is a bit much.

Initially Kinect Sports was a rental but I quickly snatched up a copy when the fun and longevity was realized. Table Tennis and Bowling are by far the most fun sports and have kept me going back for more. I can say that I never had this much fun (even in the early days with Wii Sports) with motion gaming. Not having a to hold a controller and getting great feedback on screen using full body motion is fun and ultimately more satisfying than anticipated.