Kinect Sports: Season Two Impressions

Posted November 7th, 2011 at 10:00 am

With the first year anniversary of Kinect for Xbox 360’s release having just passed it’s interesting to study how much (if enough) the hardware and it’s implementation in games has advanced over that time. Kinect Sports was one of the early favorites utilizing the controller-less system last year and now the follow-up has arrived with Kinect Sports: Season Two.

The result is a somewhat more defined product that carries with it most of the faults of the original – and without some of the charm of being a new unique experience.

The biggest improvement comes with utilizing the voice recognition. Navigating menus, which has proven a frustrating element of many Kinect games, is made much more pleasant by simply stating an option instead of being forced to select them through motion. There is no need to even have a controller – from the voice commands after starting up the 360, to loading the game, to navigating through menus, skipping instructional screens, and then to playing each individual sport everything can be done without one.

For the most part it works well. On some occasions it has been necessary to say something a second or third time to get it to recognize it…and it would seem likely to struggle with people who have an accent or don’t speak clearly.

There are six “sports” included: football, baseball, tennis, skiing, darts, and golf. None have been found to be quite as addictive as the table tennis in the original – darts comes the closest but some issues with it simply being unable to be that precise has kept it from winning me over completely. Golf probably works the best while baseball has the most interesting elements of strategy. These are sports that have been tried in other games but are executed considerable better in Kinect Sports: Season Two. They all provide a decent workout without feeling like that was the intention, with it instead happening through the course of having fun with them.

Each sport also has its own (mini) mini-game and it’s likely that some free DLC will come down the line that will add more given that level of support was provided to the original – and actually just today a free DLC pack was released that introduced a new “challenge” to each sport. While baseball brings in some interesting concepts it also struggles the most while batting – with the Kinect frequently having trouble tracking when standing sideways batting. The constant “move back” or “raise hand” messages quickly become tiring as they halt play completely. These problems don’t occur when golfing despite the similar sideways stance.

Football is simple (no playing defense, all passing plays, no movement just running straight) but its use of voice commands is what makes it stand out. With the Madden NFL series adapting Kinect going forward this provides a look at some of the ways it could mesh well in the series. Voice recognition is used for calling plays, calling audibles, and snapping the ball. Again it works most of the time, with it being necessary to repeat a command on occasion, and could probably be simplified even further to make it more accurate in determining what the user is calling for with expanded options to make it a valuable option.

Highlight videos have not improved, maybe the rough quality is as intended, but there was hope for something more there. The videos can still be uploaded to their KinectShare site and then distributed through social media. The licensed music played in various situations is still a treat.

Online play is available for each sport and works well – though there has been difficulty at times finding someone to match up against. The ability to taunt through gestures remains immensely enjoyable. A new “Challenge Play” mode has been added which allows for completing any of the sports’ sub-challenges or a individual golf hole or downhill race. The score can be sent to a friend who will attempt to beat it. This brings in a sense of competition without having to be online at the very same time which is decent idea.

Kinect Sports: Season Two is notable for the much improved experience through the use of voice commands. The sports however remain somewhat shallow and the longevity is in question because of that. Still it’s a good option for those who enjoyed the original as it’ll deliver just about as expected.