The launch of the latest edition of Xbox's Kinect Sports series, Rivals, could not have come soon enough. Despite the new Kinect 2 included with every Xbox One, gamers have had few chances to really put the motion-sensor device through its paces. With Kinect Sports Rivals we can finally see if it is as impressive as first impressions indicate.
There are six games in Rivals: wake racing, climbing, target shooting, soccer, bowling, and tennis. But before you can pick up a racquet or mount your jetski, the Kinect first scans your body and then your face, creating an avatar of remarkable likeness. Super cool.
Wake racing, which featured in the demo available since the launch of the Xbox One, is the highlight of Rivals. Players take a stance with their arms outstretched in front as if gripping the handlebar of a jetski, and move their body and arms to turn accordingly. Kinect's sensitivity impresses here, with even the smallest movement affecting the jetski giving you a real sense of control.
The tennis game also impresses, with a range of shots available through subtle changes to your arm movements when hitting the ball. Bowling is a blast, particularly with two players, although it is a tad easy to regularly get a strike. The rock climbing is exhausting and a challenge - players are advised to play in a high-ceilinged room as there is a bit of jumping involved.
Target shooting is a bit hit-and-miss, as it feels a bit strange aiming your fingers at your TV and not pulling a trigger to fire at targets. The soccer game is also weak. It barely resembles the actual game and striking at goal is awfully frustrating. The moments as goalkeeper are fun, but make sure you've got room to stretch out if you need to dive to make a save.
All of the games can be surprisingly tiring, particularly on your arms.
As the Kinect reads your body movement, unlike with the Wii, there's no risk of accidently flinging your controller through your flatscreen. While the lack of controller feels right with the rock climbing and the soccer, tennis on the Wii feels more natural as it feels like you are gripping a real racquet.
The single player mode of the game includes a storyline, with three rival teams competing for dominance. However, playing alone wears thin fairly quickly, so you'll want to invite around some mates. Rivals appears destined to be pulled out during parties, with dance tracks between games keeping players on their feet and moving their bodies. As the name suggests, playing multiplayer quickly turns friends and relatives into bitter rivals.
Developer Rare has got the most out of the new technology. The Kinect 2 is precise and responsive compared with its often lagging predecessor, picking up the smallest of movements quickly. The Kinect also features a voice control, however, Kiwis will have to adopt an Aussie twang in order for the device to understand us.
Some gamers have complained the Xbox One has lacked enough multiplayer titles (with many games focusing on online play) so anyone looking for a more social experience will welcome the release of Rivals. And with a Kinect included with every console, Rivals is a vital addition to the game collection of every gamer who wants to make the most of the motion-sensor device.