Kinect Sports: Season 2 Review (Xbox 360)
Kinect Sports Season 2 works as an expensive and limited mini-game collection; not so much as a sports game.
If there is one sport in Kinect Sports Season 2 that embodies all that is right -- and wrong -- with the game, it’s football. More than the other events, I was most excited for football since it hasn’t been well represented in the growing “motion-sports” sub-genre.
Generally, the football event was immersive, fun and functionally sound. However, it also was extremely limited in scope and too slow paced. These things can be transferred in some degree to other other five sports (darts, baseball, tennis, skiing and golf) found in Kinect Sports Season 2.
First, what works: There is something undeniably cool about crouching “under center,” saying “hike” and feeling the defensive pressure as you scan the field for open receivers. This feeling of immersion extends to the other events, especially golf, where shielding your eyes lets you get a good look at your current hole. Even the vocal commands, from menus to calling for an audible, help solidify the idea that you are actually participating in a sport.
Secondly, I experienced fewer Kinect-related issues in this game than most others I’ve played. Given enough space and the correct lighting, the Kinect almost became an afterthought. I never felt the need to pick up a controller to speed things up or wonder why a limb was suddenly contorting wildly away from my body.
Finally, Kinect football is a fun experience, especially with other people. While most of the multiplayer events are turn-based, the controls and formats of the sports are intuitive enough to make Season 2 a good party game.
And then, what doesn't work: Despite the positives, there are some things holding Kinect Sports Season 2 back. First the game is extremely streamlined, and for sports fans, this isn’t usually a good thing. Again, looking at football, the sport has been severely reduced to simply passing and kicking. You get four downs to pass the ball 100 yards for a score -- no first downs, no rushing and only a few plays to choose from.
Then, following a touchdown, field goal or punt, you jump to a simulation screen where the AI -- absent any of your influence -- tries to score. There are no defensive plays or gameplay, just an animated drive summary.
This streamlined description applies to the other games to some degree. Golf seems to naturally be the most fully realized, while baseball takes only marginal steps to improve on Wii Sports'. Darts is limited to 501, and tennis and skiing are functional but hardly surprising in their depth.
This reduction of gameplay would be more tolerable if not for the turtle-slow pacing of the various events. There are too many loading screens, transitional wipes, random replays, moments where you can celebrate -- just too much time where you really aren’t doing anything.
The meandering tutorial videos go for this campy vibe, which doesn't help, and feature a bland game show announcer and background music from a 1970s grocery store. Interactive tutorials would seem to make a lot more sense for a motion game.
Kinect Sports Season 2 is a pretty game, but its style will lodge it firmly in the “casual” category for most. Your avatar is heavily featured, which is neat, but the entire game has this very cartoony feel. Cementing this are the handful of moments and mini-games featuring large, colorful and generic mascots. If you’ve played Kinect Sports, or any number of Wii mini-game collections, you’ll know what to expect.
As with the first iteration of this game, there is an overall leveling system for your avatar, represented by the number of fans you have. Certain achievements, depending on the event, give you points toward raising your level.
Still, with only six events (and a few mini-games), you may not find a lot of lasting value here. Sure, there are various tracks, courses, and opponents, but they don’t significantly impact how much you’ll want to play this game. And due to the streamlined nature of each event, you’ll get the gist in only a few play-throughs. Any long-term mode -- from a “create-a-team,” tournaments or league play -- is noticeably absent.
If you are planning to host some upcoming holiday parties, you’ll probably find more to like than those who play alone. The online modes and “challenge” system (think Autolog or Tiger Woods challenges) help enhance what’s here -- it’s just that what’s here isn’t very compelling.
Kinect Sports Season 2 is a good way to show off what your Kinect can do: it’s functional, uses motion controls in some creative ways and can be immersive and fun. However, as a sports game, it leaves a lot to be desired. Each event is extremely limited and too slowly paced for a game that seems designed for quick bursts.
Learning Curve: Very intuitive, though interactive tutorials would be a step up.
Motion Controls: I didn’t have too much trouble with the Kinect, other than a few instances where my voice wasn’t recognized. Running in place continues to be an awkward “motion control.”
Visuals: A bright and cartoonish game, albeit one that is super polished. Avatar use is effective and fun.
Audio: Nothing too notable, other than the odd mix of licensed tracks
Football: Lots of fun; unfortunately it's too repetitive for lasting value.
Baseball: Only running in place and the occasional need to catch the ball make this different from Wii Sports. General baseball principles, like not sliding into first or throwing runners out from the outfield, tend to be ignored.
Darts: Finicky controls get better with practice; only one real game.
Golf: Probably the best of the bunch in terms of depth, variety and enjoyment.
Skiing: Standard crouch, lean and jump. Not innovative, but enjoyable enough.
Tennis: Super sluggish and too forgiving. I prefer Wii Sports Tennis, even all of these years later.
4.5 (Below Average)