‘Kinect Sports Rivals’ Will Silence Xbox One Critics – Forbes

Xbox One’s Kinect controller is a double edged sword. While some praise its new advance motion tracking others are keen to use it as a stick to punish Microsoft Microsoft for its insistence that every Xbox gamer must own it.

Let me pin my colors to the mast, I really like Kinect. Not only as a novel way for families to play, but for the theater and fresh interactions it makes possible — of which we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

But even I could appreciate some people’s qualms over having to buy Kinect at launch, not least because of a lack of a really killer Kinect 2 game. The Wii certainly wouldn’t have succeeded without it’s banner launch title Wii Sports.

It was with some eager excitement then that I got exclusive access to Rare’s studio and their game Kinect Sports Rivals. Although bits and pieces of the experience had been seen before this is the first time anyone had seen the game end-to-end and in real depth.

In a nutshell, from getting scanned in to create a digitized Avatar, to picking your team and playing through the different sports there is a sense of finesse and quality throughout.

Soccer, Bowling and Tennis return in updated form while new activities Target Target Shooting, Climbing and Wake Racing expand the Kinect Sports Rivals cannon. It’s an intelligent way of keeping things familiar while adding fresh interest for more core gamers.

The difference over previous Kinect Sports titles is a greater sense of competition and skill. Not that the game is harder per se, but that the increased accuracy of the Kinect sensor moves this from an exuberant frantic work out to something requiring a deft touch and strategic understand more common in the likes of FIFA.

Talking to Craig Duncan, Studio Head at Rare, it was interesting to hear him address how the new sensor opens the door to a whole new experience — even compared to the 360′s Kinect controller.

“When we started to work with the Xbox One hardware team it made natural sense to take [Kinect Sports Rivals] further — make it look better, play better and add more depth and mastery.”

Mastery is the phrase that kept coming to mind in each of the different sports. I’d often start out a little frustrated, having been used to more general gestures being sufficient previously, but soon realized that if I paid attention to the on screen advice and to what I was doing with my body things suddenly clicked into place.

Rare are uniquely positioned to achieve this in a number of ways, but equally this ground will quickly be followed by other developers. “We are set in 100 acres of English countryside. My job is to ensure the team has the right space and time to make great experiences. This facility helps keep everything secret –  working with Xbox One and Kinect in their early stages.”

Challenging Duncan about shortcomings in the previous Kinect experience that didn’t necessarily match up to the marketing message he was surprisingly frank. “Fundamentally it is a camera, it sees as a camera sees. You need to set it up for an optimum experience. Kinect is an amazing piece of technology as long as you set it up right and calibrate it.”

Reflecting on Xbox One in general Duncan was clear about the role Kinect Sports Rivals needs to play for the platform. “I think what it’s been missing is that killer awesome game. Which obviously at Rare we want to be that, and why we were a demo on day one and why we made the game.”

Talking the Danny Isaac, Executive Producer on Kinect Sports Rivals it was interesting to hear about the unique opportunities for Rare as a Microsoft studio in terms of profitability. “You can look at profit in a number of ways. Keep the costs down, or build something really awesome so more people buy them. Everyday there’s a push-pull for any decision we make but fundamentally at Microsoft we are in a privileged position that the company is very solvent.”


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