Many refer this as a sequel, technically it’s not. It’s a new game with improved features. If you haven’t played Kinect Sports, you are definitely missing out! In the meantime, here’s a synopsis of Kinect Sports Season 2:

Kinect Sports Season Two gives you six more ways to be a sports superstar! Choose your favorite game from motion-based versions of football, baseball, skiing, darts, golf, and tennis. Controls, including voice commands, have been refined and are more precise; Season Two is able to track even minor movements, allowing you to sharpen your sports performance right down to the last detail. Three difficulty levels invite everyone to play. New Challenge Play condenses each sport into quick-hitting, head-to-head contests settled on Xbox LIVE. You can even send challenges that will be waiting for your friends when they log in.

Overview

Kinect Sports Season 2 (further abbreviated as KS2), consists of 6 new sports. These 6 new sports have nothing to do with Kinect Sports original 6 sports. In this “season”, we have football, baseball, skiing, darts, golf and tennis. Most of you that played the demo (which included golf and tennis) didn’t miss anything from those 2 categories. As always, I’m giving you a full detailed review on this game. Kinect Sports stormed the world literally, it had 6 sports that are loved by everyone. For whatever reason, KS2 focuses on other sports, honestly, not loved by all. I am a sports fanatic so I think the sports included are fantastic, however this is an unbiased review so if you aren’t a sports nut, this review should help you determine if you want this game or not.

The Menu

The Menu is more or less the hover and lock method as it was before, sports are fairly categorized as well. There is a new addition of voice controls and they are faster to navigate. Voice recognition works great, unless other people are talking, then it will not pick up what you want. In the main menu, you have Select A Sport, Last Played, Challenge Play, Quick Play, and off to the sides and top you have Extras which is just a link to the marketplace and options which is indicated by the wrench.

Select A Sport

The Select A Sport section lets you start deciding what you want to do. You have all 6 to choose from. From this screen, a new “Home” icon appears, you can say “Xbox, Home” and it will return you from the main menu. Sorry I did not make a list of all the voice commands but it has a lot. For Football for example, you would say, Xbox Football but then you have to continue this with Single Player Match, and then Rookie Opponent. It’s neat at first as are all voice recognition features, but after a while, you just start hovering again. Thankfully both options are in there as if you are like me and play in the wee hours of the night, you can’t be yelling at your Xbox and waking everyone up.

Once you choose a sport, all sports offer Single Player Match, Multiplayer Match and Xbox Live Match. Choosing a single player match allows you to select your difficulty again, Rookie, Pro and Champion. I don’t know if I have become better at KS or what, but it didn’t seem like it’s as challenging as the first one, could just be me though, I recall Rookie being somewhat challenging, it’s not at all in this one. Pro and Champion are locked by default until you beat Rookie so that could be why as well.

There are also the mini-games in this section. As of right now, there is only 1 each for 5 of the sports. Football does not have one, however the way the section is set up, it seems logical more will be added soon. See below for mini-game details, I took the time to make a video of each so hopefully you can get an idea of how they work.

Now onto what is important, the sports! I’m going to go in order of the way the sports are. Most of you probably played the demo, so I did not bother making a video of Golf and Tennis as they are exactly the same as they are in the demo. Tennis is 100% exact, Golf is just missing a single hole option, a 3 hole option and 9 hole option, I will however reveal my opinion on both.

Football

As I mentioned earlier, Kinect Sports took the world by storm with its first sports title for Kinect. This one, I have already seen everyone complaining about Football including Americans. I am from the states, and I apologize but I do love football. I know our version makes no sense as it should be called Handball or something, but how it’s played and how it’s portrayed in this game you will probably not like it if you are not from the states.

I do give Kudos to Rare/Big Studio regarding introducing American Football to the people who don’t know anything about it. There is a complete introduction to how the game is played. It doesn’t provide details but it does explain the important parts in about 2 minutes, unfortunately it still will probably not entice you to love the sport. As the game starts, you are introduced to the teams and the field. To me, the field and teams remind me of high school, yet in a college size stadium. There is an announcer so that helps a little bit. You do a lot more “celebrating” this time around, before every game, during and after you can celebrate. Celebrating consists of controlling the crowd or getting them to chant, however I was unsuccessful in chanting, there might be keywords that we don’t know yet. PS – The instruction manual doesn’t tell you anything, it’s one piece of folded up paper, useless.

You start the game like any other KS, raising your hand to begin. You will always receive the ball first. I understand this is meant to be quick, the average game is about 15 minutes, but there’s just things missing that shouldn’t be or some things make no sense. We should have been able to choose whether we want to kick or receive as it makes a difference after the half.

Once the ball is kicked by the other team, you catch and then you have to run. The faster you run, the more tackles you dodge, however I was always tackled even on Rookie. For whatever reason, after you pass most of the guys, one dude will always run up behind like he’s “The Flash” and will tackle you. One of the achievements is to run all the way back FYI. What I don’t get here is why can’t we stiff arm (which for those that don’t know, is to push guys from you using your hand) or why you can’t spin, deke, juke, etc…The only thing you can do is stop, but then you are instantly tackled. It’s all based upon how fast you run, high knees! It would have been 100 times better if we could actually do running moves and break tackles.

After your down, this is where it gets weird. You get 4 downs to score a touchdown, why there are rugby rules in here, I don’t know. The regular method is 4 downs to go 10 yards, but again maybe it was made this way to speed up the gameplay as I think you can run about 3-5 yards per stride. Now you have a choice of picking the coach’s play or to choose your own play. There are only 6 plays, and they are all passing plays. Not sure why we couldn’t run, it would have made it such a more interesting game. Once a play is chosen, you are shown the routes your wide receivers will run. You are always in the same formation, 3 wide receivers, 3 linemen, and you as quarterback. Yes, it’s 7 on 7. The 7th man on defense luckily is a safety, if he was able to blitz, it would have been a nightmare.

Onto the play itself. After your play is selected, you line up in formation. This part is actually cool, you bend down like there’s a center in front of you with hands out, palms touching, and you can either say “Ready, Hike” or just stand up and drop back ready to throw. Unfortunately, Ready Hike didn’t always work 100% of the time. If you don’t do anything for 5 seconds, it will automatically hike the ball for you as well. Once you hike the ball, I did find that you can kind of move left or right but it doesn’t help you miss a tackle. Your objective here is to throw to 1 of the 3 receivers. They have an indicator above their head and when it turns green it means they are open. It doesn’t always have to be green though, if you watch your guys you will know when to throw them. I do have to say it works well though, much better than the mini game that Game Party: In Motion had.

Once you have a receiver locked in, you either throw left, right or center. If your receiver has a chance, he will make the catch automatically and then you just have to run. Again, if you beat all the guys, one of them will turn into The Flash and tackle you. That’s basically your whole offense. You can be sacked but I didn’t test it out if safeties are in the game or not (where the QB is sacked in the end zone). There’s more to the real game than just passing but that’s all you get to do, and 4 downs to do it in as well. You can also call audibles using your voice or the menu system, although the only time you will call an audible is when you are using Coach’s plays and he picks something short, and you want something long or vice versa. Audibles are meant when you can read the defensive formation, but being they are always in the same formation, it really makes no sense why it’s in there, just another “bell” to use voice recognition is my thought.

It looks like fun, that is until you play it.

On 4th down, if you are not close enough to kick a field goal, you can punt. Punting is kind of like the real thing, you hike the ball and pretend you drop it and then kick it. I wasn’t able to get it to determine power though, every time is a perfect kick and it goes out of the field. What’s weird here is, usually when it goes out of the end zone, the other team starts on the 20 yard line. In KS2, they start wherever, it doesn’t matter. If you could kick it out-of-bounds between the 1-10 yard line that would be more realistic or even if you could recover your own punts by running your tail off, unfortunately none of that is here.

If you are however, close enough to kick a field goal, you will be given that option. To kick a field goal is kind of awkward. If you are standing, it automatically hikes the ball. Kickers are always standing so it’s really awkward. I did notice though you can take a few seconds to do what you need to kick, you can even miss the kick. There is an aiming portion to it, but it’s more of a general aiming so I don’t think you can be really accurate with it.

Lastly, if you do make it all the way to the end zone, you score a touchdown. Those that don’t know, touchdowns are worth 6 points, not 7 like the game portrays. This is another thing that makes no sense. You can kick a field goal if you fail on third down, however you are not given the option to kick a field goal after the touchdown. The real rules are you either kick a field goal for an extra point or pass/run to go for 2 points, we could have at least had the option to kick or pass, but it’s not there. That’s your whole offensive strategy.

Onto the defense, there is none. Even in soccer, we were able to play defense and block the ball. You would think we would have been able to at least try to block/intercept a pass or something, but nope. You get a screen showing you what the other team does and their end result. I was really not impressed with this at all. I know it’s supposed to be casual, but this is below casual, this reminded more of a quarterback beginners learning game.

It is ok for what it is, but it really could have been so much more. Instead of a 15 minute mini-game, throw in defense, some running plays, and even a gameplay clock (there isn’t one so you can really frustrate somebody by keep changing audibles as it keeps resetting your hike timer of 5 seconds) this game could have lasted for an hour and it would have been so much more enjoyable. I would have thought Rare understood that the original KS were too short but we were all ok with it, being it was one of the first great Kinect titles, but apparently that message wasn’t received. That’s basically the whole football section. There aren’t any football mini-games either at the time, hopefully they will think of something. Once you beat champion, I’m not sure what else there is to do with it.

Below is a video I created for some quick gameplay. It’s just simple offense, but you will notice the plays as well as how “defense” works.

Baseball

Baseball is thankfully better than football. I do have to say, I found it enjoyable as Nicktoons MLB, although believe it or not, Nicktoons MLB has more of a realistic factor. You will always bat first, but it really doesn’t matter because baseball only lasts 2 innings, talk about shortcoming. To bat, you want to turn sideways but make sure you choose what hand you are by right or left stance. Once you take your position, it will ask you to match the batter’s stance. Matching the batters stance just requires both hands are out to your side like you are holding a bat, however as I mentioned in the Nicktoon MLB review, KS2’s Baseball suffers the same fate. I bat with my hands behind my head. It technically doesn’t lose tracking as it knows your hands are there, however if I want to hit a home run, forget about it. It re-tracks as my hands came back into view, thinking I was doing more a bunting motion, so most balls were hit infield.

If you do bat like it suggests, hands out to your side so Kinect can see them the whole time, you can barely swing and I think it depends on what pitch is thrown, you can hit home runs. It doesn’t measure power or anything. Also the pitcher gives you no chance to practice swing either. You also can’t really bunt, you can but you can’t, I know its confusing. When you do hit a ball, one of three things will happen. You will either hit it and the outfielder will catch it or miss it and your base running is done automatically, you will hit a short ball and be prompted to run or it will run automatically, or you will hit a home run. Playing baseball strategically is again lacking here, but again it could be just for casual gamers which is why it doesn’t exist.

When you are prompted to run, you have to high tail it and then you can slide by turning with your foot out. This part is actually cool, you basically need to beat the throw, but it fairly simple to always get on base as when the opponent throws the ball, it’s quite delayed. You will again notice the elaborate celebration mode, this is done after every home run, strike out, catch for out, etc. and gets to be quite annoying. As I mentioned earlier, with most hits, your running is done automatically. Sometimes its a double or triple, yet it makes no sense how it determines it because you don’t even get to see the full play finish out. It would have been so much better if you could run the bases and actually steal and what not. When an outfielder does miss a catch, it’s really bad. It’s not like an oops, its like wow is this supposed to be a joke?

The only voice recognition in baseball is to switch batters or pitchers, which again makes no sense as they don’t have stats and no one is better than anyone else, so it was once again thrown in to utilize voice features but it’s really not necessary. The way the balls are pitched to you are quite silly as well, fastballs seem fine, but they have a “slow ball” which is ridiculously slow, you have to time it exact.

That’s basically the batting portion, the pitching portion is more or less the same. It lacks a lot. You can see what the catcher is doing and he gives crazy hand signals I have never seen in baseball. You really don’t know what they mean and you don’t know what kind of pitches you can throw. I experimented with throwing fastballs by using a downward motion, curves you throw by basically throwing sidearm. I did not figure out how to throw a slow ball, again the instruction manual is useless as well as the tutorial. If you do match what the catchers signal is, a check mark will pop up. This will mean one of two things, the batter either hits it and you have a chance to catch an out, or its a strike.

If a batter does hit it and you have to catch, it’s pretty lame to be honest. You can stand there and just barely move your arm and you will catch it. I even had a couple of instances where the batter barely hit the ball and I used my non-gloved hand to catch the ball with my pitcher. This is very far from realistic. You get to celebrate after each out as well, celebrating has become way overrated. That’s really all there is to baseball, it is another one that could have been so much more, but for whatever reason, was chosen not to be.

I made a quick video of the batting portion, hit a homer in it to give you an idea as well as the running/sliding portion in it. View the video below:

Darts

Darts on the other hand, is one of the more enjoyable games, however it still doesn’t justify the entire title in my view. The only darts game you can play is 501, however the rules I used to play did not include getting a double to check out, but I also did not play 301/501 on a regular basis, could be the dust on the brain as well didn’t recall the actual rules as well. The dart match is a best of 3. Game Party In Motion also had darts, but the controls were too clunky, but it did give you a couple different methods to play such as 301 or Cricket. Why are we stuck with only 501? There’s more fun dart games to play other than 501. Carnival Games Monkey See Monkey Do also had a dart game but it wasn’t accurate at all compared to this and Game Party. Fortunately, you can be quite accurate in this darts game, however the concept is still kind of weird to me, maybe because I used to play darts and still play once in a while, not the concept of 501, the concept of only being able to play 501 and the way the control method works.

What I find strange is you have a reticule that you move around, once you have it where you want it, you pull your arm back and once you do this, the reticule gets smaller making you think you are throwing in that area, not the case. If you throw on an angle or something, it will go outside of the area, so I’m not sure why a reticule is even there. When you throw a real dart, you have an idea of where you want to aim, but when you actually throw all kinds of variables come into play. Realistically, I’m not sure why developers keep trying to make darts work. I just don’t think Kinect is capable of it.

Not all is lost though, I do like the dart arena that was created, much better than a bar atmosphere. I think the best thing out of darts altogether is that you can taunt your opponent. It may mess them up, it may not. But you can move around like crazy to distract them or yell at them. I yelled whatever and they would keep turning around, it would have been hilarious if they made comments to you and you could interact vocally with them to try mess their game up, not that you do this in real life, but this is a game after all.

I made a video as well of Darts to show you how it works below. This is just a quick couple of rounds to show you how the aiming kind of works, I did throw some taunting in there. 🙂

Golf

Golf is probably the best sport on here out of them all. What’s unfortunate is the length again. It only has 9 holes, why couldn’t we get at a least a full 18 hole course. Golf also features the best voice integration into the game. You can call out Practice to take a practice shot, or to change your clubs. It works 100% of the time unless other voices are being heard, but no one is supposed to be talking when you are golfing anyway! The demo on Xbox Live is really accurate in showing you how golf works, however, KS2 won’t sell on golf alone. The course is just too short, it’s fine its all made up, but it needs more courses or something. Also it would have been really helpful if we were able to hook/slice the ball as well as putting some spin on it. Sure we can’t pinpoint where our imaginary golf club is hitting our imaginary ball in our living room, but it would have been simple to just zoom in on the golf ball and point to the dimple you want to hit applying your spin, I remember this from Links back in the old Xbox days.

Skiing

From what I have read, people seem to like this one. It’s ok, but again it’s really short. You can only choose from 3 tracks to race down and it is slalom skiing in between flags in a best out of 3 races. There’s some jumping mixed in but that’s about it. This one lasts about 2 minutes as you’ll probably win 2 in a row. All you have to do is tuck your arms and crouch and then lean side to side like you are going downhill. The controls are a little too sensitive and you will slide from left to right most of the time which I believe, is why the flags are only on those 2 sides and not the center. Jumping you just have to time correctly and then you jump and gain a little speed boost. That’s really all it is, no tricks, you are in separate lanes so you can’t even mess with the other guy, another shortcoming in my opinion. Going back to the scary Kinect days, dare I say it, but Deca Sports Freedom and MotionSports had more skiing events than KS2, this is not OK in my book.

Here’s a video of one run. This is really all it is. 3 tracks, that’s it. There’s a lot more skiing events than just downhill slalom, maybe Rare didn’t know?

Tennis

Unfortunately, for me it was another disappointment in terms of depth and longevity. You can play the demo (see the right hand side for the link, below the game info heading) and see for yourself. It’s not as horrible as Deca Sports Freedom was thankfully, but it’s not that great either. Basically it’s just table tennis with a huge table, however table tennis and regular tennis are 2 different sports, or so I thought. It’s bad to the point that you can literally just stand there with your arm out to the side and win a match. It’s only 1 match, 3 sets. Most basic tennis game I have ever played.

Yes, really, you can just stand there and hit the ball automatically, that’s where the table tennis concept is, but even in table tennis you still had some freedom to move to either side of the table or forwards or backwards. Tennis lacks this much-needed movement. The other thing I noticed is your racket is as big as you, which seems silly but I believe it affects hitting the ball. The timing is all off, realistically I was just lucky in the mini-game video. I jumped way early and was able to pull off smashes. Unfortunately tennis needs a lot of work still. Virtua Tennis 4 however, did do a much better job at it and I’m not sure why notes/features were not taken from it. KS2 Tennis could have, again, been so much more.

The Mini Games

As in KS, we had a slew of mini-games that kept us very entertained when we became bored with the normal sports games. I really thought we would have seen more than 1 mini-game per sport since KS had 2 per sport, but it’s even less than that. 5 to be exact, and football doesn’t have any mini-game, unfortunate. I did go ahead and create a montage video for each mini-game so you can get a feel and comparison difference as it seems these mini-games weren’t developed with much effort in mind. All mini-games do allow for up to 4 players to play, each taking turns.

Home Run Hero

This is the baseball mini-game. Basically, you accumulate a total number of feet with 10 at bats. You can gain an extra at bat by hitting a homer. Whoever has the most feet wins. Really that’s it.

Pop Darts

The dart mini-game is kind of strange. Your favorite rivals from KS boxing are in there, pinned up to a board and you throw, what looks to me, suction cup type darts at balloons around them. Hitting your rivals will subtract 3 seconds from your time. Hitting 3 balloons increases your time by 10 seconds each time. As you progress, the board starts spinning to increase the difficulty, but overall it’s not really challenging.

Ocean Driver

This is the golf mini-game. Again, I think golf is the best sport in this game and realistically, I don’t mind playing golf, but it’s not something I want to do everyday. The mini-game has you trying to hit a ball onto a target to get points; one, two, or three points is what you can get off of a boat. When you do land a 3 pointer, you increase your chances. As you progress, wind starts kicking in (the wind current really reminded me of Zelda WindWaker) but the way the balls curve, makes me really wish we could hook/slice and add spin to it.

Downhill Dodge

The skiing mini-game is probably the most challenging of them all. This one actually reminded me of a normal KS mini-game. The objective is ski around obstacles as well as jumping and ducking. It turns into great fun and the challenge level increases this fun factor. As you complete each round, each round becomes more and more challenging.

Smash Alley

The last mini game for tennis is alright. The only fun part is being able to smash the ball at your rivals. Other than that, it’s pretty cut and dry, simply aim at your rivals. That’s really it.

I did make a quick montage of all the mini games since there really are not a lot. Check it out below:

Challenge Play

The biggest addition to the KS series is the challenge play. We kind of had something similar with the updates to KS showing you your friends scores to beat. Now you can initialize an actual challenge and taunt them to beat your score. Adds a little more flavor in this round, but realistically, these sports aren’t correct for this kind of mode. We even made challenging each other so popular here at 123Kinect.com, that we have our own leaderboards! Unfortunately, I do not feel the same way about this game, as I think a majority of people are all going to have around the same scores, minus/add a few here or there.

Multiplayer

I was really hoping multiplayer/Xbox Live would save this game, but unfortunately it does not. More things make no sense with the football multiplayer. You can play either versus or co-op mode, which is cool, but in versus you take turns. In versus, there is a coin toss, why is this not in the regular game, so strange! In co-op mode, player 1 is the quarterback, player 2 is the all-time runner. I would have said receiver, but there’s no catching. Xbox Live is the same thing, amazing that it’s all about offense.

Baseball is ok, versus you play split screen. Xbox Live is just like single player in all of the sports. No co-op mode although it would have been cool to have one player play as a pitcher and the other player as a catcher or fielder or whatever.

Darts and Golf both are take turn games, no difference than single player, except you can have up to 4 players instead of just 2.

Skiing and Tennis are also 2 player only and versus mode only. Both are simultaneous so it can be cool, but how many times can you get people to play with you, there’s just not enough replay value here.

Quickplay

The quick play will take you through a very quick play round of all of the sports, it’s not really a special mode or anything, and I don’t have much to say about it, it saves time I suppose if you want to play every sport.

The Controls

Even though the concepts are kind all over the place with this new title, Rare still has the controls down, even better than KS. Controls are crucial to these games so thankfully you will have very minor issues, if any. I only experienced a couple of voice issues but I don’t really use it so I don’t care, and the baseball issue, but if I change my stance it works fine. Other than that, I didn’t experience any issues, I don’t expect flawless but as this is a new title to them, new gestures are involved. Typically new gestures mean new problems, but Rare has such a good history on creating functional controls, it wasn’t really surprising to see the controls almost perfect.

I did want to update this review as well, as I did go ahead and spend money on this particular Kinect pack, I do have to say, having something in your hands really does enhance your experience, hopefully they start packaging some peripherals with these specific games.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, it’s not a game that will be for everyone as KS is. Some may agree with my rating, others will not. I rated it based on the controls and the playability as well as the little bit of fun factor it has. With the length of the sports as well the sports themselves, it just doesn’t deserve the same grade as its predecessor. There’s a reason why the big boys (EA Sports, 2K Sports) haven’t divulged into the major sports yet, and honestly I think we should leave it up to them. I think most would agree that we would have liked to see Kinect Sports Season 2 as an extension and upgraded version of – the outstanding – Kinect Sports, more options to the games, maybe some tournament mode for table tennis, volleyball, etc., basically a true sequel, but instead we are thrown 6 new sports that aren’t really that great as the first 6. I suppose the plus side is Rare is really good at choosing celebration music, there’s even more in this round. You also get 1 month free to your gold subscription as well as a male/female football uniform and a foam finger for your avatar, but to purchase a game solely based on extra little bells and whistles is unheard of.

On that note, the big thing that I noticed while playing everything…the only sport that felt realistic was Golf. KS did such a fantastic job on every single sport that I really felt like I was playing for real, I remember boxing literally wore me out as well as beating volleyball, even table tennis was a little rough at times. I felt good about myself, like “yeah, I beat that freaking hard game and I’m showing it physically.” You will not get this feeling with KS2 unfortunately, heck it’s really not that physically intense either, KS was much more intense. It seems the realism factor was thrown out the window either because the majority of Americans are lazy or this was totally geared towards the casual crowd, either way, I feel overall it was a bad move. I’m sure with the impact this game is going to make, if any, ideas and strategies will be re-evaluated and we should probably see a Kinect Sports 3 in the near future. Let’s hope they choose the right path…


This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Kinect Sports Season 2
Scoring policy: What do these game review scores actually mean?