Another sports compilation arrives and for once, a developer listened to our wants. If you haven’t heard anything about Winter Stars, it was developed by 49 Games (Creator of the Winter Sports/Summer Athletics series). The synopsis states:

The competition heats up when the temperature drops in this Olympic-style sports festival! Become a cold-weather legend in 11 different sports: downhill skiing, bobsledding, snowmobiling, snowboard cross, ski jumping, figure skating, biathlon, curling, paraskiing, short-track, and curling. Experience what it’s like to compete as and live the life of a superstar in a story-based single-player mode, complete with quick-hit arcade-style training mini-games between events. Win championships and bragging rights in four-person online and local multiplayer, including a Family Mode that allows each player to choose their own difficulty level. Do well and earn points to purchase new equipment and upgrade your skills so you can elevate your performance.

Overview

This has to be one of the better adult Kinect titles to date, not because of how it plays, but because how well thought out everything is and it’s not a dancing game, a kids game or a fitness game and it doesn’t use our avatars, finally! It has 11 winter sports to play, although I wouldn’t really consider them mini-games as some games take you 10-15 minutes to get through. I’ll be blunt right away, the big reviewers are either not going to bother with this game or give it a bad score, why you may ask? Simply because only 4 events are available right away, you actually have to play through the career mode in order to unlock the rest and we know they won’t take the time to do it, but that’s why you are here. 🙂

The Menu

The actual navigation is interesting. What they did is combine both the hover and lock method and the Dance Central method. With all of the content in this game and menu options, you need something precise and the best of both worlds actually works very well. You can’t zip around as if you were using a controller, but as long as you take your time it won’t frustrate you. Voice navigation would have probably worked pretty well here but it’s not included. What you have to do is hover over an option, and then a secondary box opens up and you slide across it to confirm.

The main menu consists of Career, Team, Multiplayer and Options. There’s also a short summary of what each option is about which is actually helpful to newcomers. When you do first start the game up, it will ask you if you want family mode on. I wasn’t sure where to fit this, so I put it here. Family mode makes the controls very easy so those that aren’t competitive, won’t need the additional controls. This was actually a good idea, so everyone can enjoy this game.

Career Mode

After you start the career mode, you get thrown into a downhill skiing event right away with no idea how to control it. I actually thought this was cool, as it gives you a quick feel for what the game is about and you get all excited not knowing what you are supposed to be doing. You only go so far and then wipe out intentionally and end up breaking your leg. This begins your career. I am about halfway done with the game, but I wanted to get this review out there for those patiently waiting. The story is fine for what it is, it’s not some thriller or anything movie quality, but it works for this game. The guy that broke his leg can’t ski anymore, so he starts building an olympic type team. You get introduced to all of the characters and learn about them, help them out and play as each one.

Career mode consists of 60 events total, which is actually quite a lot considering 16 of them are cup events and the other 44 are challenges. The cups are setup like a normal tournament with a gold, silver and bronze system. 3 points for gold medals, 2 points for silver and 1 point for bronze. If you come in 4th place, you don’t get any points. You are always competing against 3 other teams, one of those teams is your rivals, The Black Knights, but you will learn about them as you progress. With the cups, there are usually a minimum of 3 events. You accumulate points depending on your placement and at the end of the cup, whomever has the most points wins. Some cups are ladies only, men only, etc. They are all unique and take some time. You won’t accomplish this game in one day. I have 12 hours clocked in it and I’m still only about a third of the way done.

The challenges are all kinds of different things. Some have you collect a number of coins, some have you do a certain number of tricks, there are time trials, all kinds of stuff. They even put in “Boss” challenges where you have to defeat an opponent to earn an unlock to an upgrade, yeah you don’t get upgrades for free, and you have to unlock everything. It makes it for some really competitive challenges. As I mentioned, you have to progress through career mode to build your team and to unlock other activities. You also have to unlock other tracks and what not. The skating events only have 2 arenas, and the racing events have 4 tracks each.

Another excellent thing in career mode is there are some slight RPG elements. You have an experience system in place, after each event you gain experience based on your placement, and some other perks such as nailing 8 tricks, not hitting anything, etc. there are quite a few. I’m not quite sure how high you can level up to, but it takes awhile. I’m only level 8 or 9 if I recall. Leveling up actually doesn’t do anything from what I can tell, however your experience points are also your money system so to speak. You spend experience points to upgrade your team and their equipment. You can also buy unique items/add-ons and equip/unequip them. You can also replay completed cups/challenges and obtain more experience points. You can accumulate experience points in other parts of the game, but I’ll go into that later. It does keep track of your spending points and your actual points earned. It’s really a nice touch to the game.

The Team

This is the section where I’ll go into detail about all of the activities, there is a ton of stuff in this game so I’m trying not to jump around everywhere and confuse people. Anyhow, once you go into this section you have all of your activities listed. Once you unlock all of them, there is a “To The Right” button that takes you to the other ones, which isn’t shown in the beginning and if you don’t pay attention you may not realize there’s more stuff as I did and thought there were only 6 events. With all of the activities, each one has 4 options. They all offer a Leaderboards section so you can see right away where you rank in the world, and they are ranked based on the track so you do have the option to change different tracks.

There’s also an upgrade section. This is where you get all of the goodies. Upgrades consist of many different things based on the activity. Each activity offers 5 different upgrades. The first one for all of them are Talents. All the game says about talents is general improvements, however you can upgrade their talents 4 times each, so there’s a Talent 1, Talent 2, Talent 3, and Talent 4. I honestly don’t know if they actually do anything or if you just get better over time. The next one is called Wildcard. What this does is offer you a second chance in cups in the career mode. Honestly, you will probably want these all the time. I played one cup that had 7 different activities. I was tied on the 7th event and I lost, and couldn’t redo it so I had to start the cup over which was a grrr moment. That’s when I learned Wildcard is your best friend.

The remaining upgrades are all unique to the activity. Examples are the bobsled, you can upgrade it with a spoiler that, if I recall, improves your handling. You can also throw a body kit on it. Once I seen this, I then related this game to Need For Speed, and it’s pretty similar except in a winter world and without cars. Anyhow, the snowmobile you can do similar upgrades like upgrading the tracks. Skiers can get new skies among other things. The skaters get different outfits and what not. There really is a variety of things to upgrade with, however once you get the real upgrades, there’s not a deeper level unfortunately like the talent section.

The next section in the activity contains the tutorial area which has an interactive tutorial which is really helpful by the way, and normal animated flashcards. What’s really nice is the game knows if you haven’t played an event yet, so the first time you attempt it, it will ask you if you want to do the interactive tutorial, I would suggest it. The interactive tutorial is so nice that it actually makes sure you understand the controls before allowing you to proceed. You can skip it if you fail it, but it’s just nice to know when you aren’t doing something right.

Once you get the tutorial down, the last area in each activity is Training. This is actually a very helpful and very welcomed mode. The way this game is designed is you need to practice, just like everyone is good at one game or another and I know most of us weren’t FPS gods when the first one came to consoles, and this is the same way. I’m still working on this game but I’ve noticed improvements over time and this area will help you with that. You can choose any activity, choose the game type from either a Time Trial or the Competition mode which is against the other AI players. You can choose tracks (only 1 track is available in the beginning, you have to unlock the rest) and the difficulty. Difficulty offers easy, normal and hard, but for the extremists, there’s an Extreme. I found the caption quite humorous, “Extreme – For those with a death wish”. I only tried hard and its ridiculously hard, so I haven’t bothered with Extreme yet. What is nice though is you gain experience points as well in training, however you don’t gain any extra by playing on a harder difficulty. It may have been a better option to get you to work up to the harder levels, but I suppose we can’t have it all, yet.

Alright, onto the sports themselves. I made a video of each as usual, but I did do a lot of messing around so you can try to get a feel for this game. In the beginning, I show you the flash cards to show you what gestures to use and also try to do everything I can in that sport. Before anyone comments, I don’t know what the deal is with the gorilla, might have to do something with the end of the story 🙂 Anyhow, the way the sports work is not like other games. You do gestures in sections, while some gestures are active throughout the entire event, so you really need to understand the controls in order to enjoy this game but it also helps you focus on being precise. I noticed this with downhill skiing at first. In Kinect Sports 2, MotionSports Adrenaline and most other skiing events if I recall, you can do the pole motion whenever you want. This one you don’t. After I thought about it, trying to do a pole motion while being precise at cutting gates would be next to impossible and lead to a frustrating title. Instead what they have come up with is a very enjoyable experience, allowing you to focus on racing and being precise.

Also before I get into the events, throughout all of them, you have/gain adrenalin. The universal gesture throughout all sports is just put both hands forwards, arms straight. Adrenalin, in my opinion, is like a nitrous boost. Gaining adrenalin is done differently depending on the sport but I’ll point it out. When you see the blue bars, that’s your adrenalin bar so I don’t have to explain it in each one. Also the universal gesture for getting back on track after you wipe out is just to run in place so I don’t have to explain that in each video either.

Bobsled

Bobsledding is pretty cool. They even threw in the Forza racing lines to give you the ideal placement in the turns. What you have to do, is run as fast as possible at the start until you fill the meter. Then 2 arrows will float down and you want to crouch at the right time, 4 times in a row, one for each bobsledder. Once everyone is in, you then go into a lean mode. You lean left and right to control the sled, although it hugs the track so tight you really have to move, which I’m guessing is pretty realistic since I’ve never bobsledded before. If you move to sudden, sometimes you will hit the wall. In order to stabilize yourself, you have use the opposite hand to push-off of, it can get confusing, but just pay attention to what side of the wall you hit, or just keep practicing and eventually you won’t hit the walls 🙂 Other racers are shown as ghost riders, so you can’t actually collide with anyone. There’s 4 tracks to this but even all of the times I have played it, I still can’t remember the tracks like I can with racing games. Adrenalin is gained by taking a corner using the ideal line for the entire turn. It does give you a feeling of just going fast, so I think this one was done pretty well. Enough rambling, here’s the video:

Paraskiing

This is one of the harder ones, I’m still not very good at it. The tracks are confusing because there are many multiple paths and you can basically go anywhere, but you need gusts of wind to push you up. There’s not anything wrong with it, it just makes it challenging which I actually like when games aren’t super easy and not super hard. It is fun though. You start off by running, and then you have to pretend like your holding a chute and control it via your hands/arms. You lower your hands to ascend, raise them to descend. Alternate each to turn and you can also lean to help turn you faster. Once you hit the snow, it then goes into skiing controls with the leaning, but turning with your chute will help you turn faster as well. You can only use adrenalin while on the ground and you can only gain adrenalin if you hit a gust of wind and do a trick, typically stick to the ramps and you’ll keep getting adrenalin. You also don’t want to stay in the air too long when you can ski because hanging out literally slows you down, so there is some strategy to this as well. The tricks are silly, but overall it’s a good one. Check out the video:

Biathlon

The Biathlon is probably one of the slower sports. To start off, you push-off your poles at the count between 1 and Go to get a perfect. Then the game skis by itself. You can lean left and right, but you can also jostle in this one and you can jostle with either your left or right hand, kind of like a Road Rash on snow. On some of the sports, you’ll notice a green bar. This green bar is your slipstream, or as its referred in the racing world as drafting. To actually have this in a Kinect title is quite sweet. If you hang out behind someone long enough, you’ll fill up your slipstream bar and then boost ahead. The only other gestures with the skiing in this one is that you have to run in place to go uphill and then you can crouch on the downhill parts, but its only during the downhill, otherwise if you crouch when its flat, your skier will come to a stop. You can also brake in this by twisting your feet towards each other, and it works really well. Adrenalin is gained faster by crouching, but I just kept going through the track normally and it seemed to get more adrenalin.

Once you get to the range portion, the controls change-up on your and you will go with a primary and secondary arm gesture. I would make your primary your shooting arm and your secondary your aiming arm. I used my left arm to aim and then your right arm, you put it up like making a muscle gesture, if that makes sense – the animated flash card in the video shows it better – and when you are ready to shoot, you just swing your right arm downward still in a muscle posture. To reload, just bring your arm back in the muscle posture, amazingly, this method works really well. You have 5 bullets and 5 targets to hit in the fastest time possible. For additional control, you can crouch and this lets you hold your breath for steady aiming, very similar to Call of Duty breathing.

After you complete the range, you finish up the race and then do it over again, most of the biathlon’s are typically 2 laps but I didn’t see anywhere to change the number of laps. The difference with the range between both laps is the first lap you are in a prone position to shoot, and then lap 2 you are in a standing position, which is less accurate and you will tell the difference.

Anyhow, here’s a video of it. I was trying to jostle someone as you do knock them down but it’s actually hard. The only thing I can think of that would have made this a little more enjoyable is if we could do the pole motion as you are bound to the track in this one, so you don’t have to worry about being precise.

Figure Skating

We’ve seen a figure skating attempt previously with the atrocious Deca Sports Freedom, so I was quite concerned with this one. Somehow, 49 Games made figure skating cool. It’s all about timing as it is in real life, so the actual transition was thought out very well. There are 5 different gestures that you are prompted to do, and you’ll watch your skater prance about but you have to pay attention to the ice. You want to do the gesture at the exact moment a blue circle passes over it, doing that a few times in a row lets you go into double mode. Double mode is like adrenalin, except it puts the spotlight on your skater and you can gain better scores, but mess up and you take bigger risks and score less. There’s also sustaining in this, where it shows an icon with a blue bar. You have to hit the pose at the exact moment, hold the pose and try to end it at the exact moment. Believe it or not, it’s quite difficult to get it exact. The better you are at it, the higher your scores can be.

The only thing that may have made this more exciting is more upbeat/dance music like most of the skaters use nowadays. It is the same song over and over, but the routines do change-up as in the beginning, you only start out with 2 gestures and then you have to unlock the other 3 as you progress. In the video, I did purposely fall so you can see that you can basically do moves perfect, good, OK (stumble) and fail (fall).  Check it out:

Downhill Skiing

Downhill Skiing is a fun one. This is one where you have to be really precise and it’s quite challenging. You start off with the pole motion to get going and then it switches you into leaning mode. Once you’re in leaning mode, your objective is to stay in between the gates and get downhill as fast as possible. You aren’t restricted to stay in between the red lines and if you do miss a gate, you will be penalized by slowing down. You gain adrenalin over time, but the fastest way to get it is to cut gates. Cutting gates is really freaking hard, as I mentioned you have to hit it right on and amazingly enough, Kinect controls allow for this precision, you can miss gates by a hair. I sense when you get really good at this, you’d basically be doing close to the real thing. This one has ghosts as well so you don’t have worry about opponents messing with you. I really couldn’t think of anything to improve this as the way its presented is done very well. Here’s the video of it, I did turn really sharp to show that you can crash as well:

Snowboard Cross

Snowboarding is quite fun as well. It’s a mix between some need for speed racing and some Tony Hawk/SSX moves although you don’t have to do crazy control combos to execute moves such as Sonic Free Riders. This one starts by timing it right to get a perfect start, you turn sideways (it does recognize both normal and goofy stances) and then pushing yourself off the gates. You then lean forward/backward while standing sideways to turn. When you hit ramps, you can do either simple or advanced tricks. Simple tricks are done with a roof over your head gesture. The advanced tricks involve lifting a leg up in addition to the roof over your head gesture. I did test out both legs and I’m pretty sure you want to use both legs in order to do all 8 tricks, it does seem random at times but it also seemed some moves are set for your right leg and some for your left. You can also grind in this, you can either just balance the entire length or you can do grabs as well by bending down pretending to grab a board. There’s also different grabs so just don’t grab once if the rail is long enough. The tricks are primarily for gaining adrenalin, which makes this for a very competitive race.

This one does have opponents you race with so you can jostle them and knock them off their boards. Why I mention it has need for speed elements is you can also slipstream in this, but the tracks themselves have hidden shortcuts that you can find taking you completely off the track. The one spot I found on one track had me weaving through trees in a real country like setting. The one in the video I tried to get to but missed the rail, because I was trying to be cool and do a trick. Overall its a fun and challenging game, I think they did a good job with it. Here’s the video:

Short Track

This one is probably one of the harder ones, well to me at least but I only have played it 5 times now. It’s speed skating on a short track. This one is probably the most energetic as well. You have to wait until the timer reaches between 1 and GO and run in place to start. After you get going, you have to swing your arms as if you were speed skating, I haven’t figured out if stopping your arm movement around turns helps or not. You also lean side to side to move around. Slipstreaming is in this one and you will do a lot of it. You can also jostle your opponents and this one is probably the most brutal, you will see your opponents or even you, fly into a wall and crash. That’s all there really is to it, it is fast and engaging.

In the video, I was trying to jostle and hit someone, but didn’t get it on-screen, but the one race that I didn’t record was just a brutal race, everyone was hitting everyone. Anyhow, check out the video:

Ski Flying

This is basically ski jumping. You start off at the top of the ramp, and you have a wind flag showing you direction. You can hang out for a while before it forces you to start. When the wind blows in the center, is when you want to release. You release by first starting with your hands above your head, and then fling them both down at the same time. You can then lean left/right to adjust your direction. At the end of the ramp, you have to jump precisely to get the most distance. I honestly suck at this at one. 🙂 Once you are in air, you can lean in all directions to help you, I’m not sure if its to gain points or if its to help you land as I tried all kinds of different things and was still able to land it for the most part. Before you land, you will see a target on the track and you have to jump at the right moment in order to land it. This one has 2 runs. It’s ok, I think its more strategy and timing than anything which I have yet to figure out. I forgot to check if it had an adrenalin mode.

In the video, I did wipe out on purpose to show you that you can wipe out, so don’t think you can land everything. View it below:

Freeride Skiing

This is the trick version for skiing. It’s actually setup the exact same way as snowboarding, except you stand forward instead of sideways. The start is different as you use your poles instead of pushing off, as for everything else, it’s the exact same so I won’t go into detail about it. The tracks are much more intense though. See the video so you can relate:

Curling

This one is interesting. I honestly never really watched curling on TV nor tried to understand it and I still don’t think I get it, but they have made it fun. From what I played, it’s very strategic, almost like chess on ice. The controls work good for it as well, as I was thinking if you were to do the actual gestures, it just wouldn’t work as you would need ice, so what they’ve come up works very well. You start off by using either arm to aim, just don’t raise it too high, or you’ll lock in your direction. Once you aim where you want, use your other arm or the same arm to confirm it. Next is your power, it’s looking for a gesture like a bowling ball release gesture, but slower. You do your release and then hold it to build up the meter. Once you have it where you want it, you bring your arm back down. If you mess up, just do a bowling gesture again and it lets you redo it. Once you have it where you want it, raise an arm to confirm it. The last part of the direction system is spin. This is done by just leaning left or right, but you have to hold it. I found that moving around right away and then stopping will center it to where you are aiming if you don’t want spin. After you confirm the spin direction, it then automatically releases the stone for you.

They did put in the sweeping motion and you have to use both arms/hands, one won’t cut it. This can get tiresome so make sure you have enough power. There is 2 ends per match, and it has you do a semi-final, and then a final and if you are tied, an overtime match, so this one can take a while. Also, since it can be a slow game, they put in a fast forward gesture, by holding your hand out to the side. This is so welcomed I had no idea I would use it so much. It makes curling go by much quicker. I did make a video, but before I upset the curling enthusiasts, I do not know what I’m doing so I was just playing to get points so I apologize if I don’t play it properly. In the video, I ended up going into overtime but it is quite boring to just watch so I cut that part out and I did mess up once with aiming as I was waving my hand about for whatever reason, anyhow here you go:

Snowmobile

Snowmobile racing is kind of like the freeride skiing and the snowboarding except on a snowmobile. The gestures are different though for controlling. To begin, you have to raise your hands up, and this will typically make you do a wheelie (not sure what they are called on snowmobiles, a trackie?) After you start, you just use a handle bar motion, however, it mimics a real snowmobile, where one arm is closer or farther away from you when turning. If you try to turn with your hands/arms, it doesn’t work. You can slipstream in this, as well as something new, drifting. Yup you can drift in this which is awesome, but it’s really hard. You have to turn and then raise your opposite leg up of whatever direction you are turning. The tricks are done in the same manner as the other 2 trick events, except they seem to take longer maybe because you are on a snowmobile, so make sure you have clearance and aren’t going to crash. Once you are up in the air, there is no leaning or anything to move the snowmobile. You can also jostle as well.

I literally just unlocked snowmobiling as it is the last event to unlock, so this video is my second time playing through it. The controls will take some time to get used to. I also attempted to drift in a circle but it didn’t work out so well 🙂 Here’s the video of it:

Those are all of the events, and I think this is a decent variety to be honest. There’s enough to keep you busy for a while and the career mode will definitely keep you entertained. I referenced most of these to the Need For Speed series primarily because of the racing aspect, the adrenalin boosting and the shortcuts, but also because of the whole arcade aspect. I wouldn’t expect this to be a realistic simulation but this is just pure fun, in-depth and immersive.

Multiplayer

Multiplayer offers 2 modes, Offline, which is 2 player simultaneous on most events, except the ones where you take turns like Curling and Figure Skating and Online which has up to 4 players. Both have different options so I’ll go into detail about each. The first is the game type. There are 5 different game types and I’ll talk about each one briefly. The game types can be set in either offline or online mode but here they are.

Competition
Competition mode is just straight up racing/competing without anything different. These are more or less like the cup events you do in the career mode except you are competing against real people instead of the AI.

Capture The Flag
Capture The Flag (CTF) caught my interest, so I had to try it out. If there are enough people online, it could turn into some great fun. Parts of the tracks are marked with checkpoints as you’ll notice. What they did is throw in a flag at the beginning and your objective is to pick it up and take it to the next checkpoint. However, if you crash you drop it and if you are jostled by an opponent, then the opponent will steal it from you. I think this mode would make for some great fun. I didn’t check all of the events, but I believe it is only the racing/trick ones that you can play this mode on, can’t imagine figure skating with flags. With the snowmobile it could have been a little cooler where you could backtrack on the tracks and what not, have it setup like a true CTF environment and have teams as well, like 2 on 2, just an idea.

Coin Tornado
This mode has the normal stuff, but in addition, green coins are everywhere. Your objective is to collect as many as you can before finishing the event. You do lose coins when you crash and there are skulls around the track. Touching a skull will make you lose coins as well. Opponents are able to jostle you and steal coins from you so they don’t even have to bother collecting them. This could be another fun one, but a team mode would have been cool.

Fun Race
This one is more or less kind of like Mario Kart I suppose, you have special items that you can collect and use while racing such as speed boost, dropping a snowball behind you, etc. There is a gesture to use the item and it’s a gesture of throwing an american football, but it works. This one is ok, I didn’t find it as fun as the others even if it is named fun race. 🙂

Rocket Race
This is a pretty cool one, it’s more strategic than fun. You start off with a rocket pack attached to your skies. They will supply you with a finite amount of boost. If you use all of the boost up, the rockets explode making you crash, so you have to time it right. To make it more interesting, no one gets adrenalin and once you use your rockets up, that’s it so you have to be smart playing this one. It is a first to finish, but the strategic element makes it quite fun.

Onto the other settings in the offline mode, you can create a custom cup or use one of the pre-determined cup events from the career mode. However, you do have to unlock them first before you can use them. You can also create cups online as well. There is an info button that will list which events are in the cup so everyone can see. In offline mode, there is another option named AI Power which sets the difficulty levels of the AI since offline can only handle 2 players. There are some single player game types though I didn’t figure all of it out. The last setting in offline mode allows you to change your team. I don’t think there is any beneficial factor to choosing a team from what I could tell, but it does offer the 8 teams from the career mode that you can choose from.

The online mode is fairly straight forward. You can create a game, find a custom match (you can also search via region, so if you wanted to kind of do a country vs. country setting, you are able to), do a quick match, look at the leaderboards and see if any of your friends are playing. When you go to create a game, it does ask you if you want Fair Play or Tough. Fair play ensures everyone is equal no matter who you are. Tough play makes it interesting as you can play as your career team, so if you are fully maxed out, it should make for some really competitive matches.

One last note that I forgot to mention, with all of the jostling, you may think this game is not fair. However, this is not true. You are actually penalized for jostling too much. It rates your sportsmanship by how you play with a fair stripe system. There are 3 golden ones and 3 black ones. Each time you play fairly, you gain a gold stripe. Gold stripes improve you in one way or another, either by giving you adrenalin quicker or able to obtain it faster from tricks or whatever, etc. If you don’t play fairly, you get black stripes and these will affect you. I only have one black stripe from jostling in a cup and it only mentioned I recover adrenalin more slowly, so I’m not quite sure what the other consequences are. However, it’s a neat addition and it does entice you to play fairly. Online may be a completely different story, but all in all, it’s good fun.

Options

The last section covers the options, which have game options such as Kinect Tuner and Family Mode as well as the ability to turn off the Tutorial Help, OnTheFly Help and the Ceremonies. The audio section covers the music, sound effects, the arcade commentator (he can be annoying, however sometimes he’s helpful) and the normal commentator. You can also reset them to default. There’s also a credits button and an option to Start a new career, I suppose if you get bored after completing it once, you can reset it and start over. It may actually make it interesting as you really do improve the more you play, so you may have been horrible in the beginning, and then starting a new career with knowing what you know now may make it easier. It may also carry over your in-game experience points as to help you level up as well, but I’m not sure.

Graphics and Music

I would have to say the graphics are on par except for the story scenes. For whatever reason, the characters really look like they belong to Xbox Gen1, I’m not sure if 49 Games just ran out of time or what, however I will give them kudos to making their mouths match to the words at least, none of this crazy xbox avatar talk where their mouths don’t match, so I’m 50/50 about the graphics. The in-game graphics seem to look fine though, nothing as beautiful as MotionSports but it’s still not bad. Your base of operations does remind me something out of Rainbow 6. You have computer screens everywhere and its a big cabin or something.

The voices are so so as well, probably not professional paid voiceovers, but they get the job done. The music, now that is something that I have to mention. The menu music sounds like something that belongs in transformers or another blockbuster movie, like you are going to war or saving the world or something. It’s actually orchestrated and sounds incredible. The in-game music is ok, but not as moving as the menu music.

The Controls

Luckily, someone made sure the controls work right and they work very well. I had no issues with anything. The only thing that is more of annoyance is an issue is when doing tricks and putting the roof over my head, at times, a message will pop up saying move away from Kinect and I’m already 6 feet away so I’m not sure what it’s all about. But the controls work very well to play this game, I mentioned previously how some of them could have been enhanced but agreed with what was done. The precision needed for the 2 accuracy events (curling and biathlon) is spot on as well, as you can tell from the videos you can barely move and it makes a difference. You are also able to skip all introductions and movie sequences by raising your hand for those that don’t like to watch anything and get right to the action. This was just a well thought out game overall.

Conclusion

I have to add this one to the good category, if it had the multiplayer depth, it would have been right up there with Gunstringer, Dance Central, Forza, etc. primarily because it’s the first “sports” game that is done very well. This game will probably only be successful on Kinect, I imagined playing the Wii/Move version or with a regular controller and the game would have been ok, but the Kinect experience really ups the enjoyment factor. I couldn’t give it a higher grade though as it does lack some multiplayer options as well as any DLC future (since the developer probably won’t support it) and that really does affect the longevity. I feel they ran out of time, as so much was put in the career mode, they couldn’t finish up the multiplayer side of things or if it was intended that way. If a separate experience system was included in multiplayer along with perks and different unlocks or what not, like how Call of Duty/Battlefield does it, this game would have been an absolute 10 and literally could have been played for a very long time.

One note about the developer, 49 Games was recently bought out by another company and this is their first and last Kinect title unfortunately. It’s such a shame as they made one heck of a game and I would have loved to see this series continue into the summer events. We can only hope another developer can pick up on this and keep redefining the standard of what we expect of Kinect titles, but I wanted to give them credit where credit was due.

As I mentioned in the beginning, other reviewers aren’t going to bother with this game because of unlocking the content or either give it a bad rating based on the only 4 events they can play. The bottom line is, if you love winter sports, arcade style games which aren’t serious, but seriously competitive, maybe even if you like need for speed, or just like games that are actually worth playing and not a mini-game compilation, this is a game for you. You will probably not be disappointed with it. It really does put Kinect titles on a different level in terms of content, and it made me realize how much content is really lacking in games we all love, such as Kinect Sports.


This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Winter Stars
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