Sports Champions Review

9 Sep 2010  by
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You’ve got to feel sorry for certain titles when they are announced. When you have a game that is already a market leader and then something along the same premise is unveiled immediately the game is tagged as a “rip-off”. This is definitely the case for upcoming PlayStation Move title Sports Champions. When it was originally revealed immediately we were saying it was Sony’s rip-off of the highly successful Nintendo Wii Sports. While you can see where we were coming from I can assure you that Sports Champions creates its own truly unique experience.
Having been given Sports Champions as the first title to test out the new motion controller is a bold move by Sony. But it’s a decision which allows us to really see the potential of the motion-controller including the fact that there is barely no noticeable lag between motion and input and also the ease of picking up this new piece of tech and using it from the off.
From the main menu you have a selection of six unique sports (Disc Golf, Gladiator Duel, Archery, Beach Volleyball, Bocce and finally Table Tennis). Each game mode comes with a variety of options allowing you to tackle them on your own or through multiplayer. One of the things Sony has managed to incorporate is the ability to play the game no matter what budget you’re on. For example, if you can only afford the standard Move starter pack then that’s fine, you have a simplified version of the controls and yet can still experience quality game time. However if you can afford the extra cash for additional controllers then you’re also going to be rewarded.
Games such as Archery will allow you to use one of the controls to pick arrows out of your quill from behind you. Setting up the arrow into the bow and then pulling back will make you set-up the position of the real-life archer and from there it’s a matter of aiming and then letting go of the string to fire the arrow. Everything sounds very realistic and believe me it feels it while you’re playing the game.
After going through the rather detailed tutorial sequences you’re given the freedom to pick and choose which sport you wish to become a champion at. Selecting from a variety of characters in-game you compete against some of the other competitors in your selected sport, some games provide special tweaks depending on what you wish to play. Archery can support moving or stationary targets, a mix of both and even targets which pop up for a limited amount of time before disappearing.
Surprisingly one of my favourites was Bocce (a fancy version of Boules to the less educated) and after playing it for a while you could see how grandparents would be intrigued to give the much aged game a go. Skilled players can add side and backspin to the ball depending on how you angle the Move controller. While the bog standard rectangle playing field can be selected, the fun can be had with the abstract environments and these improve your skills as you try to bounce the Bocce balls off the walls to hit the jacks.
Some sports give you the option to Move around briefly; Table Tennis for example requires you to edge closer towards the TV and camera for shots nearer the net while stepping back will give you a larger swing for the corner shots. However, knowing when to move in and out takes some practice and even then the knowledge that your swing could very well make contact with the TV is unnerving, especially if you’re still paying for the big bugger.
Other games automatically move the character around the pitch for you while you’re in-charge of connecting with the right movements. This is majorly incorporated into volleyball where you have the option to set-up, spike and block the ball by swinging your Move controller in the appropriate action. However your character will automatically move into the correct position to help you along; it would’ve been intriguing to implement the navigation controller to give players full control, but the other hand when you’re trying to remember what controls do what for each action it can be a god send to not have to worry about operating your character too.
Then again when you have true 1:1 movement you’re not going to worry. The input lag is basically non-existent and it’s what makes the game so enjoyable. Using two Move controllers for the Gladiator Duel game is nothing short of mesmerising, anyone longing for a true simulation of sword and shield combat using motion controls won’t have to look any further than this launch day beauty. It’s so satisfying swinging the sword in various directions and seeing the same movement replicated on the screen and then there is the blocking with the shield. Seeing these gestures in a sports game really opens up the inevitable release of a fantasy action game with you having to defeat the oncoming waves of enemies while battling to survive.
There are a couple of problems though and the first I detailed in the hardware review. In order to play each sport you need to calibrate the Move controller for every game that you play. Sure the sequence only takes a couple of seconds but if you want a prolonged playing session you’re soon going to grow weary of the calibration ahead of each different sport. It would’ve been nice to save profiles to the game allowing you to just pick your own character and have your calibration automatically stored in the game.
For certain movements to be replicated in the game you will need to have your Move controller facing the correct way in relation to the EyeCamera. This creates problem number two as you will sometimes twist the Move controller in your hand without knowing. In turn the camera cannot pick up the movement you are trying to make and instead will play out something totally different. A quick twist of the Move controller can be the difference between a slice and a forearm in table tennis and believe me this problem soon becomes rather annoying.
This was also an issue with the Archery with the aiming a little off on certain shots. This only happened once in every 50 shots but having to aim in a totally different direction to land something the other way round was a little frustrating but whether that was my own mistake and my handling of the controller I wasn’t too sure.
So does it feel like Wii Sports? Certainly not. The better graphics, more responsive motion controls and the different types of sports have created a unique experience that anyone would be proud to have on the PS3. If the Move continues to produce games of this quality then the motion-controller is going to have huge potential for both the casual and hardcore markets. But rather than listening to me any more I’m just going to urge every PS3 owner that is considering picking up the Move to purchase Sports Champions on launch day.

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