It’s all but impossible to discuss Sports Champions without talking about Move and the way it implements motion control. This is largely due to Move being a necessary component of the game , the option to play with a traditional PS3 controller doesn’t exist, and also because it uses the device so well that one must give credit where credit is due. As a result, we’re deviating a little bit from the norm and focusing this review not only on Sports Champions, but also Move, which the game was released alongside. Sports Champions is a collection of six sports games, archery, beach volleyball, bocce, gladiator duel, disc golf, and table tennis that players can compete in, either solo or with friends. Before delving into the game and it’s content, let’s take a moment or two to discuss Move, which honestly, is the main reason you’re probably reading this article or considering the game.
As far as Move is concerned, the device has changed my perception from being somewhat apathetic about motion control to being genuinely interested to see how the feature is used in the future. I was extremely critical of the recent trend in developing motion control following 2009 E3 when Sony introduced Move, along with Microsoft’s announcement that they too were looking to introduce motion control to their games in the form of Kinect. I recall thinking that gamers wanting to waggle a remote at the TV already had that option available in the form of Wii, and that I had been dissatisfied with motion control in the past and feared that other companies attempt’s would only lead to greater disappointment. Still, I was looking to buy a Ps3 and for a mere $100 price difference between a 320 GB model packaged with Sports Champions, Move, and an Eye Camera and the 160 GB model, I figured I’d give it a shot and I’m glad I did. Move, along with the Eye Camera peripheral, does a fantastic job of capturing your movements and I would challenge even the most outspoken critics of the motion control phoneme to not crack a smile after watching an amazing frisbee toss hook slightly to the left and land in the goal in a heated round of disc golf. Sports Champions functions the way I so desperately wanted Wii Sports to the first time I played it. Although the later of those titles was my first foray into the world of motion gaming, and provided me with the all the thrills that can be expected having had your first video game experience be with an 8-bit title, only to see the technology employed by the medium evolve into something that tracks your movements, there was still something a little bit off. Once you got past how cool it was that motion control existed, you had to face the fact that the execution of the concept didn’t pan out as well as you’d like. I had more moments than I’d like to admit in my early Wii experiences where I had to control myself from tossing the Wiimote across the room in a “why won’t my boxer punch when I punch?!” frenzy. I haven’t noticed this problem as of yet with Move. Not only does it match your movements with remarkable speed, but it registers them in multiple directions, so not only are you able to, for example, move your paddle from side to side while playing a table tennis game, but you can also move it vertically as well as in front of and behind you should your opponent serve you a ball that doesn’t make it that far over the net, or forces you to take a step backward. The range of motion is truly incredible and is unlike any motion control offering I’ve seen to date.
Sports Champions as a game is incredibly fun for the first few hours you invest in it. There’s a good assortment of activities to participate in, either alone or with a friend, and you’re provided with training prior to starting a new activity that ensures you won’t be completely lost when you start up. The main portion of the game pits you against computerized opponents in the Champion’s Cup for bronze, silver, and gold trophies in each of the six events. At first you’ll only have the opportunity to earn the bronze cup, but higher ranked matches, along with additional courses and events in Challenge Mode, can be unlocked as you progress through the game. Once you get the hang of handling the Move controller and play through a round or two of a particular game, you’ll find the level of difficulty is nothing too daunting early on. Opponents’ accuracy is often less than optimal and you’ll have numerous moments where you’re baffled by your competitor’s inability to score a goal, or return a serve. To prevent the game from getting stale too quickly, some games offer several environment changes. For example, Disc Golf boasts an entire 18 hole course, so you’re not just playing the same thing to the point of severe boredom. There are a decent amount of characters to play as, with more able to be unlocked, but there’s no difference in how these characters handle so your selection really boils down to which character you most like the looks of. Although they look visually impressive, the characters are somewhat stereotypical and appear overly athletic. Considering most of these activities don’t require you to have the body of Kratos to skillfully compete, it comes across as a bit awkward. It would be incredibly cool to have the option to play as the avatar you created in Playstation Home and if this isn’t an unlockable feature, Sony unfortunately missed a great opportunity to immerse the character even further in the game.
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The variety of activities included is a mixed blessing. While you’re sure to enjoy some of these games (archery and disc golf are stand-outs, in my opinion), it’s entirely likely that you’ll have at least one that you’re not into. Although the title is enjoyable enough, it’s primary purpose is to showcase the hardware it is packaged with. Once you get over “ooh”ing and “ahh”ing at Move, there’s not enough substance to keep the game interesting for very long. I don’t anticipate Sports Champions having much longevity as a title, outside of playing multi-player with friends. If you do have buds you routinely game with, it’s a solid purchase that should keep you entertained for a good while as a party game. The single player mode is tons of fun for all the reasons cited above, but eventually the appeal begins to fade and you’re left with a collection of mini sports games, albeit good ones, with limited appeal. Unless you’re a hardcore trophy collector, the amount of time it takes to complete the game 100% is hardly worth it once the novelty begins to wane.
It’s hard to throw a numeric rating on the Sports Champions/Move bundle, because while the game has some flaws, and the question of how Move will work with future PS3 titles still unanswered, playing it is just so damn cool. The best way to sum it up is; If you have any love for motion control, Move is definitely a purchase you should consider making and Sports Champions wonderfully showcases what the device is capable of. The game is fun, especially when playing with friends, and is all but guaranteed to make you think maybe this motion control business could go in some interesting directions.
|Pros||Move makes impressive strides in motion control, handles well, and provides lots of excitement; Multi-player mode makes the title a great party game; Most games have enough variation in rounds to prevent the game from getting monotonous too quickly|
|Cons||After Move's initial novelty wears off, so does most of Sports Champions' appeal; Computer opponents play absurdly poor in some of the game's first matches; Characters are identical to each other, outside of differences in their entirely too fit physical appearances|
|Verdict||A must have for anybody who's a fan motion control. Sports Champions really shows what the Move is capable of and makes us ponder how the technology will be implemented in more hardcore titles like Killzone 3|