Sports Champions 2
Another exceptional motion gaming experience for the PS3
Motion control games for the PS3 and Xbox Kinect have largely failed to rise to the expectations of being a true “second generation Wii”. The biggest exceptions have been Sports Champions and Sports Champions 2 for the Playstation 3. It’s just a shame that there are so few other Playstation Move games that exude this level of quality.
The Playstation Move and the Xbox Kinect were both launched with tremendous fanfare. Both motion-control mechanisms were supposed to revolutionize high-end gaming, bringing the active gaming, motion control experience the Wii pioneered to high resolution games. It would usher in a whole new world of virtual reality gaming.
Both Sony and Microsoft took very different approaches to motion gaming. Microsoft opted for motion sensors that detected the whole body’s movements from head to toe, touting a controller-free experience. Sony, on the other hand, basically mimicked the Wii’s use of a handheld controller, offering much more precision than the Wii could deliver.
As someone who’s reviewed a lot of games on both this site and its sister site XboxFitness.Org, I can say that the results on both systems have been largely disappointing. The Kinect has some impressive technology, but developers seem unable or unwilling to create much of anything but lumbering, sluggish games that require way too much playing space.
On the other hand, early games such as The Fight: Lights Out and the original Sports Champions for the Playstation Move were nothing short of extraordinary. High resolution graphics combined with highly accurate motion controls helped you really feel like you were boxing, or playing ping pong, or fighting with swords.
That was in 2010. Now, more than two years later, there haven’t been very many games that seem to really take full advantage of the Move. most game developers that use the Move seem to include it almost as either a gimmick or as an afterthought.
Sports Champions 2 is the first Playstation Move game in a while that’s been worthy of a five-star rating. Just like its predecessor, the developers showcase the Move’s full capabilities. It’s really a shame that other developers can’t follow suit.
The idea behind Sports Champions 2 is simple: think of it as Wii Sports for the Playstation. In fact, four of the sports (Tennis, Bowling, Boxing and Golf) were literally in Wii Sports and were most likely left off of the original Sports Champions because the developers wanted to avoid comparisons or accusations of them being derivative (which they were of course). In addition, they’ve brought back archery (which was also in the original Sports Champions), and added skiing.
You start out by calibrating one or two Move controllers by pointing them at the Playstation Eye one by one and pressing the Move and trigger buttons.
You can jump into playing the sports right away using “Free Play”, or you can select “Cup Mode” to play matches against progressively harder opponents and earn Bronze, Silver, or Gold prizes for completing a certain number of matches (including challenges and “boss matches”) and collecting points for achieving objectives along the way. Finally, you can select “Party Play” to play as a group.
As with the original Sports Champions, after you finish playing you have the option of taking a “victory photo” of you holding an augmented reality piece of sports equipment. They also added the ability for your to save your photo or post to Facebook.
Bowling is pretty much the same as the Wii Sports game, of course with much higher resolution graphics. The one big difference is when setting up your shot, instead of using arrow keys to position your player, you can press and hold the Move button and actually walk to your left or your right. Other than that, it’s just a matter of holding down the trigger button, making a bowling motion with your arm, and releasing it at the right moment. You can also make the ball spin by twisting your wrists.
Obviously, there’s not much of a workout in this, and in all honesty other than the improved graphics it really doesn’t feel much different than what we were playing on the Wii years ago.
Boxing, on the other hand, is obviously much improved over the “fling your arms wildly” boxing games you find on the Wii and even the Kinect. It uses two Move controllers to let you control both your hands.
The obvious comparison is going to be to The Fight: Lights Out. The graphics in both games are excellent; while The Fight: Lights Out presents a gritty street brawl-type environment, the environment here is more like traditional boxing. Also unlike The Fight, there’s no blood or guts in this one, it’s very family friendly.
Like The Fight, you have pretty precise control over your fighter. You can punch to the head and to the body with jabs, uppercuts, hooks, or quick combinations. You can block punches to your head and to your body by holding the Move controller over either, and you can dodge by using the trigger buttons on either hand. The harder you punch in real life, the harder you punch in the game. As you increase in difficulty, you do need to employ a certain level of strategy, such as being able to anticipate what combinations your opponent will be using, tiring out aggressive opponents with good defense, or even faking out opponents by having them block fake punches before you counter with real ones.
This sport is by far the best fitness activity on the entire disc. You’ll get a pretty good aerobic workout each time and build some pretty good arm muscles.
Archery is pretty much the same sport as in the first Sports Champions; as in that game, you hold two Move controllers, one being the bow and the other being the arrow; you simulate an archer’s shot by “reaching into your quiver of arrows” with your arrow arm and then line up your shot as if loading your arrow and drawing it back on the bow (you can use the Move button to zoom into your target). As with the former game, controls and game play are excellent and very precise.
Sports Champions 2 adds an interesting twist to the game by allowing two people (or one person and the computer) to play on the same field and shoot for the same targets, which doesn’t just include regular targets but also things like balloons. You compete for the highest score.
Again, I wouldn’t exactly call this the most intense fitness activity, but after a few minutes of playing you do end up moving quite a bit. Add some hand weights to your Move controllers and you’ll actually be getting a pretty good arm workout.
Skiing is an interesting new game. You hold your Move controllers like ski poles, but unlike real skiing you don’t move your body to turn, but your Move controllers. To move faster, you sweep your Move controllers as if they were ski poles. To jump, you lift up the Move controllers and make sure they’re angled properly for a smooth landing (you can even do a couple flips if you have some good hang time).
The result is actually a much more realistic experience than I thought it’d be. It certainly doesn’t have the same workout intensity that skiing on Kinect Sports has, where you have to twist and turn and jump with your whole body, but it definitely has much, much more precision than the Xbox; when skiing on the Xbox I never really feel like I’m in control, while with the PS3 the turning and jumping are incredibly precise. Again, not a very intense workout, but a fun game nonetheless.
Golf, again, is much more precise than on other systems in many ways. It’s not necessarily going to help you with your golf swing (whether you use a technically correct swing or just wave your arms, the system will treat the shot the same). But what the game lacks in realism of mechanics, it makes up for in terms of precision and accuracy of your swing; a bar on the screen will show you the strength of your swing from 0% to 100% and your target strength given the ball location and your club, and you need to swing the club with precisely the right force.
Putting is also the closest I’ve felt to the real game on any system, from lining up the shot to using the precise right force to get the ball in the hole.
Finally, tennis is probably the most realistic tennis game I’ve played on any system. Some parts of it are amazingly realistic. Just like with ping pong in the original Sports Champions, when you can move your hand in any direction, tilt it, or twist it, the on-screen racquet will respond with uncanny precision.
This precision carries over to the gameplay as well; unlike Wii Sports or tennis on the Kinect, playing tennis is not just a matter of flicking your wrist wildly with the right timing. The position, angle, and velocity of your swing all matter. What’s more, you can apply things like top spins and lobs very similar to real life.
Granted, when you first start the game it’s not all that realistic, as a trail of your opponent’s returns are displayed to you visually so that you know where it’s going. Plus, shots will tend to land magically within the lines. But as you progress deeper into the game, some of the aids you get early on the in game start to disappear and the game starts to feel more and more like real tennis.
I can’t say you get too much exercise in this one, as you’re really just moving your arm (you can move your body left and right when setting up your serve by pressing the Move button and walking to the left or right, but otherwise the running is done for you automatically). But if “get into the game” by doing a little footwork as you’re playing, you might be surprised at how good a workout you get.
You’ve probably seen a few recurring themes through this review. Every sport is definitely a lot of fun and makes great use of the Move controller to simulate playing the actual sport. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them real simulations or virtual reality experiences, but they definitely are polished games and give you a nice feel for the real thing.
As far as workouts go, I’d say the only real one is the boxing. Tennis and skiing may give you a bit of a workout if while you’re playing the game you’re also moving your feet. As for the rest of the sports, if you use Weighted Training Gloves you can get a pretty decent workout from even those.
It’s tough for me to review this one. From a pure gameplay point of view, it’s easily a 5, one of the best games yet for the Playstation Move. But if I were reviewing it strictly from a fitness perspective, I’d probably give it less. Still, given that it’s one of the only decent motion games to be released for the Playstation Move in the past year or so, I’d say it’s a worthwhile purchase and a good choice to supplement your aging PS3 fitness games.