Review: There have been seldom few titles for the Move catalogue lately, but can SPORTS CHAMPIONS 2 tempt you to dust off those glowing balls once again?
The original Sports Champions was a solid demonstration of what the PlayStation Move could achieve – much like how Wii Sports demonstrated the Wii Remote’s capabilities in a simplistic fashion. This is also, however, where Sports Champions hit a bump in the road: it simply wasn’t a unique concept. Sports Champions 2 looks to suffer that same trait, but with its collection of sports imitating real life so convincingly, it’s hard to fault it beyond that.
Yes, it’s still following the Wii Sports formula, this time offering bowling, tennis, boxing, archery, skiing and golf to flail about to, but one-to-one motion tracking really helps to immerse you in the activity. The realistic visuals may mean it lacks the charm of the Wii Sports series, but they aid in the illusion – despite the characters looking more like caricatures than actual human beings.
The actions of swinging a golf club or a tennis racket are smooth and exact, with the Move controller providing all the necessary feedback – it rumbles as you drive the ball down the fairway or rip a stinging forehand down the line. Similarly, during archery, having to reach back and grab an arrow from your imaginary quiver before aiming and releasing it builds the trick further. It’s bowling that’s the least ambitious, though. The sport has long since been perfected with motion controls and here things are kept familiar.
Boxing and skiing stood the most risk of failing to feel like their real-life counterparts, but they nail it if you’re using two Move controllers. Each controller acts as a fist or skiing pole, and the movements required for both sports match that of their source, as you throw punches and block incoming strikes or pull yourself along the snow and shift your body’s position. It’s one of the best facsimiles yet. Limited to one Move controller, though, it damages the immersion. It also makes boxing far more challenging and less enjoyable as a result, and in multiplayer restricts the amount of mini-games available.
Champion of champions
Solo play through the “cup” mode pits you against progressively more difficult to beat AI opponents across multiple disciplines for each sport. Adopting a three star rating system, you’ll vie for these sparkly rewards through demonstrations of skill, which gradually unlock accessories and even new hair styles to customise your character.
What makes the mode such a pleasure to play beyond the obvious competitive urge is that you’ll be performing a variety of different activities based around the sport you’re playing and not just competing in standard matches. For example, archery has you firing off arrows at multiple targets, some moving, some hiding behind obstructions, and some aggressively stepping up to you in the guise of skeleton warriors. Meanwhile, in bowling, the pins might be strewn along the lane for you to hit on the way to where they are usually stacked. It’s a cleverly implemented distraction from simply playing the vanilla versions of each sport, and star collecting soon becomes an obsession.
Of course, in freeplay and the tournament mode you can enjoy the sports in the way they were originally designed – you know, if you’re feeling serious and boring. Sports Champions 2 is still compelling here, though, and is a title you can easily enjoy for hours while playing a round of golf or beating characters silly in boxing. And with up to three additional players able to join in on the standard matches or mini-game alternatives locally, it’s a wonderful party game. You can even photograph and then doodle on the loser’s face at the end of a winning round, which may sound silly, but can prove to be a hilarious game of humiliation as more and more questionable graffiti sprouts from your rival’s face.
Indeed, Sports Champions 2 is a highly impressive demonstration of the motion tech overall, and although we’ve already seen this in its predecessor, it’s still an excellent motion sports game – one that’s fun and engaging solo or with friends. The lack of online multiplayer is slightly disappointing and the cost of kitting yourself out with two Move controllers to enjoy the entirety of the experience is a threat to your overall enjoyment, but regardless, Sports Champions 2 brings oodles of content to get your motion gaming muscles moving once more.
Sports Champions 2, by San Diego Studio, Zindagi Games and Sony, is available now for PS3.