Sports Champions Review

By on December 23, 2010

Move over Wii Sports…


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First Impressions
My reaction is

The release of PlayStation Move may not have gotten much fanfare from us here at MEGamers, but that shouldn’t be taken as a lack of interest. A gaming giant like Sony always commands attention and, more often than not, this attention is warranted. While some may have dismissed the Move, branding it as “Wii HD”, first sales figures released by Sony suggest that the Move launch was a modest success, with plenty of sales forecasted for the holiday season. Personally, I attended to hold out on getting the Move until a ‘killer app’ was released but my attempt at ‘playing hard to get’ failed.

Sports Champions may not be that ‘killer app‘ but it is a worthy first Move title to own. Perhaps I have been conditioned by Nintendo to seek out a sports game in order to justify my motion controller or perhaps all the other Move titles just seemed…well..atrocious. Either way I do not regret the decision. Sports Champions may not be perfect but it is often quite engaging.

Sports Champions lets you choose from six ‘sports’ to play. Beach volleyball, Table tennis, Archery, Bocce, Disc golf and Sword fighting (no not fencing…sword fighting, gladiator style). Ok so sword fighting is not really a sport…who cares, it’s undoubtedly got popular demand on its side. Sword fighting, along with volleyball and archery can be played using two motion controls. This definitely adds a whole level to the gameplay but before we get into that let me briefly go through each of the six sports on offer.

Bocce, for those of you unfamiliar with the sport, involves tossing a small ball (referred to as a pallino) into a zone and then trying to throw balls as close as possible to the pallino. Each player has 4 balls. While this doesn’t quite explain the rules of the sport, I am sure you get the general idea of what you’ll be doing here. Beach volleyball is your standard 2-on-2 version of the game. You can use one or two motion controllers to serve (underhand or overhand), set, bump and spike. Disc golf functions like golf but instead of swinging at balls with a club, you’ll be throwing a disc and trying to successfully guide it to the goal before your opponent does. Table tennis is pretty straight forward, no real variations to the classic ping pong game. Sword fighting is a bit similar to a weapon-based fighter (such as Soul Caliber) but really stripped down;  a ‘best-of-3 rounded’ fight to the death. As mentioned above, the game can be played with two motion controllers or just the one. When playing with two controllers, one functions as the sword while the other is the shield (in single controller mode, you can alternate between shield and sword by holding down the trigger button). Finally there is archery which can also be played with two controllers. This involves racking up your score by shooting moving or stationary targets. At the end of the round the person with the highest score wins. This sport also benefits a lot from dual controller mode as one controller essentially becomes the bow while the other, the arrow.

The game does a good job of quickly and effectively teaching you the basics of each sport. By entering championship mode, the game will start you off with the basic tutorial and gradually give you more advanced lessons as you progress. These tutorials are, for the most part, very concise which means you’ll find yourself in the thick of things pretty quickly.      From then on, Sports Champions is perhaps the most straight forward sports game you’re likely to play. There are very few bells and whistle. Each sports has only 3 modes: Championship (available in 3 difficulties), free play and multiplayer. When you first launch the game, you’ll have to agree to the PSN’s EULA terms which gives off the impression that you’ll be in for some online multiplayer but sadly that is not the case. The game will upload your scores to a leaderboard and that seems to conclude any online interactions. Multiplayer is strictly offline so you’ll need to either buy a second motion controller or just tell your friends to bring their own.

Visually the game is nothing special but still infinitely better than watching limb-less Mii’s frolicking about. There are a bunch of characters with different nationalities (and a little biography for each one) but essentially I did not find much difference in the way they perform. Some are said to be faster or stronger but for all intents and purposes, the differences are merely cosmetic, at least when user-controlled. That said, some of the characters are generally pretty well animated. One complaint regarding the game’s audio visual design is that it is quite barren, dry and dull. Considering that this is the first PlayStation Move sports title, it doesn’t really get you in the mood to move. Luckily you can play custom music tracks which means it is up to you to create your own atmosphere.

Ultimately the best thing about Sports Champions is that it really demonstrates the one-to-one accuracy of the PlayStation’s motion controller. Calibrating is quick and effective and, overall, the game got me pretty upbeat about the Move controller and future possibilities. While you may not find all six sports interesting, there is bound to be one that keeps you coming back. In my case this was Table tennis. I was most impressed with this mode, especially during the Gold championship campaign. My real life ping-pong deficiencies began to surface which is a clear testament to the accuracy of the game’s controls in relation to the actual sport. My final piece of advice is this: If you are looking for a reason to buy the Move then Sports Champions is a good way to go. If you are waiting for that sensational killer app then remaining patient maybe be a better option, though I would recommend you at least give Sports Champions a try…it might just win you over.


The Scorecard
GAMEPLAY
8
The controls are accurate, robust and, for the most part, intuitive. The tutorials also do a good job of teaching techniques valuable to mastering each of the sports.
GRAPHICS
7
The game’s visuals are pretty bland but they serve their purpose adequately.
SOUND
6.5
The game’s audio focuses heavily on the sound effects generated by each individual sport but it is often way too quiet (unless you play your own custom music).
VALUE
7
There are not enough modes to keep you coming back but you are bound to get into at least one sport and that should keep you occupied for a while.
FUN FACTOR
7.5
If you have the luxury of owning two motion controllers or friends that have their own then multiplayer can be really entertaining. Going solo is fun as well but AI opponents can only supply limited thrills.
OVERALL
7.5
If nothing else, Sports Champions is perhaps one of the few Move launch titles that showcase the accuracy and potential of PlayStation’s Motion controller. Though lacking in many departments, it provides a robust and enjoyable motion-based sports experience.

About

As an opinionated young gamer many years ago, I made three predictions: 1- Sega would dominate the console wars for 50 years. 2- Simon's Quest would be remembered as the definitive NES game. 3- I would be gaming even more as an adult. I suppose one out of three isn't bad.

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