17th October 2010 - Sports Champions is one of the few launch games for the Playstation Move and is essentially Sony’s version of Wii Sports. The Move controller certainly has plenty of potential and would seem perfectly suited to sports games. In order to be successful it must be accurate, it must be intuitive and above all it has to be fun. Sports Champions has made a good crack at it and although not completely nailing it, has produced a solid game as a first gen Move title.
The game is comprised of six “sports” - disc golf, gladiator duel, archery, volleyball, bocce and table tennis. Each sport consists of a Champions Cup mode where you work your way through ten opponents on three levels of difficulty; bronze, silver and gold. There is also Multiplayer where you can play versus or co-op depending on the game, and finally a bonus Challenge mode where you aim for high scores in specific event challenges.
Each sport is quite different and there is enough variety that you can change games and not feel like you're doing the same moves (I don’t understand games like racquet sports that are essentially all the same thing). Each game has different skill requirements and can get difficult on the gold levels in Champion mode. The basic games like bocce are so simple to pick up and play that anyone can grab a Move and have a go. But yet there is still a level of depth and strategy that more skilled players will enjoy. Other sports like archery require more skill to hit smaller and smaller moving targets, requiring both speed and accuracy. Volleyball and table tennis were probably two of my favourites and the two that surprised me the most. I couldn’t see how volleyball was going to be implemented in a fun way, and I expected it to be pretty lame. Contrary to that it was heaps of fun and works brilliantly. Your player does all the court movement automatically and when the ball comes in you pass, set, spike, block and dive just like the real thing. All you do is hold the controller in your hand - you don’t have to worry about pressing any buttons but just make the moves. Sounds so so on paper, but playing it is fun and easily accessed by all.
Table tennis showed the accuracy of the Move is a double edged sword, and completely surprised me. When holding the Move it tracks your racquet one-to-one on screen. After playing with several people (some of whom are gun real life table tennis players) it became apparent that there was a huge advantage to those who paid attention to the position of the “racquet” (these tended to be the more hardcore gamers). Casual players tended to really struggle gauging depth perception of the ball and often were holding the Move rotated with paddle horizontal and missing the ball when swinging. This led to a lot of frustration for some, and poor gameplay. For those that made the adjustment to the increased sensitivity - that everything you do with your Move will get replicated on screen - it worked brilliantly. You could slice it, smash it with top spin, or do drop shots. It was good fun - especially versus a friend who could understood the nuances. In what I see as an oversight, the development team should have added an easier augmented level of difficulty that wasn't so fussy regarding the angle, rotation and depth of the paddle.
For most of the games the accuracy is fantastic. It faithfully allows you to perform the moves of each sport in a way that feels natural and engages you. I never felt like it was weird playing the sports, such is the way it's executed.
A nice variation in some games is the option to use one or two controllers. In archery for example one Move controller means you place the Move to the back of your head (like reaching for an arrow) hold the trigger and and then aim at the screen and release to fire. With two controllers one arm acts as if you're holding a bow and the other goes through the act of grabbing an arrow and pulling it back to fire. It feels really authentic and makes the game very different to one controller. Similarly in gladiator duel - one controller works fine, but holding two with one as your shield and one as your sword is so much sweeter.
There are unlockable items in the game for completing the Champions Cup (including outfits, equipment and characters) but to be honest you won't care as it's all generic and bland. It doesn't really add to the game and I would be surprised if anyone wants to beat it to win it.
Calibration was a bit of pain and became slightly tedious. Each controller required calibration when it was switched on which was no big deal, but every individual game required calibration also. It wasn't the end of the world as it only takes a few seconds but became a pain when you have to do it before every game you play.
The final bug bear was the playable characters. They are 10 stereotyped sports athletes representing basketball, baseball, boxing, gymnastics etc. and they are all bland and boring. Why they don't say anything I have no idea. I would have thought taunts would have been mandatory and would add something to their personality. They might have well as been stick figures. In the end you're not going to care who you choose as you will be concentrating on playing to win.
The environments are beautiful in Sports Champions. You will play games in military camps, in forests, old coliseums, along waterfalls, and in a myriad of other places. They are colourful and have clever lighting to give shadows but don’t distract from the course. The character designs are okay - some look out of proportion, and some body parts appear too blocky, but they represent your typical jock, cheerleader etc. faithfully enough. Being a simple game there isn’t a lot moving around on screen for the PS3 to process so there were never any problems with frame rate or distortion.
The sound is nothing to get excited about; in fact it’s probably one of the more annoying aspects of the game. The characters have some theme music which gets boring, and the grunts, groans and cheers from them are super cheesy. There are a few basic environmental effects like the thud of the arrow into targets, click of the table tennis ball which sound decent enough but all in all its dullsville. A variety of taunts or something, anything to bring the characters to life would have helped.
Sports Champions retails for $68, but obviously you have to buy the Move first. The six different sports and 3 levels in each will keep you entertained for a few days but the real value lies in the multiplayer. Provided you have two Move controllers you will happily challenge friends to games for weeks, possibly months, down the track, and it is guaranteed to get dusted off any time there are a bunch of mates over having a few cold ones. For the price it's good value as a starting place for the Move.
Sports Champions is one of the few launch games for the Playstation Move and is a good title to show off the accuracy and uses of your Move. The six sports are varied, the moves for each are mostly intuitive, and most importantly it's good fun, especially with friends. The game's characters and sound are pretty bland but the environments are well done. To get the most out of the game you will need two Move controllers so you can play against your mates, as it may get a little boring on your own after a short time. When you add a second controller and a few friends it is far more entertaining and you will find yourself getting stuck into it for a few hours. If you're looking for your first title to start your Move experience, this will keep you off the couch and is a good, if not brilliant, first gen game.
AAG SCORE: 7.5/10
+ Very accurate one to one movements
+ Intuitive and varied sports
+ Multiplayer great fun
- High accuracy in some games can make it too difficult for some players
- Characters and sound bland
- Limited reason to replay single player once beaten
Reviewed and Written By Khye Davey