Sports Champions, one of the major launch releases with the PS3's new "Move" motion-control peripheral, is flat out incredible. It is six complete games in one, each with its own difficulty progression that eventually takes away the early assist training wheels for even more realistic motion gaming action. Multiplayer can be played without assists and is GREAT fun, but unfortunately you can only play your friends locally. Still, at only $40 (or included with the Move bundles), SC looks to easily offer more enjoyment time as a whole than the vast majority of $60 games.
My personal copy is still in the mail, but after playing the demo a bit I put some extensive time in with the full release at a buddy's house. It is absolutely amazing how well this title replicates the feel of each the six sports it represents. Gladiator is a bit of an exception to that since some of its over-the-top moves aren't actually possible, but even then the overall fighting feels incredibly "real" as you block and attack.
Here's a breakdown of all six events, with an indication of whether it allows you to optionally use a second Move controller for more immersive game play:
TABLE TENNIS - One Move
Action video - early gold medal match:
For me, this is the gem of the collection. I love TT in real life and I can't even describe how fantastic this game feels as you play. All of the tactics I use in real life I've been able to replicate in vs. play (solo play has limiting assists until you unlike the tougher difficulties).
Fore hand, backhand, overheads, spins, lobs, smashes, table approach, table retreat... like the old spaghetti sauce commercial once said, it's all in there! Every slight twist of your hand is replicated 1:1 by the on-screen paddle you are holding, allowing you to PRECISELY put the ball exactly where you want it to go, with as little or as much force as your arm can put into it. And watching my buddy play solo in the later rounds, you can see that each of the computer players has his/her own play style, with obvious strengths and weaknesses to how they are programmed play their game. It's pretty remarkable.
One other undocumented feature? Just like real life, you will benefit greatly by stretching before you start to go at it, trust me.
DISC GOLF - One Move
Video action - fighting through the trees, adjusting toss power:
Frisbee + golf. It is simple, relaxing, frustrating and fun. Hit the chained tower with your disc in as few tosses as possible over a variety of courses.
Like TT, the accuracy of the Move's ability to instantly map your exact movements and angles while holding the disc means that your tosses will float and curve very similar to how they would in real life; good habits and bad habits are equally replicated. The chains of the target tower seem to be slightly magnetized so that if you hit the goal your disc will score and drop down more often than glancing off, but otherwise everything works as it should.
I only wish there was a simple Frisbee driving range mode where you could work on your technique (maybe an empty park where your dog can retrieve the disc for you as in real life?)
BOCCE - One Move
Action video - getting used to spin control before a match:
Haha, I admit I am still unclear of half the rules since I just played it once. Get your tossed balls closer to the goal than the opponents, bumping things towards or away as you see fit I think. It reminds me of horseshoes+bowling+marbles for some reason. The play mechanics feel good as you judge the power of your tosses, and I'm looking forward to playing this event more to give a fuller impression.
ARCHERY - Optionally two Moves
Action video - taking down the pop up targets:
Having tried my hand at archery only once in real life, I can't speak to its realism in this game, but the event feels natural as you grab an arrow from your quiver (with motion controls if you have two Moves), aim and shoot at the target. Players definitely need to adjust their arcs for fall-off based on the amount of power in their shots, which takes no time to get used to.
While that sounds pretty basic, the game mixes things up nicely by changing the distance of the targets, adding a variety of moving targets, and even having you play archery mini-games like tic-tac-toe. As we played SC, Archery in particular seemed to attract some of the casuals around us who wanted a try since it isn't complicated to play at all. .
Here's a tip: after grabbing an arrow from your quiver, consider starting your aim at chest-height, then aim towards your target. Also, unlike what some "pro" reviewers have stated, you can adjust the power of your shot. For the solo game, I belive always-full-power is one of the assists that goes away as you advance in difficulties, but it is in there. And once your arm starts falling off from playing too much TT and Gladiator, this and Bocce are the Sports Champion events that you can play as you heal up
VOLLEYBALL - Optionally two Moves
Action video - picture-in-picture showing the player and match together:
I thought 2-on2 beach volleyball was an odd event to include in SC, but it works out well since the computer always handles your movement to the ball. One of the best features is that it offers a local co-op mode, so you and a buddy/family member can work as a team against the computer. Serves, set-ups, and power spikes all feel natural with the Move as you play games of first to five.
GLADIATOR - Optionally two Moves
Action video - lots of power attacks and a cool okizeme technique by flipping the Move upside down:
I am a fighting game fiend (it's my favorite category in gaming), and after sweating through some hard fought battles with this event I can safely say that this represents a major forward step in the genre. No, I am not saying that this is the first motion based fighting game (there was the Sega Activator debacle years ago, among others), but all things considered this is the first time I've ever felt it done well.
Looking at the early videos for this a year ago, I honestly thought that it would be just some cheesy, kiddy-friendly waggle silliness. Little did I know that combined with 1:1 control for attacks and blocking (haha, except with the crazy super moves), the designers of this gem actually put a lot of depth into it as well. You really have to keep in mind a lot of factors such as your offensive/defensive selections and timing. It even has its own okizeme system for attacking downed opponents or defending yourself as you try to rise. BTW, playing with one Move controller has you switching motion control over your sword or your shield by hitting a button. With two Moves, your hands control each one independently.
The thing Move adds beyond that of traditional fighters is that you can really freestyle attack and defend to a great extent with your own selection of moves using your weapon and shield. For example, in Soul Calibur, Cassandra taps A for a quick, horizontal slice with her sword, taps B for a quick vertical slash, holds G to guard with her shield, and so on. However, she executes these moves the same way every time, at the same attack/block heights animated with the same velocity each time you input the command. Everything is canned.
In SC Gladiator, you have a lot more freedom than that. Your power comes from the power your body puts into your Move slashes. The angles come from your arm's angle of attack. It is truly something special for fighting games to play with this level of control available to you. Just be aware though that the action is so involved that you might be exhausted after an extended battle session.
Sports Champions so far is one of the best 2010 releases that I've played. I bought the Move primarily for improved aiming in FPS/TPS games and thought going in that SC was to simply be a basic collection of waggle sports sold to appease casuals, but am amazed at how deep and precise the experience has been so far. I haven't even mentioned the graphics, which are highly polished, crisp, and vibrantly colorful in each mode. The animations of the characters are extremely well done, adding to the illusion that you really are really participating in these sporting events.
DLC is coming (probably only new characters, costumes, and play areas), but outside of online play, anything else the developer adds is gravy to be honest. Sports Champions is a landmark achievement for the PS3, and anyone with an inkling of interest in even just a couple of the events will have many hours of fun (and exercise) if they pick it up. What I've played so far gets a 9.5/10 score from me.
High quality pictures: