Giant Bomb Review

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Sports Champions Review

4
  • PS3

Sports Champions feels cold and calculated, but it's hard to argue with its solid base of motion-based gameplay.


 Table tennis is the best part of the package.
Sports Champions looks like the sort of game that falls out of an intense strategy meeting, with some suited executive pointing at charts and pictures of smiling citizens playing Wii Sports and shouting "if we don't have one of these, we're dead in the water!" Well, whatever went on behind the scenes, it worked. Sports Champions might lack the charm and spirit of Nintendo's flagship Wii release, but the game itself is a lot of fun, both as a multiplayer sort of "party" experience and as an easy first test for what, exactly, the PlayStation Move is capable of.

In fact, once you get up to the harder difficulty settings in Champions' six sports, you might start to feel like the Move equipment is a little too capable. There's something to be said for reining in your movements to make a game of table tennis more accessible, and as a result, I tended to enjoy the easier bronze difficulty over silver or gold. On bronze, most of the games provide a level of assistance, which shows you where to position your table tennis paddle, the proper time to raise up for a volleyball spike, and so on. Unfortunately, playing on bronze results in you being matched up with fairly boneheaded AI when you're playing alone, so playing the game by yourself means you'll have to either take off the training wheels or be satisfied by crushing your opposition. Of course, the directly competitive games are far more interesting when you're playing with other people.

There are six different games to choose from in Sports Champions, each with a single-player ladder mode that works you through the different difficulties and eventually unlocks a set of minigames in a "challenge" mode. You can also play in free-play mode by yourself, if you like, which lets you pick a background stage and your opponent.

Gladiator Duel is better if you have two Move controllers. 
For my money, the best of the six games is table tennis. It's frantic and one of the better showcases for what the Move can do. Flipping between forehand and backhand is as easy as, you know, flipping the Move controller from one side to the other. It also looks and feels very close to 1:1 movement with the paddle. If you tilt the controller, you'll see the paddle tilt accordingly. More importantly, your shots reflect that positioning extremely well. The angle of your paddle and the force with which you move it--and the hardware seems very good at detecting high-speed motion--acts how you would expect it to act. If you move the paddle forward, you can play closer to the net, and vice versa. At higher difficulty settings, the game stops showing you where to place your paddle and when to swing. I also get the impression that the easiest setting prevents you from getting too far away from the action, making it more about timing your swings properly. Once you bump it up, you'll need to start swinging in the right spots, too. That might not sound like much, but it's actually quite a bit harder. 

The rest of the games aren't quite as frantic as table tennis. Disc golf, for example, is downright leisurely. Really, you're just throwing frisbees at chain baskets with, as you might expect, golf rules. You can select from three different discs, each of which travels a different maximum distance, and just like real life, I'm kind of bad at it. It's weird, I used to be able to throw a real frisbee just fine, with actual accuracy. Now, I usually toss high, curving shots that drift off to the right and are only fun to catch if you're a dog. Considering the game replicates my real-life shortcomings pretty well, I'd call it accurate.

Archery is one of the games that works best if you have two Move controllers. You can play it with one, but with two, the actual act of grabbing an arrow and drawing your bow back is more like the real thing. This one is played as a race against the clock and against another archer, so the object is to be fast and accurate. Different configurations of targets are also available, so if you just want three static targets or distant watermelons, you've got options. It's a good showcase of what one person can do with two Move controllers, but not the best example of it that Sports Champions has to offer.

Gladiator Duel is the best example of what you can do with two Move controllers. In this game, you're armed with a weapon--like a sword or a mace--as well as a shield. So you'll wield one motion controller up front like your shield, positioning it properly to block incoming attacks and setting up swings of your own from the other motion controller. The buttons on the controller let you perform shield bashes, sidestep, or otherwise dodge incoming attacks. It's not especially deep, but again, it's an effective way to get a feel for what the Move can do.

Beach volleyball also lets you use two controllers, but you don't really need them. Bumping, setting, and spiking is pretty similar either way. This two-on-two game of volleyball feels a little stripped down, since you don't actually have to move around the court. It's functional, but not much fun.

You know what is fun, though? Bocce! I know what you're thinking. You're all, like, "Finally! Someone has provided a digital, interactive bocce experience that I can enjoy instead of having to go find a bunch of old men who smell of solvents and hard candy!" All kidding aside, this is a game about making underhanded tosses in an attempt to land balls near other balls. It's sort of like horseshoes. Where it gets interesting is in the more advanced stages, which put you in front of a minigolf-like windmill or other oddly shaped courses. It's not bad and lends some variety to the package.

 Archery's technically proficient, but not as engaging as some of the other games.
Sports Champions has a technically proficient look, with nice-looking characters and nicer-looking environments. But most of the presentation feels aggressively plain. The characters are all fairly realistic, and the way the Asian girl performs martial arts poses when she wins is... well, it's super stereotypical, actually. But stuff like that is as close as Sports Champions gets to having any real personality. For the most part, the characters grunt and vocalize in very lifeless ways, and the pristine areas in which you compete don't do anything to amp up the proceedings. It's sterile where a game like Wii Sports is charming. This, more than anything else, is Sports Champions' largest flaw.

While that flat feeling makes Sports Champions feel more like a technology demo than the sort of thing you want to dig out anytime anyone comes over to your house for a visit, the package is solid and mostly satisfying. It's the perfect game to bundle with the hardware, since it gives you enough gameplay and variety to keep you engaged long enough for Sony to cook up something else compelling to do with your Move controller. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
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Edited by Blair

Jeff truly is the sports champion!
 
I'm not sure how into Move I am, though.  Perhaps when it goes on sale and the software is there, I'll buy a Move.

Posted by JJWeatherman
@Blair said:
" Jeff truly is the sports champion! "
Really? Is he?
Posted by adoggz

oh man, I would totally bone that archer girl on the cover, like alot.

Posted by Nonentity

Ugh, stop giving me compelling reasons to waste my money on stupid motion shit. I KNOW I AM SPENDING MONEY ON THIS.

Edited by blackbird415

hi . not first :( 

Posted by Blair
@JJWeatherman said:
" @Blair said:
" Jeff truly is the sports champion! "
Really? Is he? "
If you read it on the internet then it must be true, JJ.
Posted by defaulttag

Glad to know that the move has a good game going for it. Still, this is not the game that will convince me to get it. 

Posted by Bobdaman18

Wow, playstation move game getting 4 stars, kinda wasn't expecting that but cool.
Posted by Vorbis

Not enough to make me pickup a Move, but when I do...

Posted by Carlozz34
@adoggz said:
" oh man, I would totally bone that archer girl on the cover, like alot. "
oh yes!
Posted by ZeroCast

Can't wait for Sports Champions Resort.
Edited by Claude

I live close to the Waldensian Winery in North Carolina, I've played a fair share of Bocce games and tournaments on their Bocce court. Good times.
 
How many holes does Disc Golf have? Eighteen? 
 
Either way, I can't wait to get the PS3 and Move bundle. Bring on the holidays for Motion fun.

Posted by Hyperfludd

This is pretty much a spot on review. I felt the same way when I gave it a go at Sony HQ. Table tennis is indeed the best game in the package. The swordsman one felt kinda off to me.

Posted by ObsideonDarman

Great Review Jeff. I might actually get the Move now... it looks so much better than the Wii and from the sounds of it, it can out perform the Wii on almost every Level.

Posted by RobotHamster
@Carlozz34 said:
" @adoggz said:
" oh man, I would totally bone that archer girl on the cover, like alot. "
oh yes! "
Count me in the orgy!
Posted by moelarrycurly

Sounds interesting.  I'll wait until the Move inevitably crashes and I can get it for dirt cheap though.

Posted by Cazamalos

i really want to try some of the move games and i'm one click away of pre-ordering the psmove but i already have a wii gathering dust... 
 
i really need to do something with my shopaholism

Posted by Duecenage

I like the Gladiator Duel game the best. I lack the hand/eye coordination to be good at ping pong, so even at the bronze stage, I find it maybe too realistic. I'll probably improve over time, but there is such a satisfactory feeling to bashing someone with the shield and hacking them in the knees.

Posted by kmolyneaux

So Sport Champion is as good as Halo Reach?!?!?!
 
 
Kidding! But dammit if I don't find myself wanting to pick up a Move.

Posted by Darkraven

aaaah... motion controls... to be honest im almost certain everyone who wanted them already bought a wii and hey! its still cheaper! why would most people pay more for something they already own
Both sony and microsoft did a bad move on my part but that will only mean less profit at the end of the year so dont hold it against me if i dont drop a tear for them. why buy these ps3 and 360 move/kinectic games when they are just a revamped version of what nintendo already offered us
waste of money, waste of time... talking about myself now, looking from the "hardcore" gamer point of view... not interested unless you give me good shooting / hack n slash controls. THEN maybe ill think about it.
 
in any case! good luck with these new controls. im not the kind of person to wish anyone anything bad... i just dont think they will succeed :P

Posted by Hailinel

It's cool that it's technically proficent, but if I'm going to buy Move gear, Sony will need to give me a more compelling reason than this.  If I want to play a game like Wii Sports Resort, I'll turn on my Wii, thank you.
Posted by JoelTGM

Nice.  I'd like to try the Move someday.

Posted by Scooper

Nice review. The game does look hard and cold but I guess Sony wants to go in at an oposite aproach to Nintendo with this thing. It comes off as more mature then the Wii stuff, which when you think about it is probably the exact right thing to do, given the PS3's user base.

Posted by bhhawks78

I almost never comment on reviews because I really don't care if reviewer X gives a game I love a 0 or a game I hate 100.  I haven't played this so I have no idea if it sucks or is amazing but the text and score honestly don't match.

Posted by nickux

Jeff's opening paragraphs are always my favorite part of his reviews- clear, concise, and always a little fun. Great review!

Posted by Chango

I'm still not sold on motion technology for gaming, but good to hear it works. I'll probably get Move once Dead Space Extraction comes out.

Posted by rjayb89

I do like me some table tennis...

Posted by sterbacblu

I'm really trying to resist putting down the money for Move.  I tried it at PAX with Heavy Rain and was not impressed, but it seems to work better with some of the other games.

Posted by Karmann

In my eyes, Move is the superior of all the motion controls, but technically proficient though this particular title may be, it's lack of "personality" and general blandness, is too much of a turn-off for me. It just doesn't have any Style!

Posted by Raven_Sword

Wonder if we can get a Buy or dont buy from Jeff in regards to Move.
Posted by erinfizz

okay, so which of these caused the knuckles hitting the ceiling incident? I can't see it, but i am also really short. 
 
This looks pretty cool, but I am saving all my gaming monies for the sure to be super spendy RB3 real guitar. If Move controllers show up in my Sony credit card rewards program, then maybe.

Posted by animateria

Eh, when I bought the Wii this year the Motion Controls had zero to do with that decision.
 
And I'll say no thanks to this.... and Kinect for the same reason.
 
Well..........
 
Dance Central does look awesome.

Posted by Brendan

Hey, did you guys hear that Jeff Gerstmann gave the same score to both Halo: Reach and Sports Champions?  That means he thinks Sports Champions is just as good as Halo: Reach!  Ready...go!
Posted by oldschool2112

I'm actually really looking forward to Move and the right game. With the way the Move actually works like we all hoped the Wii would, all it will really take is some game that makes you forget you're holding a controller, like the way Guitar Hero did the first time I fired it up.

Posted by Teoball

I picked this up yesterday and I really like it. The controls just feel great.  
Posted by NTM

The move looked interesing when played in with Killzone, but it's very Wii-like. Which isn't a problem. I don't mind Move so far, but the thing with Wii that I didn't like when it came to motion control is that the sensor bar sucks. I want something built in somewhere somehow to make it a lot easier no matter where you stand/sit.
Posted by brocool

Excellent closing remarks,I'm really interested in seeing how bocce works out.

Posted by woojames

So far I have tried 2 games: archery is fun and really feels like grabbing an arrow, drawing the bow and aiming!  Volleyball... not so much fun, hard to judge the best timing to hit the ball...

Posted by dantheman1515

Sports Champions=Halo: Reach. Or at least according to Jeff Gerstmann.

Posted by Teoball

I just wanted to add that here in Norway the 'Starter pack' that includes a camera and a motion controller doesn't include any games, only a disc with some demos and a short video that tells you how to set up the system. 
All the demos has to be installed too. I wanted to try the Tiger Woods demo and had to install 1700MB.

Posted by danpat177
@dantheman1515:  for the type of games they are they match 
 
this is as good a wii sports type game 
 
as reach is an fps 
you can not compare them as there so not the same 
Posted by Mrskidders

Move is going to shit on Kinect from a great height.

Posted by Bouke
@Mrskidders said:

"Move is going to shit on Kinect from a great height. "


so far Dance Central looks way better then anything Sony has with the Move
   
Posted by Plasma

Get this or Reach? dunno they have the same score, must be of equal quality.

Posted by Ghostiet
@dantheman1515 said:
" Sports Champions=Halo: Reach. Or at least according to Jeff Gerstmann. "

It's a good game in its own category, like Reach. It's so fucking hard for you to understand? Every single game should have a separate rating scale, right.

And also - no, FOUR IS NOT A BAD SCORE.

Posted by get2sammyb
@Bouke said:
" @Mrskidders said:

"Move is going to shit on Kinect from a great height. "

so far Dance Central looks way better then anything Sony has with the Move    "

Possibly. But that's just one game in one genre. Sony's got 50 games announced for the Move now, and there's much more potential for it to span wider categories. Kinect may aswell be the "dance" peripheral Rock Band right now.
Posted by n8
@ZeroCast said:
" Can't wait for Sports Champions Resort. "
this. 
Edited by eightbit

Nice review.  It sort of confirms what I thought from the Qore preview.  I'd like to know more about how much room I'd need to wield this and if it'd be suitable in my apartment.  I might buy it if the price comes down or something really compelling comes out, but I'm not sure what kind of compelling game would draw me in for it at full price.
 
It's kind of like Sing Star.  It's super fun, but I can't remember the last time I dusted off those mics.  I mean, ultimately, I bought a PS3 to sit on my ass and play a controller - nothing can beat just a simple controller that does everything I need and that I understand without any thought.  Kinect looks fun, too, but same thing.  If I bought an XboX, it's because I have extra cash to check out great XboX games, not for waving my hands around, though Dance Central looks fantastic.

Posted by skrutop

Dude at the Sony store was demoing Table Tennis.  It was pretty rad.

Posted by rjayb89

Damn you, Jeff, I love table tennis!

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