Review: Sports Champions (PS3)

sports-champions-review-banner

Title: Sports Champions
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: September 17, 2010
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Price: $39.99
ESRB: E10+
Extras: PlayStation Move Compatible

It seems that with all 3 motion control implementations that we’re seeing for the current-gen systems, each one includes a “Sports Package” of some type, and rightfully so to a certain extent. Wii Sports was wildly popular, and in it’s own way acted as an introduction to a bunch of different motion control schemes while still remaining enjoyable.

When I first saw Sports Champions for PlayStation Move, I expected the same thing. After playing all of the included games however, I found the deeper experience that I had always longed-for with Wii Sports. The big question is, are the games included actually fun to play? Let’s find out!

Gameplay
There are six games included with Sports Champions, and all six definitely have their own unique control schemes. They are:
-Gladiator Duel
-Archery
-Disc Golf
-Table Tennis
-Volleyball
-Bocce Ball

Some are “deeper” than others, but all 6 are extremely enjoyable in Single and Multiplayer. For me the standouts are definitely Bocce Ball, Table Tennis, and Disc Golf, but I do find myself playing the others quite a bit as well. All 6 allow Single-Player via AI opponents, all of which are built on a progression system with opponents that get better at each level.

Also, every game has unlockable items to try and acquire, and online leaderboards for you and your friends to keep checking to see who’s kicking the most ass. A couple of the games can use two Move controllers in Single-Player, but nothing ever requires two. I made it a point to try both methods, and I can attest that both schemes work very well. So, let’s run down the list and discuss each game included in the package.

Gladiator Duel
This is the most action-packed game in the bunch, and will probably be the one to wear you out the most. Also, this is one of the games that can be played with either one or two Move controllers, and is also the one that gives the biggest difference between the two methods.

Basically, you are dueling another combatant in an arena setting, using only a Weapon such as a large hammer or a sword, and a shield to deflect attacks from your opponent. The game’s a bit deeper than I originally expected, as not only can your shield take damage and break-away, but you can also attain special moves by blocking attacks correctly.

The gameplay is essentially what you’d expect though, try to hit your opponent with your weapon while defending yourself with your shield or by hitting the ‘Move’ button on the controller to sidestep. Each opponent has a unique fighting style, and they all have a signature movement of some type.

A couple of the special moves that you can attain are a jumping attack for when your opponent is on the ground, a hugely powerful, multi-slash attack, and even the ability to juggle a fallen opponent in the air somewhat. This one is probably the biggest surprise to me in terms of the fun-factor, and the difficulty ramps-up quite smoothly throughout the Single-Player progression.

Archery
If you’ve ever seen a Robin Hood movie, then you’ll know exactly what to expect here. Again, you progress from simply firing arrows at a target backed by straw, to moving targets and the occasional fruit on a pedestal. What sets this game apart though, is the execution of the controls.

The player will actually go through the motions of grabbing an arrow from the quiver on your virtual back, and bringing it down into the bow, and then pulling back as you would with the real weapon. Using 2 Move controllers adds a bit more to the “augmented reality,” as you use one controller for each hand, which surprisingly recreates the experience quite well.

With one controller, you keep the controller in one hand and still go through the motions, including pulling-back on it before you release the trigger. Again, both control schemes work very well.

Disc Golf (Frolf)
If you’ve played it in the park, this is seriously the same game with much nicer environments. Every tiny adjustment that you make with your hands while throwing affects the distance, height, trajectory, and spin of the disc. Also, don’t forget to take the wind into account! It’s Golf, with with Frisbees!

The game is a blast, and is one that we spent a lot of time with when I played with some co-workers. They even slow the camera down on dramatic shots, and many close shots will elicit cries from all of those watching and playing. This is a very solid version of this classic leisure-time activity.

Table Tennis
This is definitely the game that will garner the most scrutiny, as there’s also a very popular version in Wii Sports Resort. I can tell you, without a doubt, that this version blows the Wii version out of the water.

You’ll notice immediately that you have much more control over everything, and the first time that you put insane backspin on the ball, you’ll be hooked on the controls. Every movement that you make with the controller is mimicked on-screen, with no input-lag whatsoever. Those movements translate into some incredibly finite control over the ball, and the table physics that you encounter are almost perfect in every way.

Two-player in split screen is very easy to play, and judging from last night, is amazingly fun. This is definitely one game that you’ll be able to throw in if you want to show a friend what Move is capable of.

Volleyball
I’m pretty set in my ways with Volleyball games, and I always use ‘Beach Spikers’ from the Gamecube as the litmus test. I honestly didn’t know what to expect with this one, and I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised at how well done it is.

This is another game that allows play with one or two Move controllers, and both ways play great. With two controllers though, you’ll start to understand how much control Move actually affords you when the game is built correctly. Each controller accurately controls a hand, so when you’re going in for an overhead set-shot, your player’s hands don’t just snap into a predetermined position, you have full control over the direction and power of that shot.

The same goes for everything else that you’re doing as well. All character movements are handled by the CPU, and except for one instance, it seems to do a great job. I didn’t get to try this in multiplayer, but I just have to imagine that it’d be a blast to play with someone else.

Bocce Ball
I don’t think that it’s a secret that this is definitely my favorite game in the set. I play Bocce with my friends a lot, and the translation to the PS3 is astoundingly fun. Motion is exact, as is is power and direction.

The different courts and venues can be an absolute blast to play in, especially with multiple obstacles and realistic physics for using bank-shots. The game looks boring when you watch it, but it is incredibly tough to put down when you’re playing it, especially if you’re playing another person. I applaud whomever made the decision to include Bocce in this package!

Visuals
You’re going to be pleased with what you see here. The visuals are very nicely done throughout, with very impressive lighting. Some of the ground textures are rather simple in comparison, but there’s nothing really to complain about here.

The framerate is consistent in every game, and it looks like a PS3 game, and not some ported trash. Also, the cast of characters that you can choose form all have unique personalities and gaming styles, and all look fantastic.

Audio
First, it supports custom soundtracks, which is AWESOME! The included soundtrack is quite subdued, but sound effects and voices are very well done.

Online/Multiplayer
Well, here’s my biggest disappointment, and my biggest complaint. Sports Champions does NOT include any online play, and this makes me very sad. It does, however, offer online leaderboards for all 6 games included in the package. They offer the standard online leaderboard fare, and so far work very well. Local multiplayer has been fantastic so far, with no issues in terms of getting out of camera range etc.

Conclusion
Except for the lack of online play, I honestly don’t have any complaints for Sports Champions. The package includes some fantastic games that are fun to play, and all exhibit the power of the Move technology, with lag-free play and varied use of the controller(s). If you’re planning on picking the Move controllers up, Sports Champions is a must-have title. Now start practicing your Bocce Ball skills for the Midwest Gaming Classic, I’ll take-on any challenger!

Score:
8.5

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook
  • madeup6

    Great review!

    You’ve got a bit of a typo here though: “They offer the standard online leaderbaord fare, and so far work very well.”

  • Anonymous

    I pre-ordered it for my son’s birthday (well and for me to play as well) and I appreciate the review. For some strange reason. some in the “media” seem to take offense to anyone telling them that there may be something better than the Wii. You know, that Wii they don’t play but got them a ton of press and everyone they know has one, like a Britney Spears CD, so it must reign supreme? I’ll read other reviews just for the giggle factor, but I think Sony, other than the lack of online, did a great job on this.

    • I’m happy to admit I’ve never owned a Britney Spears CD. The Wii on the other hand, yep, got me one of those.

      Great gift idea for a father/son type activity btw!

  • Anonymous

    great, now I gotta get a move!

  • Totally agree – the move rocks and Sports Champions is a must have.

    Went to buy a Move controller on the Sunday after release – all sold out across the city….. Noooooo
    Managed to find a Starter Pack in one store in town on Tuesday morning – bought it even though I already have an eye-camera for $99-.
    Well worth the extra $20-