Since it was first revealed, Sports Champions has been positioned as the premier launch title for the Playstation Move. This is the game that Sony hopes will inspire the casual audience to put down their Wii remotes and migrate over to the PS3. While hardcore gamers will most likely shrug this off as “A HD Wii Sports” Sports Champions is so much more and deserves more of your attention than one might assume.
This sports compilation packs in six different events, four of which are similar to events already available in Wii Sports Resort. Six sports may not seem like a lot, especially since ‘Resort double that figure but Sports Champions still manages to beat out the competition proving the quality over quantity theory correct. Sony’s new-fangled controller allows for more accuracy than any Wii title can provide. After spending almost two weeks with Sports Champions I tried going back to a few Wii MotionPlus games which tout true 1-to-1 controls but not one of them perfectly captures your every movement like the Move can.
Sports Champions also scores points in terms of presentation. All the menus are laid out in an easy to use manner, the graphics are crisp and vibrant, the tutorials are refreshingly easy to follow and even the characters themselves are excellently designed (if a little clichéd). Rather than talking about Sports Champions as a whole, I’m going to spend the majority of this review talking about each game individually. Each of the events in the game has three different cups all with increasing levels of difficulty. To win each cup you’ll have to win against 10 AI opponents and take part in a unique challenge mode. The Bronze cup is perfect for beginners and those new to the Move, the Silver cup increases the AI’s difficulty and turns off the control assists and finally the Gold cup is for the elite few who apparently have split second reflexes. Once you win a cup the PS Eye will offer to take a picture of you with a relevant sporting object superimposed in to your hand. This picture can then be published directly on to your wall accompanied with a sentence documenting your achievement.
Sports Champions’ line-up kicks off with Disc Golf, which as the name suggests is Golf but with a Disc. As with regular golf your objective here is to guide an object across a vast stretch of land and in to a specific location. Except here instead of a golf ball and golf club, you pilot a Frisbee. I have to be honest here, I’m one of those many people who find Golf to be too technical to enjoy, so the fact that I enjoy Disc Golf as much as I do is either a true testament of its quality or an admission of its shallowness. Put simply, if you want golf without the boring bits then this is the game for you. The Move’s pin point controls step in to allow you to easily add curve to your throws but not much else. As the first game on Sports Champions’ main menu Disc Golf does a pretty poor job showing off the Moves’ unique capabilities. Sans the HD visuals I feel that this title could easily be ported to the Wii even without MotionPlus. But hey, and fun game in a fun game and Disc Golf packs enough content to be a full standalone title.
Gladiator Duel is one of the three events on Sports Champions which supports up to two Move controllers per player. Having a controller in each hand allows you to have one of (if not, thee) most accurate fighting experiences in a videogame ever. The controller in your left hand acts as your shield while the one in your right functions as your sword. The accuracy of the Playstation Move allows you to manipulate both your sword and shield independently, both with pinpoint precision. Gladiator Duel is a third-person, arena based fighting game where your goal is to knock out your opponent. Each combatant is armed with a sword (or similar weapon type) and a shield, both of which can be used to attack your opponent. Blocking is a major aspect of the game but doing so has both advantages and disadvantages. Blocking your opponent’s strikes briefly leaves them open for attack and more importantly helps to build up your a Super Strike meter. Once your meter is full pressing X will activate Super Strike which causes your weapon to glow. If you successful land a strike while your weapon is glowing you’ll execute a damaging special move which knocks down your opponent. Be warned though, blocking too much will cause shield damage so doing so just to build up your meter isn’t recommended. Players can also strafe, jump backwards, attack downed opponents and perform ring-outs to win matches. Gladiator Duel may suffer from repetition after a few hours of play but it is currently the best motion-controlled fighting game available. Playing with just one controller reduces Gladiator Duel’s fun-factor significantly. Having to hold down the Trigger to alternate between sword and shield feels unnatural and makes it difficult to perfectly line up strikes.
Like Gladiator Duel Archery also up to two Move controllers per player. Playing with two controllers again allows for a truly authentic experience as your movements are EXPERTLY represented on screen. The controls take a few minutes to get used to but once you have them mastered you’ll never want to play a game like this with anything other than a Move Controller. First players are required to extend their left arm to line up their bow; you then place your right hand near the back of your neck and hold down the trigger to grasp an arrow. With the trigger still held down, extend your right arm so that both controllers are now touching each other. Finally pull your right hand backwards as if you’re stretching your bow then release the trigger to sure. The controls may sound overly complicated but they feel completely naturally. Shortly after completing the tutorial you’ll look and feel like a modern day Robin Hood. While a majority of the levels in archery simply require you to shoot targets there are a few unique gameplay variants interspersed through-out which I’ll allow you to discover for yourself. Playing with one controller removes some of the steps required to load up your arrow but the end result remains the same. Archery is nothing short of excellent; I’d happily pay the full $40 for this event alone.
Beach Volleyball is the one weakspot in Sports Champions’ stainless steel armour. This event is less about subtle movements and more about bumping your controller whenever you see a green ring hone in on the ball. This event also supports two controllers per player but the inclusion of a second controller does very little to improve the experience. If you’re a V-ball fan you will most definitely enjoy playing it with the Move, especially since every other Volleyball game in the market is either geared towards kids, wannabe thugs or perverts. As expected you use the controller to serve, bump, block, spike and whatever else Volleyball players do. It’s also worth noting that Beach Volleyball is the only event in Sports Champions that allows four people to play simultaneously, so if you happen to have four Move controllers and three friends all in one room, this may well become your sport of choice for the night.
If I was to ask you to name all the sports in the world you’d probably run out of things to say before you utter the word “Bocce”. Those unfamiliar with Bocce will be pleased to hear that the rules are surprisingly simple. The game takes place in a small outdoor area usually no bigger than 30 meters, however Sports Champions takes things to a much grander Scale and before long you’ll be competing in significantly larger areas. At the start of each match a player must throw a small yellow ball known as a Pallino anywhere in the game area. Once the Pallino lands, you and your opponent then take turns throwing 5 larger balls each, with the intention of landing them as close to the Pallino as possible. After all 10 balls have been thrown the person whose ball has landed the closest to the Pallino is awarded a point, the first person to earn five points wins the match. Additional points can be earned by getting two or more of your balls closer to the Pallino than any of your opponent’s balls. This event also does very little to demonstrate the Move’s potential but it is a fun aside nevertheless.
Rounding off Sports Champions’ catalogue of awesomeness is everyone’s favourite indoor event, Table Tennis. There really isn’t much to report here, other than it looks, feels and plays like the real thing. You flick up to serve, rotate your wrist to add spin and reciprocate rallies to set the ball on fire just like the professionals do… no, wait…
And there you have it, a short rundown of everything that Sports Champions has to offer. If you already own a Playstation Move then purchasing this $40 title is a no-brainer. This is the best sports compilation I’ve ever played and further proof that the Playstation Move is the best motion-based controller on the market. The lack of online modes means that you’ll have to purchase a minimum of two controllers and invite a friend over to get the most out of the game but believe me it’s worth it.