Sports Champions Review

Sports Champions (Available exclusively on PlayStation 3)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Sports
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Zindagi Games
Release Date: September 19th, 2010
Move Controller and PlayStation Eye Required

Parent Talk: There’s not much to say about a sports game.  It’s rated E10+, but I don’t think younger players will find anything offensive about Sports Champions.  In fact, I think they would get a kick out of swinging the Move controller around and seeing their on-screen character mimic their movements.  Maybe that’s just me though. Parents, you’re intelligent people…you decide.

Audio-visually, there’s some very impressive scenery found in archery, great animations in gladiator, and more.  We always say that the games today feature 1080p resolution with Dolby Digital 5.1, and Sports Champions is no exception. It’s been pretty standard stuff for the past few years.

Let’s get something out of the way right away; Sports Champions is Sony’s answer to Wii Sports.  Does that make it a rip-off title that should be completely ignored?  I thought so…at first.  I’m telling you all right now: do not let bleak first impressions prevent you from checking out this launch title…for the best use of Sony’s motion controller lies here. What makes Sports Champions so interesting and how does it separate itself from Nintendo’s launch offering? Read on to find out.

The Great:

Without a doubt the best of the included six sports games is Gladiator Duel.  It plays exactly as you would imagine. Wielding a weapon and a shield, you gaze upon your opponent on the other side. He’s ready, willing and able to destroy you. With two Move controllers, this mode feels completely natural. With one, slightly less so. As your opponent makes his way towards you, you pivot your body to the right and bring your right arm crashing down on his leg. He goes down for the count. From there, you motion for a downward strike and successfully deliver a powerful blow to his body. My narration mirrors the gameplay down to the finest detail. It’s almost as if you’re dueling in real life…or at least that’s what this mode makes you believe. Movement is accurate, smooth and devoid of lag. If you want to impress people with your new PlayStation Move Bundle, this mode in particular is going to do it, hands down.

The Good:

+ More than a clone. There’s no doubt people will compare Sports Champions to Wii Sports…no one will blame you for thinking that way since both games are almost identical in concept. Your assumptions will change once you actually start messing around with everything SC has to offer. The little touches add so much to the experience. For example, playing a couple of matches in Gladiator Duel warrants having your picture taken via the PlayStation Eye, which will show you holding a bad-ass sword instead of the Move controller. There are also a ton of unlockable goodies like new costumes, weapons, etc. The fact that all of this looks so darn good further adds to SC’s unique feel. Everything looks absolutely stunning in high-definition…and floating limbs are nowhere to be found. After a few hours of playtime you honestly start to feel that there’s more to SC than just a me-too game.

+ Archery is another fantastic showpiece…and yet another example of why it’s important to pick up a second Move controller. Having one makes this mode limited in comparison.  With two controllers, you can perform all the natural movements of the real sport. Stretch back to get an arrow from its satchel, bring it forward to line it up with the bow, pull your right arm back, aim and release (which is done by releasing the trigger button). There’s a bit more to this mode, but the seamless gestures are what this whole peripheral is about.

+ This is one-to-one. Disc Golf, which has you hurling a disc around a golf course and into a bucket, is another great example of the Move’s ability to read one-to-one movements.  Throw the disc with a lot of force, and the in-game depiction will clearly show it.  Try to fake the system though and you can expect your little disc to go nowhere. Every angle is also detected with pinpoint accuracy.

+ Best of the rest. Bocce works fairly well for a ball game. Your objective is to throw a wooden ball down a long stretch to another ball.  The person whose wooden balls are closest to the one down the field is the winner. The Move controller isn’t as responsive as, say, Disc Golf, but still does a pretty good job measuring the force of your throw and various angles. Volleyball is the last of the games in this set that works as intended. Like most net games that use motion controls, you don’t have direct control over where your player stands (ala Wii Sports Tennis). The Move controller had very little problems with spiking, volleying, and bumping, but given the nature of the limitations associated with this style of gameplay, I didn’t find it overly amazing compared to all the other sports.

+ Two is better than one. If you had to learn one lesson from this review, it should be that a second Move controller is virtually a must-have. Wii MotionPlus allows one-to-one motion on the Wii, but it really doesn’t feel as accurate as having two Move controllers for one player. There’s a big and obvious downside attached to this awesome concept that I’ll get to in a minute…but for now, just know that if you have two Move controllers you’re going to be so impressed by the natural gestures of these sports games. You can try your hardest to fool the system, but you’ll almost always come up short as the tech detects exactly what you’re doing at all times.

The Bad:

–  Table tennis is for the birds. Well…that’s…not exactly right. Admittedly, it can be fun at times, yet frustrations aren’t far behind.  The Move controller had lot of trouble detecting my gestures. This is likely because typical movements in the real sport are precise and fast-paced. There were also a lot of bizarre graphical hiccups with this one game mode in particular.

– Tutorials and configuration frustrations. The tutorials can be skipped, but the configuration process are forced. Calibrating the Move controller each and every time you change game modes gets really annoying in the long run.

The Ugly:

Money, money, MONEY! The Move controller didn’t ship with the PS3, unlike the Wii of course (I know I said we shouldn’t be comparing everything to it, but come on, it’s inevitable). Despite the Move-related PS3 bundle that somewhat softens the blow, the fact of the matter is that there are millions of players out there who already own the system.  If you ‘early’ console adapters want to jump on the Move bandwagon, expect to dish out an extra $100 for the bundle which includes one Move controller, a PlayStation Eye camera, and Sports Champions. It doesn’t include the “navigation” controller ($30 nun-chuck clone) or another Move controller (50$ a pop). That means if you really want to experience these sports games as intended, you have to fork up even more cash on top of the default starter pack. Want to play with a few pals at your house? You’re going to need yet another set of controllers. By the time everything is said and done, you’ll find yourself in debt because of the hundreds of dollars spent on peripherals. That’s definitely not an incentive to get into Move.

The Lowdown:

I’m going to be really frank here. I was ready to call Sports Champions nothing more than a typical copycat title. The Move controller was never really that impressive to me. I mean, let’s be completely legit here for a few seconds. Sony copied the rumble pack and analog stick from Nintendo for their original DualShock controller. In my opinion they took what another company had done and perfected it. They’re now in the process of trying to do the exact same thing with the Wii controller. The difference this time around is that Sony has many hurdles to overcome. They aren’t trying to directly attack the casual fans, as evident by their launch title. It seems to me they’re trying to get the mainstream market and the casuals as well. Whether this will work or not remains to be seen. The point I’m trying to make is that for all the negative initial reactions everyone had to the Move, I’m actually shocked that I had fun with this game…wasn’t expecting that in a million years. I also wasn’t expecting my friends–consisting of hardcore and casual players–to have a blast as well. So maybe Sony is onto something here after all. What Nintendo said when the Wii first launched applies to the Move as well; players need to experience it for themselves to fully appreciate its offerings. Sure, it costs some money to get on board, but like most new tech, what doesn’t?  The bottom line is this; I think $100 for the starter pack is well worth the money. Buy It!

20 thoughts on “Sports Champions Review”

    1. And you should. I was pleasantly surprised by it. I’m not hypocrite, and I’ve been very vocal about my non-infatuation with the Wii. I’m also going to say that I doubt I’ll be using the Move all the time to replace anything, but it did prove to me to be quite enjoyable and that’s the number one reason we play games to begin with.

    1. Like I said, I know I won’t be playing this all day everyday, but it did surprise me. It was actually much more detailed than I thought it would be. The biggest hurdle facing Sony is clearly the price associated with buying all the controllers. The same can be said of Kinect though.

  1. Got mine! So much more fun than I expected!

    I’m one of the few hardcore who enjoyed wii sports back when it came out. Sports Champion rapes the **** out of Wii Sports!

  2. Oh I will for sure! Besides… my girlfriend is enjoying it so much and she can’t wait to kick my ass in Gladiator! :)

  3. Also can’t find a 2nd move controller yet, but so far…I think I’m still stuck in the “blah” first impressions your review mentioned.

    Love the accuracy of the controls, but the game itself feels empty to me so far. Wii Sports Resort has a lot more charm and some of its sports counterparts are designed a lot better than what’s found in Sports Champions. The sense of self-discovery is a common theme in the Wii Sports games, something that Sports Champions lacks. There are a lot of cursors and indicators in the PS3 Move title that make gameplay so easy to figure out…Wii Sports has none of that and that makes it superior in a lot of ways.

    Another big issue I have with Sports Champions is the generic design. Sure it looks amazing compared to Wii Sports and its sequel, but there’s just no charm to be found whatsoever. Characters are just dull generic people.

    Ironically, I found Table Tennis to be excellent in Sports Champions compared to Wii Sports…a game you found underwhelming. A matter of personal preference I guess. The controls really show the depth of Move and the simplicity of the the Wii counterpart. Really felt the game detected power, speed, and types of shots a lot better than in Wii Sports Resort. It’s not perfect though…like you said, it can get a bit jerky to switch between forehand and backhand, a problem also found in Wii Sports.

    A final criticism is the lack of more sports. 6 games are bit on the low end here. Volleyball, like you said, is just boring. Bocce is an extremely weird choice, too. Why not include a more mainstream sport for a change?

    I’m going to give this game more playtime and see if my impressions change…but perhaps that 2nd Move controller is vital so that I fully appreciate Sports Champions. So far though…I prefer Wii Sports Resort.

  4. Funny,

    I really differ from all your comments Ahmed….

    Just to make a note, I think the most fun I had was putting God of War music as custom soundtrack while playing Gladiator. So fitting!!

    1. A second Move controller does indeed make a big difference Ahmed. I know each of us will prefer different aspects of the game, but I welcome the opinions. It’s interesting to see how each of us reacts to this game and overall controller peripheral.

      1. I feel that there’s a lot of untapped potential with the Move controller…let alone using two of them. The controller itself is a lot more comfortable than the Wii one. As you said, Sony just took what Nintendo did and perfected it.

        Really feel that Sports Champions could’ve been a better game though. Gladiator Duel is indeed amazing, but one would wish that the other sports come close to its depth. Like I said though, maybe another Move controller will improve my impressions. I also want to play Disc Golf. That must’ve been my favorite mode in Wii Sports Resort so I’m curious about what has been done to improve it in Sports Champions.

        1. I’m curious to hear your thoughts after using two controllers. I’m very curious to see how the public will react to the Move. I mean it really is just a modified Wiimote. Kinect is another story altogether. Will people be willing to dish out that kind of cash for the camera?

  5. Totally want to get Move myself. :) The bundle unfortunately doesn’t seem to come with the navigation controller though…ah well. Maybe when I get my next paycheck, I’ll go out and get it. I’m looking forward to future applications of the controller. I think there are lots of cool opportunities for motion-based games. I’ll probably get a second Move controller down the road, dunno if I can afford two right away. I’m more accepting of the Move than I am of Kinnect still though….and I really want to see Wii Motion Plus integrated into more games. Red Steel 2 was awesome, and Skyward Sword looks slick.

  6. Thing is, you can save money by using the dualshock isntead. So not everyone is gonna want to buy it.

    1. True enough, but I figured they would at least include it in the bundle to give people the whole kit. It doesn’t really make much of a difference when you get down to it.

    2. Yeah, but holding the Dualshock while gripping the Move seems like it would be pretty awkward. The navigation controller is a smaller piece of equipment and the button arrangement better suits the dual-wielding set-up IMO.

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