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PS3 Review – Sports Champions

Sports Champions is launching alongside the PlayStation Move controller, available by itself or as part of the PlayStation Move starter bundle. Sony hopes that Sports Champions will do for the PlayStation Move what Wii Sports did for the Nintendo Wii. And that is to provide an easily accessible, intuitive experience that shows off just what the hardware is capable of, while appealing to casual consumers. The question is, is the game the champion Sony is hoping for, or is it better off sitting by the sidelines?

Sports Champions is a collection of mini-games based on some fairly uncommon sports. You won’t find America’s favorite pastime here. Instead, the sports offered within the game are meant to show off just how different the PlayStation Move is from the Nintendo Wii’s motion controller. The games available are: Table Tennis, Beach Volleyball, Disc Golf, Bocce, Archery, and Gladiator Duel. These games demand much more movement than the gesture based stuff found on Wii Sports. Each sport does a great job at demonstrating how precise the new PS3 motion controller really is.

The game itself isn’t a deep game. In fact, each sport plays like their real-life counterpart, and doesn’t deviate much from the formula in any way. With Table Tennis, it’s exactly what you’d expect. The value is actually in how the game utilizes the controller. Simple twists of the wrist, the velocity and speed of your swing, will all affect the ball once making impact. To serve, hold the T trigger, make a tossing motion and release. From there, swing as you would in real life, and rally it back and forth between you and the opponent until one of you wins a point. Definitely straight forward stuff. What makes it interesting is just how well your motions translate to your on-screen character.

The characters themselves are quite dull. Despite each of them being well designed and having interesting names like Boomer and Dallas, there isn’t any personality traits, or specific attributes. They don’t talk or show emotion and play absolutely no role in the game other than letting you know that the next opponent is different from the last.

Characters aren’t the only thing on the dull side. The sound in the game is virtually non-existent, aside from the subtle grunts, and the noise of a bouncing ball or a bow and arrow being snapped back, the game is mostly silent. Sure there are sounds of nature, but there isn’t any music that helps set the tone for the action. I guess in this case, you are supposed to be creating the action. That being said, the game is indeed packed with action. All of the sports – sans one or two – provide a decent workout, some, will even have you breaking a sweat.

Gladiator Duel outfits your avatar with a sword and a shield. At first glance, the combat seems empty. As you proceed and new skills are learned as the competition gets more stiff, things get much more interesting. Even more so if you’ve got more than one PlayStation Move controller. With two controllers, one acts as the sword for swinging and attacking, the other takes the role of the shield, letting you block and push your opponent, opening up their defenses. Overall the gameplay in Gladiator Duel is fun, but you won’t find yourself going back for more, unless you’re planning on showing it off to a friend.

Disc Golf, is frisbee tossing to the rules of golf. How far back you reach, how fast you throw, how your wrist is turned, and where along the arc of your throw all will affect your toss, how it spins and where it lands. Since this is frisbee, there aren’t any holes. Chain-link baskets are set up in the course, and it’s up to you to get it in the basket in as few plays as possible.

Bocce Ball, which I actually had never heard of before trying the game for the first time is a fun game. It reminds me of horseshoes; you have to toss out a smaller ball, only to try and land larger balls as close as possible to the small ball. It’s actually more difficult than it sounds. The problem is with Bocce Ball and many of the other games, is that there isn’t any variation. Every game you play of Bocce Ball is essentially the same and the repetitive nature of everything gets extremely old fast.

The best out of the bunch, is Archery, hands down. Especially if you’ve got more than one PlayStation Move controller. With two controllers, you’ll reach up and backward to pull an arrow out of your quiver using the T trigger, put it toward the other controller, pull back as far as you can for maximum power, then release trigger to let it fly. This makes for one of the most immersive experiences I’ve found in a sports game on any game console, period. If that wasn’t enough, Archery is the one sport that features a good deal of variety in the challenges. Aside from shooting stationary and moving targets, you’ll also play mini-games like tic-tac-toe, where your goal is to hit three targets in a row (duh!), before your opponent can. Another challenge has you shooting cardboard skeletons as they slowly approach you. Even though that doesn’t sound like that much variety, it’s more than welcome after the repetitive nature of the other sports.

On the flip side, Volleyball is the most disappointing out of everything. You can’t actually control your characters movements, so don’t expect to make your own set-ups. The game controls where your character goes, and all you can do is bump the ball or spike it.

Each of these individual sports can be played as single player in cups (bronze, silver and gold), where you’ll go through a list of increasingly difficult opponents. There’s also a challenge mode for each, which will give you a specific task to perform and really just serves as a way to break up the monotony. As you progress through the game, you’ll be in for one hell of a challenge as it actually gets rather difficult. Multiplayer is where it’s at. Since the characters and environments are so dull, and many of the sports so repetitive that you’ll need the friendly trash talking that goes on between real-life competition.

Despite the complaints, the game shines thanks to how well it tracks the PlayStation Move controller and translates it into on-screen actions. Even the most subtle of movements register perfectly in the game, providing a great challenge a decent workout, and a good deal of fun.

Sports Champions is to the PlayStation Move what Wii Sports is to the Nintendo Wii. It serves as an easily accessible, enjoyable way to show off the motion tech, while offering up some competition using sports that most people will be familiar with. If you’re going to get one game with the PlayStation Move, Sports Champions will be a winner.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

Dull characters and environments

Each sports requires real skill and accuracy

For the best experience, get two PlayStation Move controllers

8 out of 10