Sports Champions Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Sports Champions Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Better Than Wii Sports

Attempting to mimic the Nintendo Wii’s success with Wii Sports, Sony has released Sports Champions side-by-side with the brand-spanking-new PlayStation Move. Back in 2007, Nintendo was able to show that simple sports games make up perhaps the best exhibition for motion controls. The blend of simplicity and familiarity is what Sony has been hoping Sports Champions could capture in their own audience.

Sports Champions screenshot

By and large, Sports Champions is a resounding success, and by far the best launch game appearing on Move. Not only are they a great show piece for how precise and fun Sony’s motion controls can be, but they are fun games in their own right. Sports Champions is a great showcase for how far motion controls have come in the four years since the release of the Nintendo Wii.

It’s not a perfect game, but, in a lot of ways, it’s pretty close. Sports Champions aims unabashedly to be a Wii Sports clone. It’s supposed to be the most fun when played in a group, being instantly understandable (people should be able to instantly know how to control the game without instructions), and it still has a fun single player mode. It accomplishes all of these things. It even goes so far as to include games popular with several different generations. Baby Boomers may not be as keen on gladiator battles as teenage boys, but they can still enjoy some sweet Bocce action.

Still, it warrants noting that if you’re looking for a deep sports experience, you will not find that here. These are simple, yet challenging, games. The main mechanic is as complex as it gets. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s not going to stimulate strategic minds or hardcore sports fans.

Sports Champions screenshot

There are no bad games in this package, but perhaps my favorite was Frisbee golf. The motion for throwing is picture-perfect and the computer simulates your throws almost exactly as you would expect to see a real life Frisbee fly out of your grip. This is important, because subtle details like the angle or your throw really affect the arch of the flight path. If you know how to control a Frisbee, you can angle it upward so it flies back toward you once it reaches the apex, or curve them around trees.

Ping Pong was also a personal favorite. Not only does this game have the same kind of precision, but it’s so fast paced that good, long games can really be considered light exercise. After a few days of concerted ping-ponging, my shoulder and right bicep are sore (in the good way).

Sports Champions screenshot

Going into Sports Champions, I had assumed I would be transfixed by the Gladiator matches, but as time wore on, I realized I didn’t actually care for them much. They’re fun, but it won’t be long before you move on to the better single-player games. In multiplayer though, the gladiator game is one of the best. Having complete control over both your sword and shield is a blast and makes for awesome competition when matched against another human opponent. Some of the computer opponents in single-player are a little too easy though.

Archery is harder to classify as “good” or “bad.” Its major draw is it fits a niche none of the other games do. It’s calm, and slow-paced. The other games are action packed while Archery requires cool, collected accuracy. That said, it’s not nearly as fun as the other games. It has its moments, but most gamers will have more fun with the other games.

Sports Champions screenshot

Bocce is another game that’s hard to classify. It certainly wasn’t my favorite game on display in Sports Champions, but I was glad it was included. It’s a slow-paced game that’s low-impact and suitable for the type of older gamer who doesn’t (or can’t) jump around and swing a ping pong paddle at full strength. The average gamer will probably find it too imprecise to play on a regular basis though. But, it does provide a more relaxed one-on-one experience than any other game.

The final game rounding out the mix is volleyball. While it’s a welcome addition, volleyball seems to be a bit too complicated of a sport to translate well to the Move system. At times it seems like the game is just happening around you while you wait for your chance to make the pre-prescribed movement with the controller. It’s nice to have such a different sport in the game, but it doesn’t stack up to Ping Pong or Frisbee.

Ultimately, it’s hard to get a feel for the success of Sports Champions when discussing each game. The point was never to implement six extremely compelling experiences. If that were the case, they’d have released six separate games. The idea is to provide 20 minutes of fun for each game, then make it easy and comprehensive to switch between sports. The idea is to sit down and have fun with a few friends.

When taking that format, Sports Champions succeeds like no other motion control title since Wii Sports. Its games have a mixture of precision, skill, and even some rudimentary strategy. This is a game anybody can enjoy, and, in the end, that is Sony’s greatest success.

Complimenting Sony’s group of quality sports games is a solid packaging, and high production values. All of the characters are well animated, and have unique personalities that make them somewhat memorable. The soundtrack, likewise, is high quality without ever being in-your-face. It sits calmly in the background so you never end up getting sick of it. Seeing as this is a game you’re likely to come back to over and over again, that’s an important quality.

There is a war coming between PlayStation’s Move and Microsoft’s controller-less Kinect. The release of the PlayStation Move’s first games was the opening salvo. Sports Champions is an impressive core to the line-up, but it won’t carry the system to success all alone. It proves that Move is a high quality piece of technology, but it needs more back up than is currently available on the lineup. This is a great start. What remains to be seen is whether third party developers will be able to translate this success to their own games (they failed miserably on the Wii). With this first attempt, we’re very much looking forward to seeing what Move can do to inspire the sports genre.

There’s certainly nothing spectacular or surprising going on here, but characters are good looking and well animated. 4.5 Control
This is a solid first outing for the PS MOVE. These sports control like a dream outside of a few rare circumstances. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The orchestral music is appropriate and keeps you in the mood to play. What’s more, it won’t get on your nerves after fifty plus hours. 4.2 Play Value
There’s a surprising amount of gameplay here. There are six sports and countless difficulty levels for each. This will keep you training for weeks. 4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Enjoy nearly 1:1 movement ratio.
  • Experience several different fun sports games like volleyball, archery, and sword fighting.
  • Tons of difficulty levels keep the game challenging for a long time.

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