Sports Champions 2 (PS3) Review

The Return Of The Showpiece

To this day the original Sports Champions is still one of the better examples of how Sony’s Move control scheme can work with ease and precision. Ping pong in particular was a great demo for the accuracy of the system, while odd inclusions, like disc golf proved surprisingly fun to play. Now in the twilight of this console generation, Sony brings out the sequel to its launch Move title, and, as to be expected, it’s a pretty decent outing.

Move Made Easier

The first big thing players should know when getting into Sports Champions 2 is that the sequel is much friendlier when it comes to calibration. If you’ve forgotten, the original version required an elaborate process of posing so that the peripheral could be tracked as accurately as possible, and this needed to be done with every sport. Now, as with most Move games today, Sports Champions 2 requires only one calibration session at the beginning and after that, you’re good to go. It’s a small thing, but its convenience can’t be overestimated in the long run, especially in a party situation.

As to be expected after a reasonable two year hiatus, there are a lot of significant upgrades to the series. The graphics have gotten a bit of tweak, and all the sports show off a nice level of detail with very good motion captured animations. Avatars that players choose can now be customized for a decent amount of individuality, and, taking a cue from party games, Sports Champions 2 now takes photos of the players for “victory shots” complete with augmented reality accessories like boxing gloves or bows. The sound is still more functional than exceptional with no memorable music and a lot of athletic grunting.

It’s the sports themselves that have gotten the biggest overhaul. Many people commented on the lack of “real sports” in Sports Champions, though I personally found events like disc golf, bocce ball and gladiatorial matches to be enjoyable events. This time around, only one sport from the original returns—likely due to the overwhelming popularity of The Hunger Games—with Archery being the sole carry over while the other sports are all new. There are only six events here, archery, bowling, tennis, golf, boxing and skiing. Almost all of them show off the accuracy of the Move to great effect with Archery still being a solid winner, while bowling is perhaps the most authentic of the playable sports. Move actually tracks the rotation of your wrist so you can put spin on your ball. Of course, it’s boxing and golf that will be the big draws here, since both sports are popular and translate extremely well to motion controls. The games can be played with only one Move controller, but in the case of skiing, boxing and archery, it feels and plays better using two. Skiing and tennis are the events that feel like odd men out. Whereas all the other Move events translate very well in terms of motions approximating the sport, the movement of both tennis and skiing require some automation on the part of the game, so there’s less a sense of total control for these events than in the other sports.

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The actual structure of the game has also been revamped. The single player campaign, which has players competing across three classes in each sport to win bronze, silver and gold cups, provides a decently paced rising difficulty. It also mixes things up by giving different objectives from time to time rather than merely jumping from one AI competitor to the next. Archery, for example, will have players occasionally pushing a flag up a hill by being quick on the draw with their bows. Boxing tasks players with a bit of accuracy, having them throw punches at specific parts of a training dummy. There’s also a multiplayer party mode that throws people into random sports so you never know what you’ll be coming up against next.

All of this still feels very much like Sports Champions, but far more streamlined and efficient. The game is clearly an improvement over its predecessor in terms of ease of use and events you can play. If you’re still in the market for motion control games, and you have the Move, this is a pretty safe buy. If you’re already over the whole “motion thing,” then nothing here will convince to take the jump, particularly if you’re already feeling burned over your bouts of Wii Sports.