Sports Champions Review

By Dana Vinson - Posted Sep 01, 2010

Sports Champions is a collection of six sports mini-game bundled with the new Sony motion controller PlayStation Move. There's a surprising amount of depth in this hardcore sports simulator, but, unfortunately, it's not enough to make it a must play.

The Pros
  • Showcases Move's potential
  • Lots of depth and statistical feedback
  • Archery, Volleyball and Bocce are addictive
The Cons
  • Ping-Pong is poorly designed
  • There are only six different sports
  • There isn't a lot of style or flair to the game

If you're a fan of competition, there's a lot to like about Sports Champions. It's the kind of game that motion control was made for: easy to pick up, but hard to master. Sports Champions is a collection of six mini-games -- Table Tennis, Volleyball, Gladiator Duel, Bocce, Disc Golf and Archery -- that delivers a realistic sports experience. At the same time, not all of these activities are going to appeal to everyone and although the PlayStation Move integration works well, there's a lot left on the table with Champions.

Sports Champions

Sports Champions Resort

I want to get this out of the way right off the bat: the natural inclination is going to be to compare Champions to Wii Sports. Sure, they're both asking you to participate in simulated athletic activities, but where Wii Sports encapsulates the carefree fun of the Junior Varsity squad, Champions brings the hardcore muscle of moving up the Varsity level. Sports Champions contains none of the whimsey of Wii Sports and that's a good thing, because it's trying to be something different. It's trying not just to entertain, but to challenge.

The use of the Move requires precision movements, so you better be ready to bring your A-game. Like Wii Sports, anyone can pick up the Move controller and master the basics pretty quickly, but Champions provides the depth to take it to the next level. Where Wii Sports gives you bright music and dancing Miis, Champions gives you statistics. What else would you expect from the PlayStation 3? It's hardcore!

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Each mini-game consists of three modes: Free Play, Challenge and Champion Cup. In Free Play, 1-2 players can battle it out against each other or AI in different events. Challenge mode tests the skills you've learned by playing different drills. Champion Cup is really a tournament mode where you battle your way through round after round until finally, a champion is determined. There are also different skill levels you can unlock for each. By the time you get to the Gold level, you better be pretty darn sure of your skills or you're going to get your butt handed to you.

The problem seems to be that some of the games are infinitely more fun than the others. Bocce, Volleyball and the Gladiator Duel are all incredibly entertaining, while Disc Golf was boring and Ping-Pong was underwhelming (We'll get to that in a bit). But, if there is an undisputed champion of Champions, it's Archery.

I found myself doing a lot of Archery, which isn't something I'm generally interested in in real life. It's incredibly fun and competitive in Champions. To start shooting, you have to reach your dominate hand (In this case, my right hand) back behind your head to grab an arrow from your quiver and then pull your right hand back to nock. Then, using the controller in your left hand, you move the bow to aim at your intended target. Once you get it down, it becomes a fluid motion and makes you feel like if you were really handed a bow and arrow, you could shoot an apple off of someone's head...or at least hit the broad side of a barn.

Sports Champions

Now, We Run Suicides

As much as there is to like about Champions, there's also a lot of stuff not to like. For one, it's a very sterile experience and it's without fancy bells and whistles. Like, there isn't any pesky background music to distract you from your task (and it can get awfully quiet out there on the Disc Golf course). You have to calibrate the Move controller every time you switch sports. (You get pretty proficient at it as time goes on, but still.) There wasn't a lot of thought put into the metagame, so Champions doesn't have a very cohesive feel across all of the mini-games. Also, the character models also leave something to be desired, both in concept and execution.

Then, there's the small issue of Ping-Pong: it doesn't work all that well. While it's impressive that you get a view of the paddle as an extension of your hand, it's almost unforgivably poorly designed and tragically unfun. Ping-Pong is the only mini-game where Move seems to be less than impressive and, in fact, seems nearly non-functional. After awhile, you can get to a level where about 50% of the time you can volley, that is if you don't throw your brand new Move controller at the nearest living thing first. Consider your Cat warned.

Sports Champions

Ok, Bring It In

Sports Champions is one of the strongest launch titles for the PlayStation Move and illustrates the potential of the Move quite well. It's a more adult sports game, for gamers who want a more authentic sports experience without any cartoon tomfoolery. And, when you see your precise movements registered on the screen in one-to-one, you can rest easier at night knowing that you would have been a horrible surgeon.