Winter Stars Review
Posted by James Newton
After a year of motion control, Sports Champions is still Move's best sports package by far: MotionSports Adrenaline was a wash-out, and After Hours Athletes is a compilation of PSN games, so that doesn't really count. Winter Stars doesn't quite topple Zindagi's launch title, but it comes closer than we'd expected.
Winter Stars leads with a story-driven career mode, complete with motion captured cut scenes and cheesy dialogue: it's hardly Heavy Rain Sports, but the chance to get stuck into a career mode instead of a series of short-burst minigames is a welcome one. It's a fairly lengthy career with 16 cups to win, experience points to earn and upgrades to purchase, all helping to keep things moving.
But what of the events themselves? With 11 disciplines there's quite a lot of variety, from snowboard cross to biathlon and bobsled to figure skating. Before you take on a sport you can make your way through an interactive tutorial, telling you what to do and then asking you to prove it; you can skip these if you so wish, as each event is preceded by a quick refresher on the key movements, though most will be instinctive.
Controls-wise it’s a mixed bag: while many use Move's tilt and twist functions for subtler steering than Kinect can offer, there are some odd choices along the way. Why should you have to hold T to accelerate in biathlon? With courses lasting a few minutes you'll be pinching the controller the whole time for no good reason. There's also some displeasing waggle to climb inclines among other moments, though there are also better decisions: tricks in snowboard cross chosen by button combinations, not unreliable gestures, for instance. On the whole it doesn't quite maximise motion controls, but doesn't massacre them either.
While the single-player career mode will keep you going for a fair while, there's also a multiplayer mode to contend with, both local and via PlayStation Network. While you might struggle to find a game online — we certainly did — it's good to see that there's the option to match up against other players around the world.
Graphically the game is passable without impressing that much, with some important details lacking: the bobsled throws up no ice when it rattles through the course, giving the impression it's hovering just above the ice's surface, and the dead look in your characters' enormous eyes is enough to put you off human contact. The textures are a little ropey too, with some fading into view just metres from your character: it's not terrible by any means, but it does look a little more scrappy than we'd like.
Winter Stars might not quite rival Sports Champions for your go-to multiplayer sports game, but it's still got some qualities going for it: look past the dodgy dialogue and cut scenes and the single-player campaign isn't half bad. It's a little rough around the edges and doesn't quite get the best out of Move, but there are considerably worse sports games out there.