Arguably the driving force behind the success of the original Nintendo Wii was Wii Sports – a pack-in title that came with every console sold. Allowing everyone from your spouse to your grandmother to join in on the fun, Wii Sports was praised for being highly accessible and entertaining. Without a proper sequel coming to the Wii U anytime soon, Ubisoft have put together a mini-game collection of six different sports with the hope to capture the same audience that loved Wii Sports. However, ESPN Sports Connection doesn’t provide any sort of engaging experience.
Each of the six different sports have their own problems that extend beyond the regressive controls. Some of the games – like golf – require you to use a Wii Remote Plus, while others – baseball and football – force you to use a combination of the Wii U GamePad and a Wii Remote Plus. To make matters worse, all six of the sports feel like empty shells of their real-life counterparts. Football uses pointer and waggle motions of a Wii Remote Plus on offense and the touch screen on the GamePad to move defender icons across the field on defense. Even on the highest difficulty, there isn’t much of a challenge – which is a problem with the majority of the games – with a final score against the A.I. 68-0. Blitz the quarterback on every down, and you will record a sack 99% of the time. The off chance that pass gets off, will most likely be way off the mark anyway and if they do manage to complete the pass you are given the opportunity to stop the receiver through a quick time event with a defender that somehow teleports down the field.
The rest of the sports don’t fare any better. Soccer uses the same button for passing and shooting and features some of the worst A.I. ever seen in a sports game. Players will run inside the goals during corner kicks and run around like chickens with their heads cut off for most of the match. Baseball allows you to throw insane curveballs using the touch screen, but forces you to move the GamePad around to field the ball and use the Wii Remote to bat. Tennis and golf play out similar to Wii Sports, albeit less developed and precise versions. The Kart racing might be the most bearable of the six, featuring both motion and standard analog controls. The uninspiring tracks and chugging frame rate as you drift around curves don’t do it any favors. It also features some of the worst rubber-banding I have seen since Mario Kart 64.
Instead of using your Nintendo Mii, Sports Connection employs its own wannabe Mii-like characters. Multiplayer – local only – doesn’t absolve the issues with the game, in fact it only makes things worse. The already unreliable frame rate takes a nose dive as additional players are added. Loading screens may be the most unforgiving of the issues, with some that can last a few minutes at a time.
Unlike the rest of Ubisoft’s launch Wii U lineup, Sports Connection doesn’t support Uplay to provide in-game rewards. Instead, Sports Connection uses its own achievement system which seemingly can’t be shared or seen by anyone else. What’s the point?
Every system launch is marred by titles that feel rushed to the market and Sports Connection not only feels rushed, but it feels as if it originally wasn’t even meant for the Wii U. Everything about ESPN Sports Connection doesn’t compare to the original Wii’s pack-in, Wii Sports, even the presentation looks substandard in comparison. Golf balls don’t actually go into the hole, but instead simply disappear, players in the field in baseball don’t move at all if they don’t have a chance at catching the ball, football players are frequently looking sideways as passes go right through their bodies. Simply put, Sports Connection provides nothing rewarding for players and misses the mark of trying to follow the success of Wii Sports.
Note: The ESPN Sports Connection review was written based on the Wii U version of the game provided by the publisher.