Beijing 2008: The Official Video Game of the Olympic Games Review
By Pauline Clay |
As the athletes assemble for tonight's opening ceremonies, you may find yourself regretting that your parents loved you too much to foist you on some manic Russian gymnastics coach, or that they couldn't afford to build a heated Olympic-size pool in the backyard, or that they bought the cheap dinner plates that broke the first time you hurled them across the lawn. And as you ruminate about how your Olympic glories were so unjustly denied, you may find yourself looking to soothe the hurt of those broken dreams by watching real, world-class athletes do what they do best in Beijing. Or you may decide to compete yourself in Sega's latest Olympics game, Beijing 2008.
Don't even bother. Sure, Sega's Olympic cash-in is definitely full of all of your favorite events and it has a reasonably authentic visual style, but the gameplay is shallow and repetitive and the basic setup of the competition is clumsy and unsatisfying.
Don't watch the beautiful diver or you'll miss pretty circles moving around.But let's start with the good points first. Whether you're a fan of the 100m hurdles, the uneven bars, or platform diving, you're bound to find something you like among the game's nearly 40 events. Even slightly more offbeat events, such as kayaking, archery and judo, find a place here. If you've got a favorite track and field or gymnastics event, it's probably in the game somewhere.
The overall presentation of events is equally solid. The judges and the overall setup and the apparatus are all set up in a very convincing manner and, gratuitous replays aside, really help to draw you into the experience. The wide range of locations, from the track to the kayak slalom to the judo mat, all feel convincingly real. Though the crowds can be a bit monotonous, you really get a sense of the enormous scale of the competition. In fact, all that separates this from the real broadcast of the Olympics are those annoying movies that show how each of the athletes overcame some profound personal tragedy to compete in the Olympics.
The actual quality of the graphics is also quite good. The athletes all look very real but there is some unfortunate repetition of character models here and there. We were quite amused to imagine the US shot put champion taking the medal stand only to look over and see his identical twin brother from Poland came in second. Boy, we bet there's a heck of a heartwarming tale of how they overcame adversity to compete together. The animations are very lively and add a lot of interest to the game. You really will be fooled at times that you're watching the real deal here.
Nice helmet, dink.Unfortunately, the actual mechanics of most of the events are, at best, a prescription for repetitive stress injuries and, in a few rare cases, nearly uncontrollable. When will developers finally find something to replace the aging Track & Field format? Don't get us wrong; we love the old Konami game just as much as anyone, but the concept of rapidly smashing two buttons to simulate running is, at 25 years, well past its prime. You can also toggle the analog stick on your gamepad to get your speed or power up, but try slamming it back and forth for a full three-and-a-half minutes for cycling or the 1500m track events and see if you ever feel like playing again.
And it appears that you have to use a gamepad with this one. We got our first indication when we opened the manual and saw it filled with discussions of left triggers, right thumbsticks, bumpers and A and B buttons, but our fears were fully confirmed when we went into the game's keyboard configuration options and discovered that there's no option for the gamepad's triggers or bumpers. We suppose we could try to play without these buttons but since they control key actions like launching off the line in a race, jumping, throwing, shooting, diving, lifting, dismounting, and balancing. It didn't seem like we would get very far. Nevermind the events like kayaking or archery that require two analog sticks.