Salt Lake 2002 Review
By Daniel Kershaw |
If someone walked up to you on the street and jammed a handful of peanut butter cup ice-cream into your crotch it'd be a more accurate representation of the Olympics than Salt Lake 2002 could ever hope to be.
You see, franchises are a tricky thing. If you insist on calling your game NFL, WWF, or Star Trek, you have to, at the absolute minimum, incorporate those distinct features that individualize and distinguish those franchises from others of the ilk. Anything less is intolerable. And what if a company didn't do that? What if Madden 2003 came out and only featured half of the NFL teams, none of the real players, and only the option to play the Super Bowl? Indeed, what if a title comes along and completely avoids its license, its heritage, its foundation? What then?
Back in my day, the Winter Olympics consisted of around 15 sports, with each sport having anywhere between two and ten events. Yup, back in my day things were sweet, Britney Spears was a famous movie star, aliens hadn't yet conquered Nebraska, and you could always count on Tal to eat non-chewable aspirin and birth control pills, mistaking them for Altoids. Wait just a darn second here... It is my day! So why the hell does Salt Lake 2002 only have six events? Perhaps it's just another of life's great mysteries. Life is mysterious after all. But thankfully Salt Lake 2002 is not. It's really more because the game is flamboyantly sucky than mysterious.
Figure Skating, Luge, Biathlon, Skeleton, Nordic Combine, Speed Skating, Curling, Short Track, and all of the variations therein are completely absent and unaccounted for. What Salt Lake 2002 does pathetically scrounge up in their place is an entirely unacceptable selection of six specific events.
The brightest of the six feeble stars would have to be Men's Alpine Skiing Downhill. In it, two buttons are used to move left and right and another to crouch for speed. A proper start off is critical to success, as is finding a quick line down the slope and managing the crouch with often close turns. Like the rest of the events, this one still ultimately offers far too little the way of variation once acclimated to. What it does manage to do is craft and deliver an often times exhilarating and assumedly accurate sense of speed, only present in the surprisingly workable first-person perspective. What it doesn't do is last. As mentioned, after only a few quick plays, enough will become enough.
Ladies Alpine Skiing Slalom, and Men's Snowboard Parallel Giant Slalom are both nearly identical to the first, in that they both require moving left and right between things, but neither feels as polished as the Men's Alpine Skiing Downhill before it.
Snowboarding is twitchy and far too loose and slow for comfort. While, on the other hand, the girly slalom (I can say that because it's true) is very erratic, and difficult to master, often jarring play to painful restarts, which are in and of themselves plagued by endless popup windows intended to show current standings, but merely aggravating with their slowness and inherent delays.
That's three down. Men's Two-Man Bobsleigh is perhaps the best of the remainder, speedy and demanding as it is. There's little in the way of control, but minor taps to alter direction following the feverish button stamp at the onset are all that's required to expedite your trek down the course. Again, with the tiresome pitch: the second time you finish this in first place standing is the last time you'll play it.
Next come the two aerial events: Women's Freestyle Skiing Aerials, and Men's Ski Jumping K120 Individuals. The women's bit only requires that you press buttons when prompted. In honesty, it's actually kind of enjoyable. Instructions speedily traverse the screen (dependent on what level of trick you're attempting) and you punch in what appears to pull off your maneuver, Left + A, Down + B, etc. The sad part is that you'll be too busy reading to enjoy the outcome. The men's ski jump also greatly emphasizes timing. Start in good wind position, lift off, position the skis by repeatedly tapping directions, and then press a button to land. It's just as boring as it reads. I was scoring gold medals on both airborne events the third time I played them.
What's left to extend the play then? Absolutely freaking nothing. That's it. I just described the entire damn crappy game to you. You can do the same crap in crappy hot seat multiplayer or crappy splitscreen for the crappy snowboarding event (whee, crappy token features), but that's really the crappy gist of it. There is no more. There is nothing else. Attempts are made at extending longevity by mixing up these same events into different modes and at different times of the day, but they're still the same -- there's no changing that. They always play exactly the same (broken and uninspired), they always feel exactly the same, and there are far too few of them to hold interest. If you like to do boring things over and over and over and over again, then boy will you ever hate Salt Lake 2002 (it still sucks enough to not be good even for wintry masochists).
I don't expect a perfect melding of SSX, Tony Hawk, and whatever else. Nor do I expect the inclusion of a full fledged NHL game. But what I do expect, and demand, is some discernable, appreciable degree of effort placed into the actual game and into maintaining and delivering the Olympic license to the fullest possible extent. Something, anything. At least throw in one ice skating event or one bleeding Curling match. Truly, would there ever be a Summer Olympics without any water sports? Of course not.