by William Thompson, reviewed on
Let the Games begin
The 1992 Barcelona Olympics is still one of my favourites. Not because the Dream Team first competed in the basketball competition or because Kieren Perkins edged out fellow Aussie Glen Housman in the 1500m freestyle or even due to the fact that Germany was again a unified team. It was because my friends and I sat around the TV competing for a piece of our own Olympic glory. The simple collection of seven Olympic events contained in Olympic Gold on my Sega Master System kept us thoroughly entertained for hours at a time – just enough time for the RSI to kick in from all the button mashing.
Twenty years on, and the tradition of an officially licensed Olympics game continues. With the London Olympics nearing a start, I thought the time was right to get into shape for a tilt at a few medals of my own. London 2012 may just give me that opportunity.
Let’s get physical
Things have changed somewhat since the days of the Barcelona Olympics. The number of events to compete in has certainly increased. The old days of seven simple button mashing events (although Archery and Diving did give you a chance to rest your weary hands) seem all but over with the latest Olympic instalment. Yes, there are the traditional Olympic video game experiences such as various swimming events, various distance running events, a range of throwing events and even a couple of jumping events. But London 2012 has boosted the tally of events so much now that even Daley Thompson would be struggling to keep up. Archery, Diving, Gymnastics, Shooting, Rowing, Cycling and even Beach Volleyball all make an appearance in London.
After the standard Olympic game options of selecting your characters and nation (of which there are 36 to choose from) you get right down to business. The game plays out like a television broadcast of the Olympic spectacle, even down to the various styles of commentary for the different events. Two events can be chosen to participate in for each day of the Olympic competition. Unlike the old-school games where you simply had one race to compete in, London 2012 requires participants to qualify for each event before moving on to the finals.
Not all button-mashing
For the most part the controls work reasonably well. The usual smattering of button-mashing events continue to be present, although London 2012 does attempt to bring a more varied approach to some of the events. Many of the frequent button-mashing events have been turned into timed button mashers. Once you get to speed, it is all about keeping your avatars speed in the right zone. Going too fast will give your athlete a burst of speed but will also prematurely tire your athlete out. Keeping a steady pace is definitely the way to go. Other events such as javelin and long jump require a deft tap of the left stick to the desired angle after the initial burst of speed.
Other sports do not even use button-mashing at all. Swimming for instance, has you using alternative triggers to alternate the swimmers arms. It all comes down to timing in the swimming events. Get your timing right and a medal is yours for the taking, get it wrong and you’ll be asking for a lifeguard to help you to the other end of the pool. Diving also implements a timed button event scheme, requiring you to press the correct button at the appropriate time to perform your perfect inward 2 ½ somersault in a pike position. It is nice to see the developers have at least tried to change things up to some extent. There is also the option to use Kinect controls, although for this review we did not test these out.
Audio Visual presentation
As far as how the game looks, London 2012 is actually surprisingly good. The athletes look like actual people (although you won’t see Usain Bolt in the lane next to you) and the stadiums seem to be modelled on the actual places where the events will take place. The character animation is fairly smooth for the most of the events and characters can be somewhat customised. And unlike the real London, the weather always seems to be bright and sunny. The television broadcast style presentation gives a sense of actually being part of the games. The presentation approach also works well for the commentary. The commentators on the fast-paced events are enthusiastic and upbeat, whilst the slower paced events such as archery or shooting have the commentators more subdued in tone
As with previous Olympic titles, London 2012 is more enjoyable with a group of friends huddled around a console. There is definitely more fun to be had when you can laugh at someone as they trip over the hurdles or as they fall like a lead weight from the diving board. Indeed, some of the events such as the beach volleyball promote co-operative play. Playing alone though has a limited appeal. Yes, you can build up your skills over a few attempts, but beating an unknown AI controlled athlete just isn’t as fun as beating your best friend. And the difficulty level in which you choose to compete will determine whether you’ll have a chance of winning a medal. Many of the events on the easy level are just a walk in the park, whilst those on the harder levels are just frustratingly difficult to be even competitive. And although London 2012 is a more than decent representation of the Olympic competition, there are other mini-games that are better implemented and more fun to play with a group of friends.
Not a complete button-mashing fest as has been the case with previous Olympic themed games. Great fun with a bunch of friends.
The single player game doesn’t have lasting appeal.