With 31 different events Sega Australia have gone all out to try to capture the spirit of the ultimate festival of sport that is the Olympics. Gone are Sonic and Mario and in come realistic character models, unfortunately the developer did not secure the rights for the true likenesses or names of the actual participants but there is a robust editing mode for those who feel inclined to lead Usain Bolt or Jessica Ennis to the top step of the Podium.
From the preload screen the views of the event are crisp and invite you to start your Olympic journey. The start screen allows you to choose whether you want to complete in a full on Olympiad or just set up your own playlist of events. The tournament is a randomized set of events in which you are allowed to choose two a day. You begin with a qualifier and then in the afternoon the finals begin. The mixture of events is pretty standard for an Olympic game with track and field events being mixed with aquatic events and a good mix of other opportunities to go for Gold. The playlists allow you to play the events you most enjoy as well as hone your skills. There are none of the major team sports like the Football or Hockey but more unfortunate is the lack of any kind of Paralympic events. In this day and age we need to start including events that represent all Olympians and facets of the populace. Although the paralympic event categories of disability can be confusing in my opinion adding a random sample of events would create a richer game.
In terms of gameplay the controls are mostly based on either button tapping or use of the analog sticks to try to mimic movements seen in real life. Most of these come across in a satisfactory way with a few stand out events like the Kayak and 400metres offering a new take on some of the more traditional controls. Most events need a bit of time to master, but you are offered a chance to complete a tutorial before entering into an event. These are generally ok but some do not allow you enough of a chance to practice and you end up using the event as the practice arena. This is especially true in the diving and volleyball (probably the worst event). Just remember most of these events are just about timing get that right and the Gold is within reach.
The game advertises its use of the Kinect/Move controller but this is only available in party mode which doesn’t allow you to compete in all events (13 in total). The motion controls are fairly accurate and it feels like a nice add-on as opposed to an essential part of the game. This is a disappointment as Sega manage to create a fun game in their Mario and Sonic Olympic editions using the wii and that’s pure motion control. I think they want this to be a grown up title but maybe they could have added a Move only Olympic competition just as a way to push the motion control forward.
Graphically the game is generally sharp the views of the locations to be used like the Olympic stadium and Aquatic centre looking very impressive. During the events this sharpness continues with the exception of movement within water, which can become very pixellated and as your attention is firmly fixed on the water line waiting for the next control indicator it can become jarring. Overall though the developers have done a good job in making a rich environment for you to play in. Alongside the realistic graphics the developers have chosen real commentators for the voice over work. Seth Bennett and Alison Curbishley do a good job even though the phrases can become repetitive especially in a long Table Tennis match.
To try to improve the longevity of the title you also have a free multiplayer mode where you can take on all comers. The developers have added a bit of national pride by allowing you to represent your nation and your scores being added to a world ranking table. It’s a nice touch from a developer trying to think about keeping the game fresh in the player’s mind and what better way to do that than a spot of POM bashing. Most events feel good to play with no noticeable lag (at least when I played the title). It would have been nice to see a spectator mode for the asynchronous events like the throwing events but maybe next time, most events you can line up against your competitor and feel the rush of defeating a random person on the internet.
Overall this title is solid and one that if you have Olympic fever you will not be disappointed in. The mixture of events is good and I did enjoy my time playing. I cannot see the long-term attraction of a title like this; maybe if they started creating true athletics games and so got more of a regular user base they could make these titles more attractive. Unfortunately outside of the Olympics most of the sports featured are niche and so it would probably be unpractical for a developer to invest in a title with a limited install base. So I bid farewell to my Olympic dream for another four years in hope that London can create a visual spectacle to rival the best.
Game available on PC PS3 and Xbox360
Buy It/Don’t Buy It = Rent it
Will you play it 12 months later? = No
Images from press release dated 27/06/2012