With the massive push in the UK for everyone to go stir crazy for the Olympics arriving on our doorstep, London Olympics 2012 got the benefit of the doubt when it was booted up on my Xbox. Sadly slick presentation, a thunderous soundtrack and a variety of events cannot hide the fact that, as seen in almost every other Olympics game there has been to date, it is still a very shallow button basher with little to no skill or finesse required.
The events on offer are varied in real life but are painfully similar in the video game universe. Most of the races boil down to keeping a green bar between two lines to ensure you continue to build up speed , with almost all the track and field events doing the same thing. Swimming uses the two analogue sticks to get a rhythm going whilst in the trampoline events and diving use knock off dance mat style patterns that were old years ago. The shooting sections are boring, archery seems to be completely hit or miss as the wind you are supposed to be judging barely seems to make a difference. Cycling is a repeat of the track and field events, table tennis is almost impossible to lose in as the opponent doesn’t seem to have any hand eye coordination and weightlifting doesn’t seem to want to tell you why mashing A is going to help you lift a larger weight. Somewhat baffling is the absence of a relay event, especially considering the mechanics used in all the running events would fit well.
The game itself tries to install a large amount of loyalty to your country in both the online modes and the Olympic mode. Online keeps a tally of the medals won by all competitors and essentialyl places countries against each other which is a nice touch albeit a bit devoid when New Zealand has more medals than China. Considering their population differences, the competitiveness of the game, and where it will sell, is pretty obvious that this mode is going to skew away from the Asian market. The Olympic Mode takes you through the Olympic Events one by one, allowing you to choose two a day to qualify and then compete in. The country with the highest medal tally at the end of the events wins and that’s it. Other than unlocking further costumes, different pieces of equipment or trying it on a harder difficulty, there really is very little else that you are going to want to achieve. With a game time of just about an hour and a half, the game told me I had finished 25% of the game, broken 3 Olympic records and one world record; rather rubbish in comparison to the rest of the gaming community ,that the game helpfully signposts during loading screens ,but still a fair chunk considering the small amount of play time.
Multiplayer falls into the same traps as single player but allows a competitive edge that gleans over the button bashing element; a few friends over or across Xbox Live makes for a much more even match up than the schizophrenic AI that are either completely rubbish or all Usain Bolts. Kinect still hasn’t found its feet in gaming yet, so don’t expect London 2012 to be the exception as it still finds it difficult tracing your movements and your avatar arrives at an almost standstill when it thinks your thigh is your arm.
A proper athlete development system would have been a fantastic addition to a Olympic game. Sadly the best that is given is a very poor customisation technique which allows you change the hair colour of some of your team and switch between 13 stock facial models. This hardly makes the team you are supposed to be any more personable or emotionally identifiable; seeing yourself win the 100m with a world record may have added a different dimension of achievement to the game. Commentary is painfully awful with the same rattled out sentences being used stating the same obvious things it even makes FIFA’s commentary look positively dynamic.
The presentation ad graphics are astoundingly good , particularly the recreation of the stadia ad the various other hosting venues for events, as it really brings a sense of atmosphere that has been missed in previous Olympic style games. Character models vary from good to merely ok, with many of the athletes following into the trap of ‘scary smile’ syndrome and are only capable of celebrating in three or four different ways; not technically representative if you have just won the gold medal for your country. The soundtrack focuses on one song only that is perfect to portray the spirit of the games and galvanises you a little to win the events that are on offer; music is usually an odd thing to focus on, but, when much of your experience of London Olympics 2012 is set on watching pretty loading screens, it begins to become more important.
As a marketing tool London Olympics 2012 hits all the right buttons. Presentation is slick, London looks majestic and a large amount of events are there. In the same sense however, the game itself will only appeal for all of a few days, even with friends, and is unlikely to come out again until Christmas, when the younger family are over and they need to be entertained. There is no satisfying game mechanic within the whole scenario at all and that has as much to do with every other Olympic game having exactly the same one. For promotion purposes , this hits all the right buttons, for gamers it needs a set of new ones to make it worthy of more than a few hours of playing time.