- A good number of events
- Local multiplayer is great fun
- Commentary is decent in the campaign…
- …but is absolutely dire outside of it.
- Casual players will likely struggle with the controls
- A few events are a bit shoddy
There’s been no shortage of sports to watch on TV this Summer, we’ve already had Euro 2012 and Wimbledon, and in just a few weeks’ time the London 2012 Olympics finally begins. Of course, with every major sporting event that comes along there’s always a video game adaption being made by someone somewhere to cash in on the excitement and hype surrounding the event, and the London 2012 Olympics is no exception.
Eurocom developed the last official video game of the Olympics, which was Beijing 2008 in…well…2008, whilst SEGA published the title. This time around, however, SEGA have taken on both publishing and development duties. They’re certainly experienced candidates for the job having handled the various Mario and Sonic Olympic titles in recent years, but the question is, are they up to the challenge of creating a deeper, much more realistic Olympics video game?
First off, let’s just get this out of the way: London 2012 is a mini-game compilation through and through. There’s no in-depth, open-world, fifteen-hour campaign here (and to be honest, you’d have to be a tad on the thick side to think that there was), it’s a few dozen mini-games packaged together that mostly involve bashing the A (Xbox 360) or X (PS3) button rhythmically to win. Now that may make the game sound about as exhilarating as a Coronation Street video game (oh, wait), but surprisingly, it’s actually quite fun.
Similar to Nintendo’s Mario Party series, the mini-games (referred to as ‘events’ in-game) are generally very simple in nature, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that winning gold medals is a walk in the park; especially on the higher difficulty levels. Events are mostly easy to learn with each featuring a brief tutorial which teaches you everything you need to know, but will take a while to master. Not so much that the game becomes frustrating or stops being fun, however, you never feel at any point like you can’t possibly win the gold medal in an event but it can often be a fair challenge to obtain it. Which is how it should be, really, so SEGA can certainly be commended for balancing the game so well.
Highlights of the game’s 40-odd events has to be the fantastic Keirin, Weightlifting, Discus Throw, 25m Rapid Fire Pistol, Archery and the Kayak Slalom. These events are what will keep you coming back to the game the most as you attempt to beat the world record in each (I actually managed to beat the world record in the Discus Throw!). Lowlights in terms of events have to be the various Diving events, which involve doing nothing except tapping two or three buttons at different points in the dive, and Table Tennis, which has some occasionally dodgy hit detection and is extremely sluggish in terms of moving your player around your side of the table. Overall though, most of the events play just fine.
There are four main game modes in London 2012: Olympic Games, Events Play, Party Play and Online Play. Olympic Games is essentially the game’s ‘story mode’, allowing you to select a country to represent and play through the full two weeks or so of the London 2012 Olympics. Obviously you don’t play every single event that’ll be going on during the real Olympics, because that would take ages, so the game allows you to pick two events for each day, which includes both the qualifiers and finals. The winner at the end is the country with the most gold medals.
It’ll take you a good three or four hours to blast through the mode, depending on the difficulty you’ve selected. As you play you can unlock golden equipment (such as a golden bow for Archery or a golden rifle for Skeet Shooting) by meeting specific requirements. If you’re not bothered about these then there’s no reason to play through it more than once really. You only get a limited selection of events for each day, so on some in-game days there’s a very strong likelihood that you’re going to have to play events that you don’t enjoy. Twice (the qualifiers and finals). Really it’s best sticking with the Events Play mode, which lets you select any individual event or even create a custom playlist so you can work your way through a number of events as you attempt to beat your personal records and, if you’re good enough, the world records.
The other two modes, Online Play and Party Play, are multiplayer-specific. Online Play lets you play events online with up-to seven other players, though it’s random as to which events you play. It works well enough, and any gold medals you earn online will go to your country’s worldwide tally, the standings of which can be seen on the in-game leaderboards. At the time of writing, France was in first place, GB was in second and the U.S.A was in third. It’s certainly a cool little feature, and it’ll be interesting to see how the standings fluctuate over the next few weeks when the real Olympic Games take place. Moving on, the other multiplayer-based mode, Party Play, is a local multiplayer mode and works similarly to Events Play in that you can select which event/events you wish to play, and up-to four players can compete with each other for the gold medal. Multiplayer is where the game truly shines, as you’d expect, and things can get extremely competitive fast.
What’s really cool about London 2012’s local multiplayer is that it isn’t just competitive, there are cooperative challenges too that require up-to four players to work together as a team to earn stars across three events to pass that challenge’s requirement, which, if you’re successful, unlocks the next challenge. There’s still a competitive element about the challenges, because you still earn individual scores, but that’s the thing, the harder everyone tries and the more they push for a better score, the more likely you are to beat the challenge. It’s hands-down one of the main highlights of the multiplayer.
London 2012 features a full in-game commentary, and to be fair, it’s not bad. The campaign commentary is provided by Seth Bennett and Allison Curbishley, and on the whole they don’t do a bad job of it. Sometimes they can both be a tad overenthusiastic and on the odd occasion contradicting (in one match of Table Tennis about halfway through the game I lost a point, to which Alison said “he really is having a terrible game today”, then immediately won the next point, to which she said “he really is rising to the occasion at these Olympic games”), but overall it makes the game that bit more authentic. The bloke that commentates for Events Play and multiplayer, however, is a whole different story. It sounds like he was forced to watch ‘The Only Way is Essex’ repeats whilst recording his voice-over, it’s that painful to listen to. He also sounds a bit like Tony the Tiger from the Frosties TV ads, complete with “grrrrrreat!”. I’m not even joking.
At the end of the day, London 2012 is a decent party game. It’s not going to win GOTY by any means, but it’s not half bad for a mini-game compilation. It can be really quite addictive, every time you play an event you’ll want to retry it immediately after, even if you won, just to shave an extra a few seconds off your time or to add a few more metres to your throw to beat your personal record and get that little bit closer to the elusive world record. The main problem is that it isn’t always family friendly due to the occasionally complex controls and precision required in some of the events. This isn’t really a game that the grandparents will likely be able to get the hang of, and if you’re looking to buy an Olympics game for the kids and they’re quite young, then you’d probably be better off with Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games. If it’s for yourself though or if your kids are a bit older, then you could certainly do worse than picking up London 2012.