Not The Greatest Of Games

SINGAPORE: Sixteen years after Olympic Gold for the Sega Megadrive debuted, Sega makes a return with Beijing 2008, the official video game of the 2008 Olympic Games that start today.

There’s a feeling of deja vu when you fire Beijing 2008 up on the Xbox 360 console. You get the same button-bashing events as Olympic Gold, but with more variety thrown in for good measure. The game offers a line-up of over 30 events spanning track and field, aquatics, gymnastics and other disciplines.

Before any of that, you choose your nationality. Olympic powerhouses like the United States, Germany and China are all here, but there’s no flagbearer for Asean nations.

So, it’s off to the events, but not before you’re greeted by tutorials. How hard can bashing buttons be? Very, apparently. For sprint events, such as the 100m dash, it’ll all about being quick, and you have to balance the trigger button to get the timing right, so things can get complicated. Get used to making false starts.

But practice makes perfect: 13-second times will drop to 12, then to 11. Your fingers are in for a workout if you target anything below that. The 9.72-second world record won’t come under threat any time soon.

There are different control schemes for various events. Some require you to be “in the zone” by rotating both thumbsticks to match on-screen markers. Others require precise timing, which should be familiar to fans of Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero.

The sheer number of events can overwhelm, but eventually, you’ll find something you’re good at. If you find yourself hobbling past the finish line at sprint events, you might hit the bulls-eye in archery … if you practise and take windage into account.

The game has a slow feel to it, no thanks to extremely long loading times and all the various menus. Sprints aside, some events have a Matrix-esque ‘bullet time’ feel to it.

Visually, Beijing 2008 doesn’t give you anything to cheer about. It’s decent, but doesn’t break any records, especially since some sports games can now replicate athlete fatigue and sweat. And if you’re out for a laugh and are trying desperately to make your athlete falter, look elsewhere. That means no cannon ball and belly flop animations at the diving pool.

At the end of the day, one can’t help but wish that the developers had focused on quality rather than quantity. Sure, each of the events will probably have its own audience, but at the end of the day, Beijing 2008 tries to cover all the bases, and ends up delivering a mediocre performance and fails to make the podium.

That said, it’s a great party game, especially in the hands of a posse of trash-talkers, something you don’t normally associate with the real Games. But Beijing 2008 is an acquired taste, and I wonder whether it’ll still have an audience once the Games become another distant memory.

Channel News Asia


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