Developer(s) Sega Studios Australia
Platform(s) Cloud (OnLive), Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre(s) Sports (Olympic)
Mode(s) Single-player, Multiplayer
After the Olympic dust has settled and footballers start to embarrass us again with their best Tom Daley and Nicola Adams impressions, HD eyes takes a look back at the official Olympics game; its plus points, but ultimately where it has really dropped the baton in the 18 days that will live forever in British sporting history.
Sega who recently admitted turning their attention to digital distribution to save costs, have potentially made one of their last disc based games in London 2012. It is safe to say that not many people thinking of picking up this game would take it as anything other than a party-couch based multi-sport multiplayer fest. In most aspects that would be true. Although London 2012 is both a single and multiplayer Olympic game which also uses Kinect in some of the events called ‘party mode’. With over thirty events (plus mini-games) to play and thirty three countries to choose from, there is easily enough variety in disciplines. Thankfully for anyone who had never quite mastered the Track and Field technique of mashing two buttons together (or with the help of a deodorant lid) at the speed of light and getting 5.41 seconds in the 110 metre hurdles, fear not. The main running technique is skill based now, where the goal is to keep a regulated speed as constant as possible, whether that be the several strides of a high jump, or the stamina based precision of the 400 metres, all of these sprint based tasks are almost identical. Granted, the added skill aspects of; putting the shot, throwing the javelin or jumping really high over a bar differentiate each discipline from one another, where angular precision is involved.
There are a couple of more unique events, such as the Canoe Slalom – K1 Kayak. Like most of London 2012’s pretty arena presentations, it makes the Lee Valley White Water Centre look stunning, with amazing attention to detail in the water and grandstands. The physics of the game aren’t too bad either. The left stick is used to guide your Olympian down the course with a combination of front and back facing gates to navigate through, you also come equipped with a stamina bar. Using the right stick will duck your player under gates as not to incur penalties and the triggers are used to cut back on yourself for the back facing gates. Unfortunately this is not one of the cooperative disciplines that exist on London 2012 as this and the online tournament mode are by far the best features. More specifically the synchronised diving gives two players the task of replicating each other’s moves for perfect scores, a great challenge. There is also the beach volleyball, fairly simplistic controls and quite playable; this can be played by 4 players at the same time (2vs2).
The single player campaign mode involves all the events in the Olympics over the 18 days, which is a shame really because the rapid fire pistol event is like pouring Tabasco sauce into your eyes, just like playing the Men’s Keirin is akin to bumping your way through a smoke and chav infested dodgem ring at FrontierLand, Morecambe. Neither of these is fun, but mandatory in order for you to complete the full campaign. These events are worsened by the repetition of qualifying events before the actual finals, they do not differ aesthetically either. There are no local trails in dingy areas, just the same event, only a little easier but equally as tedious. Even though there is a general AI difficulty setting, after completing a few events, techniques can be mastered, for something like the javelin and shot put this can be done within three throws. This makes the difficulty setting irrelevant and the events as tedious as Colin Jackson’s infantile, asinine punditry. When choosing your country in campaign mode, unlike the single or multiplayer events selection, there is a small blurb which states the countries strengths, it is not elaborated on other than ‘GB are good at cycling’ etc. There is no strength or weakness indication, not even a way to compare the sports you have selected against the countries. Even if this was the case, why include it? Does this mean the blurb is removed from multiplayer events because it has been levelled out? Although if it was left in it would explain why Spain can barely jog, let alone run around an athletics track, yet are devastating at beach volleyball and archery. The podium cut scenes are also removed from event play; why not give the player the option of skipping this? What happens if finally you master the high jump in multiplayer mode only to see a clenched fist, minor celebrations and then nothingness? No Macedonian national anthem, just a black void where the Olympians travel through video game space and time while the game loads into the next event. If anything this would be the perfect way to rub your mate’s noses in it.
Team GB’s main success outside of the punching arena and wizard bikes was down at Eton Dorney via the medium of rowing (apart from the incredibly tragic men’s lightweight double skulls but lets ignore that). Now the rowing event is fine, the technique is exceptionally frustrating at first but works well once harnessed correctly. The main issue here is multiplayer, there is only the single skulls event available, and unless you have a projector screen the size of a Polish weightlifter it is impossible to see the player’s oars in order to gauge the rhythm correctly, which is another issue with the swimming, tiny split screens. Understandably split-screens are unavoidable in most of the multiplayer events; however it would not have been difficult to highlight certain areas to give you a competitive chance. Staying with Team GB, it is safe to assume that we won’t be seeing the likes of this Olympic success again in our lifetime; surely SEGA had some great opportunities for live updates/medal tallies/downloadable content in store now the company are fully involved with digital distribution? A great way to start this would have been a quick scenario mode “Try to improve Phillips Idowu’s poor showing in the triple jump and qualify for the finals” or “Try to break the seven thousand point mark with Jessica Ennis in the decathlon” even “Beat David Rudesha’s amazing 800 metre World Record”. You could even update World Records as they are broken, have a news ticker on the main page to show your home countries progress and maybe even try to beat it. But from pillar to post there was literally nothing, no DLC, no live updates, nothing. One would also assume that now the Olympics has been and gone they are unlikely to provide any updates at all, maybe a few new events? Nah. Why not update the game with the official London 2012 soundtrack instead of having just two songs which would be immediately muted? Don’t be so bloody ridiculous.
What is a real shame are the aspects SEGA get right; the commentary is beautifully abundant, consisting of numerous official commentators and at no point do they stumble over stock phrases again and again like a real life Denise Lewis. As mentioned before the presentation is slick and impressive, even if some events are like turning screws into your shins. The four player team play is great, get three mates round, pick teams for two versus two, plus make sure you include some of the unique co-operative events, plenty of Hobgoblin and hey presto. This aspect will give the game its longevity, but not much else. Although London 2012 will predictably drift into the abyss of other franchise sub-games due to its downright laziness, lack of updates and care, this particular one will frustrate a little more because of the potential. SEGA have dropped the handball of fate and slam dunked a fencer straight into a dressage horse’s arse, shattering the Olympic rings of hope and Steve Redgrave’s ability to hug. Now all that’s left is Denise Lewis and Colin Jackson playing etch a sketch while John Inverdale sobs quietly in the background with a broken rowing seat in his hand. A metaphor I think we can all relate to.
Arenas and Olympic trims look wonderful, no great option to select character models of which there are about six generics.
There are literally two instantly forgettable songs on the entire playlist. No athlete vocal of any note, only positive is the great commentary.
A game that will be instantly traded in come September/October time, but shamefully still makes it into multiplayer party town. Some events are worth revisiting, others should be given the Ben Johnson treatment.