With the Winter Olympics just around the corner, SEGA has only gone and released the official video title of the Games. But you won’t find any of the truly joyous events like Curling, Ice Hockey or the Biathlon. Instead you’ll find eight variations of skiing and snowboarding, two variations of speed skating, ski jumping and three variations of bobsleigh. These include luge (a quite ridiculous sport in which you throw yourself down a huge slippery slope on the equivalent of a dining tray, with precious little protecting your nether regions) and skeleton (just as silly as the luge with the added bonus of heading down face first).
You’ll, no doubt, gauge from that list that variety is not Vancouver 2010‘s strong point and you’d also be correct to assume that its longevity is lost as a result. This is not a game you’ll be putting hours upon hours of game time into.
The other problem that the game has tried, and failed, to contend with is how to bring the magic of the Olympic Games into your home. There are no fanfares, no elaborate medal ceremonies, no hanging round the Olympic Village while preparing for your big moment. In fact, take away the Olympic licence on the packaging and you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a general Winter Sports title rather than one associated with the Olympics itself and that is one mighty missed opportunity in my eyes.
There isn’t even a true Olympics style mode for you to take part in, the actual Olympic mode simply allowing you to pick your sport and then attempt to win a medal in the one race. No qualifying, no places outside of the top four (even if you place many minutes after the rest you’ll still hit that magical fourth spot as there are, apparently, no more competitors beyond yourself and three computer opponents).
With such little thought apparently put into what should have been the main thrust of the game, it’s incredible that this has apparently been in development since it was announced in March last year. Did the bods behind it simply forget it was on their to-do lists?
Perhaps they felt that the main Olympic area of the game was a shoe-in, so instead they concentrated on the Challenges section of the title, by far the better of the two. Here, you are tasked with various objectives which render the sports more fun. For example, a Smash the Snowman skiing event presents a far better gaming experience than the Olympic skiing events themselves, which sounds quite bizarre, but it’s true all the same. If you do buy this game, it’s the challenge mode which will keep you entertained.
Gameplay itself is more intelligent than the button-smashing experiences we have all become so used to, making good use of the analog sticks and the buttons. This, plus the strong, if rather uncomplicated visuals, works well during gameplay, but as I have mentioned, there is precious little to get your teeth into.
Courses are limited, so once you have learned the twists and turns on that bobsleigh, you’ll be smashing world records in no time at all.
There is also one aspect of the presentation which strikes me as very odd, indeed: the music. If it’s purporting to be a simulation, why on earth would the developers throw in some very loud, very garish background music to accompany you while you hurtle down the track? This isn’t present on every event, but when it does appear it is really off-putting.
I presume that SEGA’s pitch to those who make such decisions went something along these lines:
‘Give us the official licence and we’ll show how wonderful an occasion the Winter Olympics are. We’ll recreate the sports accurately, make them fun for the gamer and build excitement for the Games, increasing your viewing figures along the way.’
In reality, this would have more appropriate:
‘We’ll develop a game that looks OK, plays quite well but which gamers will tire of quite quickly and want to trade in for Uncharted 2 or FIFA pretty quickly. It will be a simulation of sorts, but not a very interesting one, and to be honest, after a couple of hour’s gameplay you’ll probably have more fun revisiting Horace Goes Skiing. How about it?’
I think I should move into PR.
Vancouver 2010 is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.