Most major sporting events see the release of a number of titles released in the run up to the event and this year’s Winter Olympics is no exception. RTL’s latest in their Winter Sports series is available now and I had the opportunity to take a look at it and put it through its paces.
Events & Controls
There are only eight events to choose from, the fewest of any of the winter sports titles available to accompany the 2010 Olympic games, although this title isn’t linked to the Vancouver games in any way.
For the most part, the control system for the events works well. The skiing and snow boarding events are very similar, with the only minor difference being how you start the event. These events play in a similar way to the first SSX game, which is great for me as that was a game I enjoyed a great deal. The sense of speed in these events is effectively captured and these events are the most polished by some margin.
The one event that I was surprised at how much I enjoyed was figure skating. I’m not at all a fan of watching this in real life but it’s quite fun to play. The controls for this are entirely quick time events. A target will move around the ice, near the figure skater, and when it crosses over an icon, you need to press the corresponding button or rotate the sticks. I’m not a huge fan of QTE and the morning before this arrived on my doorstep I was playing Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and getting frustrated with the clunky and unresponsive QTE that features in the title. The figure skating event here is a good showcase for effective and responsive QTE.
The bobsled event lacks any real sense of speed, which is hugely disappointing. The controls for the event work perfectly fine, but without a sense of speed it’s quite a tedious event to play. Another event that I found tedious was the biathlon. You know the one: ski a bit, shoot a bit, ski a bit more, shoot some more (this time standing up) etc. Now, I don’t want to detract from the discipline. I’m sure it takes a tremendous amount of skill. I’m just not interested in it in any way whatsoever and it doesn’t transfer well at all to the world of videogames. The pace is excruciatingly slow and the shooting mechanics aren’t great, to say the least.
Another weak event is the short track speed skating event. There’s no real sense of control in this event; if you get off to a good start it’s likely you’ll win, if you don’t you’ll struggle.
If you’re considering purchasing this, I would suggest investing in some real triggers as you’ll be using the L2 and R2 buttons with some regularity and these prevent your fingers slipping off the buttons. I played both with and without these, and the difference is certainly noticeable.
There are five game modes to chose from: single course, cup, career, challenge mode and multiplayer. Career is the most in-depth out of all the modes. Points are earned for completing races and cups and these can be distributed amongst your competitors to increase their talent rating or purchase new equipment that unlock special abilities.
This is the game mode that I have found the most enjoyable. Giving points to competitors in events that I’m not great at has made me more competitive and my finishes have been more respectable. Challenge mode is aptly named. The events here can be very challenging. There are very few challenges that I’ve completed at first attempt.
There are 48 trophies available to unlock and these are all based around completing challenges in challenge mode and winning cups in career mode (no prizes for second place!).
Presentation & Graphics
The presentation to the game starts well. The menus are far from outstanding but are easy to navigate and set out well and information on the history of the events you’re playing is provided, which is quite interesting.
There are a few noticeable spelling mistakes. There are ‘Trickser’events in Challenge Mode. I’m guessing this should be Trickster. Also adrenaline features in all events, however ,there’s no ‘e’ on the end of it so you’re activating an ‘Adrenalin’ boost instead.
In addition to the spelling mistakes there are some odd moments in the sound department. At the start of some events it sounds as though the crowd are barking like dogs and at a couple of points whilst playing the commentator has said “mumumumumumumum” for no apparent reason.
During game play the characters look fine. Okay, the figure skater has massive shoulders, but in all other events there are very few complaints. The cut scenes are pretty poor and feature a number of glitches such as body parts disappearing into scenery and objects randomly appearing. The characters look like zombies or mannequins depending on what event you’re playing. This aside, the in-game graphics are perfectly acceptable. Nothing to blow you away or test the PS3, but the characters and landscapes look fine and there are very few noticeable glitches in the graphics department like there are in the cut scenes.
One big frustration for me is that there isn’t a timer on the screen in any of the events. Considering some events you participate in require you to finish under a certain time, I can’t think of a reason why this wouldn’t be included.
Half of the events on offer here are enjoyable, it’s just a shame that the others aren’t at all. The leveling up in career mode, completing all of the challenges in challenge mode and online play should offer some replay value. But still, I’d imagine that the appeal for this title will be limited. As mentioned at the top of the article, it faces competition from two other titles that boast a greater array of events and have the benefit of being official titles for the 2010 Vancouver games.
There are also some glitches in the presentation that detracts from the quality of the title. Winter Sports 2010: The Great Tournament is a decent enough title, but one that could have been a lot better.
Winter Sports 2010: The Great Tournament is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.