Beijing 2008 PS3, Xbox 360
The year is 2008 and it’s annoyingly warm outside, guess that means summer is here and the 29th Olympics are just around the corner in Beijing. You probably already knew this, and also noticed the amount of summer athletic games that seem to be out, or coming out in the next couple of weeks. Mario and Sonic at the Olympics that came out last year wasn’t a bad attempt to try and capture the frantic motions of button tapping, which is what it was like back in the good old days of Konami’s Track and Field. So with the wave of games coming it’s time to see if the official game by Sega is worthy of taking the podium and earning that elusive gold medal, and of course your cash.
Reading about the game would give some good first impressions. One thing developers Eurocom have done is include a huge range of events – a massive 38 to take part in. From what I know this is the most that a summer games video game as ever had. Well with all that space on a disc they really shouldn’t be any excuse to have less than what was before.
Typical events like the 100 Metres, Long Jump, Javelin, 110 Metre Hurdles and High Jump are all here. Some events that you might not expect to be included are probably here as well. Like Judo, Air Pistol, 1,500 Metres, Rings and even Floor Exercise events. There’s a wide range of events and it’s nice to see some unique events featured, but what happened to the ones that were in Mario and Sonic, where’s the Fencing? More could still be featured, but we won’t let that be a negative because it already has so many.
Games like these are made or destroyed by the control mechanics. Ever since the early days of Track and Field, button mashing has always been the best way to go about it, even now there’s nothing better than blistering your fingers. Developers have tried to do different ways to approach the controls, but mostly they end up hindering the game. The controls in Beijing 2008 in most of the events work really well, but there’s something a little bit nasty included as well, mainly the short sprinting events.
Usually when you’d do a race you’d just hit the first button when you want to set off from the start, not in Beijing 2008. A feature included is a bar that when you hold either R2 or L2, will charge up. Letting go will let the bar go down again. About the 75% mark on the graph is a red area, if you touch this area with your charging bar; your sprinter/swimmer will set off regardless of the gun going off or not. It takes a while to get use to and most of the time you’ll be one of the last ones to get out of the blocks because you didn’t time it right for the bar to hit the red area. It’s an awkward inclusion and I don’t see why Eurocom couldn’t have just left it down to the player pressing the buttons, adding this strange mechanic pulls the greatness of some of the events down a bit.
But to put smiles on your faces, Beijing 2008 is the return of the button mashing… to the extreme. There’s one event in particular, while isn’t button mashing, is analogue spinning. YES! The original Mario Party Analogue Stick Wrecking Mechanic is also an option to use here. In most of the racing events you are allowed to either tap the X and O buttons as fast as possible, or you can opt to spin the analogue sticks around instead. But back to the event I was getting on to. Team Cycling is your thumb’s worse nightmare. The event forces you to do 16 laps of constant stick wiggling, it pains your thumb so much, but I do have to admit it makes a funny scene seeing you and your friends all trying their bests to overcome the pain by switching methods on spinning that analogue stick.
Eurocom have added some neat touches to some of the events that don’t damage the potential fun to be had. One interesting one is the Hammer Throw event. Rather than having to tap buttons and then letting go like in a lot of the other summer games, this one is about perfectly following your athletes’ power ring as it spins around you. If you manage to keep in the centre the power, the throw will increase, come out of the ring though and it will slowly decrease, making for a pathetic throw. Another good one is the Javelin. This requires the traditional button tapping, but once you’ve gone past a certain section of the runway, you can press right on the left analogue stick to lock your power, then after you have to try and press 45 degrees to the north west on the analogue stick to get the perfect angle for the throw. It works really well and is one of the excellent things Eurocom have done to improve on the standard game mechanics.
Like with a lot of mini collection games, this game also has the dreaded “stinker events” that you just hate playing, mainly because they are either crap or just broken in some way, Beijing 2008’s events that fit in this category are Skeet shooting, Kayaking and Judo.
Let’s start with Skeet Shooting. It’s a simple premise of aiming your shotgun at some flying clay pigeons and blasting them into little bits, with sometimes an annoying dog coming up to anger you… or so it should be anyway, but this is not the case. For some strange reason it seems impossible to hit them damn pigeons. I haven’t a clue what the hell I was doing wrong, I was following how it was explained in the tutorial, yet I couldn’t hit crap all… well I hit ONE PIDGEON out of about 20 shots, that’s pretty darn poor. I guess there’s a delay element from the bullets going towards the clay pigeon from your shotgun, but all you do is aim on a line where the pigeon is going, so I have no idea how I missed the shots, it’s a very messed up game and certainly no fun.
Kayaking is also a boring event that tries to make the Kayaking control like you would drive a tank. Each stick controls each of the paddles and pulling them away from each other makes your player paddle forward, it’s when the gates start appearing that the controls go haywire and you just can’t control the damn canoe correctly, you’ll most likely end up steering too much and float down the river sideways, it’s very frustrating.
Judo is also something of a random and confusing event. It’s not fully explained in the tutorial properly so you’ll certainly need to re-watch the video a few times to get a little idea of it. The initial part is quite easy to get. When control signs appear on the screen, you’ve got to move both sticks in to that position, the better the timing, the better the ranking, get more higher rankings than the opponent and you’ll end up getting a chance to take him down to the floor and hold him, same goes for the other player if he gets better rankings than you. Once you are in the takedown position, things get a little random. You are supposed to press some buttons, but it doesn’t actually tell you what, so you got to just randomly press the buttons and hope for the best.
Actual game modes are split in to two major sections. The one which you will play with mates is the Competition Mode. This is just selecting how many players and then choosing the events you want to do, there’s even one to play every single event in the game (Which will take a few hours to get through when you have mates playing with you). This is also the mode which is the most fun. The game is much better for multiplayer than it is single, just giving it a go with friends opens your eyes to how well it makes competitions with mates entertaining. It allows for 4 players locally and 7 players online. Online is pretty standard, but works well enough when lag doesn’t set in.
Olympic Mode is for single player use only and is a bit of an usual one. Starting by selecting the country you want to represent in the upcoming Olympic Games, you then take your team through selected events that happen on a daily basis. It follows the same time as the official games, so you start on August 8th 2008 at 08:08:08pm (which the game loves to tell you constantly throughout while it loads). It will give you a task of having to beat so many of the selected events to pass on to the next day, fail this and you have to repeat the day over again. Stat progression is in effect as after finishing a day you gain points to add to your speed, stamina or reduce your fatigue. Really the game should be about the player and his button mashing capabilities so this is a questionable inclusion.
There isn’t really much else to say about Beijing 2008 that hasn’t been said. The game looks decent enough for the Playstation 3. The character models are the best bit about the game, they look detailed and pleasant, but sometimes they have a robotic animation look to them. There’s also a funny animation to watch out for when playing the hurdles event. When the guy sets off from the start, it looks like he’s running as if he’s urinated down the side of his leg, quite amusing.
Beijing 2008 isn’t fantastic, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. It’s actually quite good in multiplayer and if you enjoy setting records then the same can be said for the competition side of it. I’m not a fan of the handicapped Olympic mode, there really isn’t any incentive to play it and you won’t be setting any records because of the damn stat inclusion. If you’ve been looking for something to get you into the spirit of the Olympics on your home console then Beijing is probably your best option. It just manages to get into the 7 area because of new innovative ideas for controls and good multiplayer fun. This year isn’t the year for the official Olympic Games to take the Gold, so it’s going to have to settle down for Bronze and try again in 4 years time.