London 2012: The Official Video Game Xbox 360 Review

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Most people know what to expect from a game based on the Olympics. The sport has been covered throughout the console generations, with high points like Konami’s Track and Field series and low points that often include budget games (Summer Athletics…) that don’t even try to give a good representation of the sport. Sega has owned the official Olympic license for a few years now, using it to bring the fun 2008’s Beijing Olympics game to Xbox 360 and PS3. Sega has also used the license to bring a few Mario & Sonic games to Nintendo’s Wii, 3DS and DS consoles, which were super successful in sales, but the games themselves were not that exciting. London 2012 – The Official Video Game of the Olympic Games (London 2012) has its ups and downs, but will give you and a group of friends a few nights of entertainment while the Olympics are on. Just don’t expect it to grip you for any longer than that.

Looking at the back-of-the-box bulletin points it clearly states the game contains more than 45 events. That’s a lot, and I think that’s one of the most, if not the most, amount of sports events contained in a single video game.  Even so, there are still events that are bizarrely missing. What happened to pole vaulting and hammer throwing, for example? These omissions on such big events (they’ve been in most of the past track-and-field-based games) doesn’t make the game bad, but it’s just weird that they have the Trampoline event but not those.

Olympic Games mode is the single-player component of London 2012 that consists of ten days. Each day the game offers you the choice to pick two from the option of four to six events. The target is to be the team with the most points after the ten days are over. Points are gained from winning medals, with the obvious aim to get the gold in each event as those are worth the most points. It’s quite the standard affair, but a pet peeve of mine is that you can’t directly pick the hard difficulty setting without finishing the Olympic Games on normal. I blasted through normal with ease and there was never any challenge from the AI, which in turn caused it to be tedious. I can’t see many gamers playing this mode more than a couple of times; it’s just not captivating enough.

Just like any of the past Olympic-based video games, this one isn’t made to be played alone. Computer opponents just don’t give the satisfaction that human players give. To get the most out of London 2012, you need to gather some mates around – four if possible – and take part in the Event mode, the section of the game that allows you to make your own playlist of all the sporting events featured. People are going to have their favourite events and hated events. There’s just something about these collection of summer games; they always feature a god awful sport event that no one wants to touch. London 2012 is no different.

Speaking about the good ones, most of the track and field events are represented well, with change to the gameplay mechanics from the tried and tested formula of button mashing. I don’t agree with all the mechanical changes to the gameplay though; mainly the 100m, 200m and 110m hurdles events. In past sporting games, these events were about how well a player could rapidly tap two buttons. This is no longer the case. Rather than being based on button mashing, the sprinting events require you to tap at a specific rhythm. Going too fast will push the metre out of the perfect zone and cause your player to slow down, same if you don’t tap fast enough to raise the metre from below the preferred area.  It’s easy to understand, but the events are about speed and I feel this interpretation of the sport isn’t replicated in the current rhythm method that Sega Australia has implemented.

That said, the rhythm tapping does work in some events, like in Javelin and Triple Jump, where the game merges the rhythm running along with the timing of the angles on throwing or jumping. In events that require you to jump or launch an object at an angle, the control scheme no longer requires the user to stop a bar at 45 degrees. That is now replaced with the ability to use the sticks to flick at the angle you need. I do have to say that I became a fan of the stick usage. It just felt like a better, faster and natural way of throwing or jumping.

The bad events don’t require skill to do well. Trampoline is one such event that is fundamentally a group of quick time events that need to be completed in a certain amount of time. Timing isn’t even a requirement as you know what buttons are coming up and you aren’t punished for pressing it early. Just spam that button until it pops on screen and then spam the next button till that appears. It’s an event that isn’t any fun because it’s broken, and I can’t see any gamer wanting to play it again after experiencing it once. Other events like this are the diving and vaulting, again suffering from the same problems.

It’s true that a lot of the events feature similar gameplay and control schemes that make London 2012 lacking in the variety department. That being said, there are some events that require specific control schemes because they are vastly different. Table Tennis is one such sport where the left stick becomes the avatar and the right stick is your sportsman’s right hand. Moving the stick in a certain way will cause different style shots. Pushing up and then rotating 90 degrees to the right will cause a spin shot, for example. Other events, like Kayaking, Shooting and Archery, all have their own control schemes and usually stand out because more time has been taken to think them through.

No matter what sport you take part in you’ll have to listen to the commentators on offer. Apart from the knowledgeable facts about which country is best at the event and how many gold, silver or bronze medals a country won, the commentators are generic and extremely repetitive with their dialogue. The crowd gets you pumped with their celebrational cheer after a good result, but why does one person keep screaming out in a loud voice after my poor attempts? Did that person bet money I was going to do badly, or is it the athlete’s mother showing her support? I just don’t know. It’s so strange, yet highly amusing.

If you really want to play some events when you don’t have friends around then you can take part in the challenges. These offer a spin on the standard sports event. For example, the Javelin event sticks a target on the ground and the closer you get to it the more points you are awarded. It’s no longer about how far you can throw it, but how well you can adjust to the different power and angles needed to hit the bullseye. There is also online multiplayer where you can compete with other people in a single event or make a tournament featuring multiple events. If you win a medal for your country it gets added to a leaderboard that shows which country has won the most medals online. Online is fun and works well, but it just doesn’t beat having friends together sit in front of the TV. It’s one of those games that just thrives off that.

Even though London 2012 is a licensed game there aren’t any authentic athletes represented. All the polygon sportsmen and women come with popular surnames related to their country of origin. Just to give you an idea, 36 countries make an appearance here while this year’s real-life Olympic Games has more than 200 countries competing. The venues and locations used are modeled on their real-life equivalents, and most of them do look good. Models of the athletes are detailed, showing sweat and so on, but they animate in a robotic way, often throwing the realism out of the window and causing for some amusing laughter.

It’s funny in a way. The video game for the London 2012 Olympics is just like the sporting event itself. It took a while to come, and when it arrived it will be on everyone’s mind, but once done it will be forgotten by many and will become just another sporting event in the history of sporting events. London 2012 is a mixed bag of good and bad, just like the sports it represents. It’s dull as the UK weather can be in single-player mode, with local multiplayer being the only saving grace for the game. If you’re looking for some nights of local multiplayer fun then this will supply that, but no doubt you’ll be done with it before the Olympics finish.

6/10

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Version tested: Xbox 360

Also available on: PS3, PC

Developer: Sega Studios Australia

Publisher: Sega

Genre: Sports