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The official videogame of the Olympic Games continues its love affair with button-bashing...
Having been brought up on a diet of Commodore 64 button-bashers from the likes of US Gold, the last 10 years of sports games have only really been notable in terms of graphics with gameplay mechanics for these great looking physically gyrating titles leaving much to be desired.
With the fanfare for the Olympic games really starting to count down there could not be a better time for a release of Athens but doesnâ??t it seem strange, that once with any Olympic games due a glut of games based around many of the events would become almost overkill with Official endorsements not only for the brand but endless celebrities creating their own mini feast, getting into the act. With the 2004 Olympics you can count of the fingers of one hand games capturing the spirit of this grand event, and perhaps there is a good reason for this and nothing to do with the massive fee a publisher must pay for this license!
Old comers may be less so but new comers to this category/genre of game should be prepared for frustrating joystick bashing and we mean that literally. Created by industry veterans, Eurocom, things got off to a good start. A nice loading scene then the myriad of options, be it playing on your own against the CPU or with friends, in arcade mode or serious and competitive!
As you would also expect some prime events have been selected with athletics being top of the list along with gymnastics, swimming and many others that certainly present a visual mix. Included are:
Four arcade and eight Competition Game Modes ranging from Practice to the Official Decathlon and Heptathlon combined events, while choosing one of 64 countries and 800 different characters. Athens 2004M features some of the Olympic games' most challenging sports, including Athletics (Track & Field), Aquatics (Swimming), Gymnastics, Shooting, Archery, Weightlifting and Equestrian. Players will be able to participate in more than 25 events including Hurdles, Long Jump, Pole Vault, Shot Put, 100m Butterfly, Floor Exercises Men, Floor Exercises Women, Rings Men.
A pretty impressive list of events, and it is all enhanced by â??someâ?? detailed and painstakingly crafted locations and settings which once again include stadiums modelled on architectural plans, as authentically crafted 3D event arenas approved by the IOC were generated for Athens 2004. Those stadiums include: Olympic Stadium - Home to Athletics (Track & Field) events, Olympic Aquatic Centre - Main Pool - Home to Aquatics (Swimming) event, Olympic Indoor, etc., etc. There is no denying the fact that a good ambience is conveyed although we do wonder how the team managed to design a great portion of this before in real terms, it was only half completed!
We could continue on with an endless list of specs and details to build up the picture that plenty of design work and thought has gone into trying to recreate a real essence of the games and Athens and it does all look lovely!
Getting down to the meat of it all we started off choosing the 110 metres hurdles and the 400 metres flat to see what the main differences in terms of controls and execution were. In the 400 metres two keys are used. Bash two buttons and the faster you whack the faster you apparently run. Problem here was we tried a couple of methods â?“ where obviously we could see and feel we were hitting the buttons quicker but there appeared to be only a marginal difference in the times and result. With the hurdles you add the L1 button to the equation, although this is used to get yourself into position before the start of a race for the sprint. Once again the same method of button shift is deployed and at the critical/appropriate time you want to position yourself to leap over the hurdle you have to tap the L1 button. Coordinating is pretty simple but along with button tapping slows it down. To add to this, you can if you are stupid, change the camera angle from top down to side on/front if you want to get another view but the top down would be sufficient for many â?“ if they are aiming to be competitive.
We then moved on and tested the weightlifting and high jump, both having their own technical requirements in real life. With the high jump it appears that EuroCom has tried to be smart and add balance and rhythm to this event and speed does not really play a factor. Once again it is the two main buttons of 0 and X to press and this is to do with coordination as you run up to take off with each foot â?“ left and right - representing a button and key press. What happens is it becomes too methodical and mind numbingly boring and yes to launch yourself over the bar is it still the same L1 press. Tap tap, (leftfoot, right foot), tap tap (left foot right foot) (left foot right foot) â?“ keeping sync with the markers â?“ hit L1 and jump. It just does not work or feel right!
The weightlifting, need we say, offers up a double dose of finger jumping. With the clean and jerk, you finger whack on the two buttons whilst at the same time watching a metre rise and then whack F1 and you are half way there. Follow the same process again and hey presto youâ??ve lifted it. Yer rightâ?¦â?¦ My fingers ARE getting stronger though!
Now we donâ??t want to bore you too much and we do appreciate that if you look at any sports game the mechanics are pretty basic! When racing a car, in a top racing title, all you are really doing is steering and accelerating but for some reason Athens is lacking in both motivation and solid gameplay ingredients.
Some events were certainly more interesting than others â?“ offering slightly more skill as was the case with skeetâ??s and archery. Using hand and eye coordination in a way is more like the real thing! After about 20 mins boredom does start to take over however.
We could run you through other events to paint a fuller picture but we would be saying the same old thing. The only other distinguishing event is the swimming which features some nice touches, like underwater shots and the gymnastics has some great animation and superb physical movements are displayed. We are sure everyone will have their own fav! If you catch a sight from the corner of your eye as you enter the room, (with sunglasses on - ED) with some events it could be like you are watching TV but that does not take away or add to the fact that in terms of gameplay and high excitement Athens is pretty mundane.