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Sega Beijing 2008: The Official Video Game of the Olympic Games
Beware of the smog
- Decent graphics, varied control schemes, ranked scores and times
- Some repetitive controls, track and swimming starting mechanism is flawed
Beijing 2008 manages to overcome most of the usual issues of video game adaptations, and in doing so provides a decent game that will appeal to competitive gamers. Gameplay is flawed in some sporting events, but there are some surprising control schemes that make some of the lesser sporting events fun.
Price$ 89.95 (AUD)
Like blockbuster Hollywood movies, global sporting events induce rushed video game adaptations with the fervour of a three year old child in a candy store. However, like three year old children, most games fall flat on their face. Eurocom and SEGA have taken on the challenge of avoiding this with Beijing 2008, and they mostly succeed. Somewhere along the way, however, the Olympic motto of "faster, higher, stronger" is mistranslated as "mash buttons faster".
Beijing 2008 offers 38 Olympic events in 10 different sports across Training, Competition and Olympic Games modes. The events largely focus on those sports such as track and field and swimming — more conventional sporting events, like soccer, are mostly absent in this game. In focusing on the core sports, Eurocom has managed to create a fairly solid game.
The game has three different gameplay modes. Training is essentially the sporting event itself — players can compete, watch relevant tutorials and see how they fare against other players through a leaderboard, although training events are unranked. Competition mode adds ranking capability, allowing players to upload their times and scores to a global scoreboard for comparison purposes.
However, the game's centrepiece is its Olympic Games mode. This mode encompasses character customisation and a full competitive mode involving qualifying heats and finals. As a player progresses, they can build their character's core attributes in a style similar to RPG games — though it's a little odd that these attributes are applied to every athlete the player uses, despite the athlete themselves changing depending on the event.
Gameplay hinges on the control scheme, and it's here that the game becomes slightly inconsistent. Where some events offer refreshing and approachable control schemes, others are reduced to a combination of button mashing and synchronised stick twirling. (To be fair, this has been a staple of Olympic sports games since the days of the Commodore 64. Personally, we're not fans.)
Track and swimming events are ultimately let down by repetitiveness and their starting mechanism. Rather than automatically launching into the race, the player is required to build up their athlete's power in anticipation of the starting gun. Build up too much and you'll be faulted or disqualified, but fail to power up at all and you'll be left at the starting line while your competitors dash off.
The computer has the clear advantage in these situations, as players are inevitably let down by their own reaction times to the gun, which goes off without any prior warning. Once users do get it right what ensues is little more than a button-mashing event, requiring users to either alternately press A and B in order to gain speed, or wiggle their joysticks in the controller-destroying manner that plagued the original Mario Party. The mechanic is overly repetitive and RSI-inducing — it won't be surprising if these usually popular events are left in the dust.
A different gameplay problem afflicts the game's Field events. These events — involving jumping and throwing heavy things long distances — largely rely on a combination of button mashing and metered button pressing that bears no measurable relation to the final outcome. Controls are inevitably awkward in this regard, as players are required to alternately mash A and B buttons while holding the left or right Trigger buttons. Good results are often attributable to luck rather than precision.
Gymnastics events prove the most fun, combining precision button pressing with quick action events involving random button patterns. Where most events quickly became tedious, gymnastics proved easily re-playable, as players are faced with randomised action cues in each attempt.
Miscellaneous events like judo and table tennis suffer major flaws that made them ultimately unplayable, due to poor instructions and horrible camera angles. Still, shooting events bring a refreshingly realistic approach to the same shooting mechanic found in arcade games like Point Blank.
The game isn't the prettiest out there, but it does the job of immersing the players in the feel of the Olympics. Elaborate cut-scenes, Chinese-themed music and broadcast-standard camera angles give the feel that players are actually competing in the Olympics.
Beijing 2008 suffers gameplay inconsistency and repetitiveness in some sports. Thankfully, there are some surprising quirks and varied control schemes which make the game fun. Competitiveness is inevitably the key motive to play this game and it's unlikely to spark too much interest in casual and non-gamers.
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