Every four years, the world comes together and competes for ultimate glory in an ever-expanding list of Olympic events. Each Summer Olympics also brings with it an attempt at creating a video game which recreates the incredible atmosphere of track and field events and so much more. Each title brings something new, but in my opinion hasn’t yet managed to create the perfect Olympic game. With London 2012, however, Sega has made a commendable attempt.
London 2012‘s visuals and sound effects put this game above other Olympic-style titles. The sounds effects of the game are masterful, helping to create a true to life, competitive atmosphere. The thud of the javelin as it hits the grass; the smack of the arrow connecting with the target in archery and my favourite; the roar from the crowd as you emerge from the water after diving into a swimming race; each effect is wholly immersive. As with any game developed in recent times, the visuals complement the game perfectly to enhance the game-playing experience. Each stadium has been developed according to blueprints from the actual arenas in London, again adding to the realistic feel of the game.
A major difference in London 2012 compared to other games of the same genre is its series of control schemes. Sega has done away with the furious button mashing control style for sprinting and swimming, and instead have introduced the idea of ‘over sprinting’. At first, I found this annoying, but quickly got used to the new style. The controls for swimming have been developed to be joystick based and relate directly to what the swimmer is doing with their arms. I found this to be a very clever innovation without being too difficult. The controls for the non-racing events have been left quite standard, giving some familiarity to fans of the franchise. I would have liked some events to have kept the two-button mashing style of sprinting, particularly for short events such as the 100m and 200m sprints, where at an Olympic level, stamina shouldn’t really come into play. The furiousness at which you find yourself smacking at the buttons is part of the fun of games past. On the other hand, some events that were far too hard to be enjoyable in Beijing 2008 have been made easier with new control schemes. Im looking at you, kayaking and weightlifting.
The ability to optionally use Kinect or Move to manually control your character in certain events provides both a fun and frustrating twist on the events. Some events play quite well, with javelin being the prime example, but other events suffer from the usual accuracy issues. The Kinect was fun for a little bit, but I chose to sit on the couch and make the Olympic athlete do the exercise for me in the end.
There are quite a few changes in the events that you can choose from with this Olympic installment. There are more cycling events than usually offered, and beach volleyball and trampolining are now playable. Also, a lot more events are open to both male and female competitors. One thing that really annoyed me was that there were only two playable gymnastic events. Usually, gymnastics is a big focus and one of the more enjoyable events in Olympic video games and I question why it wasn’t included in a bigger capacity in London 2012.
The gameplay itself is divided into playing an entire Olympic campaign at either easy, normal or hard levels, or you can play each event individually. For the first time you also have the option of competing alongside a friend in synchronized diving, beach volleyball and archery events as apposed to purely competing against them.
Online play has been developed to include quick individual matches and also user-defined tournaments. With the ADHD phenomenon that is hitting the world, finding someone to compete in a tournament is quite hard, but there are lots of people playing quick individual events. Varying skill levels in the online play mean that sometimes you will be wiped away by your opponents but usually you are at least amongst the medals.
Sega has put a lot of effort into developing a game that is focused on the idea of national pride. There are less countries to choose from than in previous games, but each playable country comes with some neat historical information and if you do manage to win the gold medal, you actually get to hear your national anthem with the medal ceremony.
As I alluded to earlier, Sega has by no means created the perfect Olympics game. The scores of any event that required judging — like diving and gymnastics — were questionable. The strange thing was that for once, the judging seems to favor the player; but, you can do a less than perfect dive, but press all the correct buttons and still come out with 9s and 9.5s for your score where 4s and 5s may have been more appropriate. In fact, the diving in Beijing 2008 was superb and I don’t understand why it was overly simplified and made quite unmemorable.
One big mistake that is easy enough to make (but is still pretty embarrassing on the developers’ part!) is that my Australian athlete was introduced as an Austrian athlete. This is made somewhat worse considering that the developer for this game is Sega Studies AUSTRALIA!
Moreover, a lot of events require you to flick the joystick at a specific angle. This angle changes depending on the event you are doing, but also it is extremely frustrating and difficult to consistently get the “perfect” angle. To be honest, most of the time this ends up being a complete fluke anyway.
For all those achievement whores out there, I had most of the achievements in half a day. This is a welcome change from the Nazi regime implemented with achievements in Beijing 2008.
Overall, I highly recommend London 2012 for anyone who has enjoyed playing Olympic games or who enjoys any games of the sporting genre. If you have never played these games before, I would suggest you go out and try it out first for yourself. The good definitely outweighs the bad in this Olympic installation, and best yet, I now have something to keep me occupied while I eagerly await the opening ceremony of the actual event.