The winter Olympics has always played second fiddle to the summer Olympics for some reason or another. I personally think it’s because nothing the winter Olympics has to offer compares with the buzz you get from watching Usain Bolt beat the world record yet again in the 100m or 200m sprint. That being said I was looking forward to playing the official video game of the winter Olympics, this time set in Vancouver, Canada. I was intrigued to see whether the same thrilling yet sometimes exhausting button bashing technique which has been used for many years remained. Unfortunately, or fortunately for some, you will not be breaking a sweat when playing Vancouver 2010.
The game allows model athletes like yourself to represent your chosen nation and compete in the winter games for a whopping fourteen different games *smell the sarcasm*. Those games are divided into six different genres including Alpine Skiing, Sledding, Snowboarding and Speed Skating. Being a Scot I was disappointed to see that there was no curling events as that’s something we are actually quite good at. There is also no figure skating which is strange as I feel the ‘push the button combo at the right time’ technique would have worked extremely well here. In fact what is left doesn’t require much technique at all.
I'll get straight down to the point. The controls to every event are simple and provide no learning curve in any shape or form. Yes you can get better at pushing the buttons at the right time, but none of the events provide any problems even for the amateur gamer among us. Using the downhill slalom as an example, the button configuration is simple: left analogue stick to move left and right, ‘RT’ to accelerate and ‘LT’ to carve (slow down). It’s a bit like playing a driving simulator minus the speed, enjoyment and difficulty of tracks.
The more enjoyable events including the women's 500m sprint and the women’s freestyle aerobatics provide slightly more of a challenge as the 500m requires gamers to bash the 'A' button frantically, while the aerobatics require precision movement of the analogue sticks and good timing when it comes to taking off and landing. I'm can't help but miss the excitement of button bashing over the majority of events especially when playing with a friend, however the single player 'challenge' mode does offer a little resistance.
The challenges provide three tiers of difficulty and allow you to participate in the various events in which you must complete a specific challenge in order to progress. These include completing tracks within a specific period of time, to landing within 2m of you desired target in the men’s aerial jump. They do get progressively harder which provides you with at least some longevity, however, after the games have been completed I can’t really see any need to play this game. There's just not enough on offer to keep you wanting more and it's definitely one for those who love their impulse games.
Once you've exhausted the single player challenge mode, the next step is to head online. Online allows up to four players to take part in the fourteen events which means you have a 1 in 3 chance of obtaining a medal. This does provide more of a challenge as most human players will actually be quite good at the game. The biggest challenge of all however is actually trying to get a game. I think once the winter Olympics actually kicks off more gamers will be playing online, but once it's over I can't see anyone playing at all.
Graphically the game is pretty solid. It won't win an award for best graphics of the year but it certainly provides a bright and colourful backdrop the mundane requirements of most of the events. The menus are fresh and all licensed and plastered with the aesthetically pleasing official logo. Audio also runs a similar path with a nice back beat to the events and main menu system. It would have been nice to see a decent soundtrack placed into the game, although this would have almost definitely cost more money to SEGA, which automatically rules that option out.
With most of the tracks, events and overall gameplay remaining similar over all areas of the game it certainly wouldn’t have taken a lot of time to develop. I would have been impressed had they provided a few more events, as well as having the option to play as a male or a female. The failure to include button bashing was a big miss for me as I think that only adds to the excitement of this genre of game, especially when playing with offline friends (I'm sure the controller will think otherwise). Vancouver 2010 is not as good as previous outings, however, like most games of this sort; it should be on your rental list for when the games finally come around.
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