VancouverHeader

Here in sunny South Africa we’re generally a sports-mad bunch. Many a Saturday afternoon is whiled away, sat around a screen, with beer and biltong consumed in disproportionate amounts. Where we falter in our enthusiasm is with regards to winter sports.

This is, of course, mostly due to geography – but it’s hard to get excited when we, unlike Jamaica, don’t even have a bobsleigh team. The 2010 winter Olympics begin this Friday in Vancouver, and as with most such events it comes with its own videogame. Let’s take a look and see if Vancouver 2010 holds the gold at the podium, or crashes headfirst into the icy snow below.

When you start the game up, you’ll be surprised at just how sparse, although nicely polished – the package is. You’re presented with just 3 gameplay options; Olympic mode containing the events themselves, training for said events, and challenges based on those events. The obvious omission of any sort of campaign is somewhat baffling.

There’re no opening or closing ceremonies, no sense of pageantry or nationalism at all – which aside from the sport – is what the Olympic games are about. Thankfully, the representations of each winter sport save it from being bargain bin fare.

You’re given the option to participate in just 14 events, variations on just 8 actual sports. Available are standard winter games fare like Alpine Skiing, Slalom, Sledding, and Bobsleigh as well as Snowboard Cross, Ski Jumping and Speed Skating – and each one is at least fun to play. Instead of the standard button mashing that generally accompanies games of this sort, the game features a more complex control which still manages to be “pick-up-and-play” friendly.

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A nifty new feature that I hope we see in more of these games is the first-person camera – Pressing “B” on the 360 or Circle on the PS3 shifts the point of view to that of the athlete, bringing with it a heightened sense of speed and urgency. The sound is appropriately altered to replicate the audible tones inside an athlete’s helmet, including muffled breathing. It’s a gimmick, sure, but one that bring you as a player to the forefront of the action.

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Graphically the game is fairly impressive – everything, from the athletes to courses and the peripheral scenery is richly detailed, and more importantly, runs exceptionally smoothly. It’s by far the prettiest Olympic game I’ve played.

Ultimately though, the game feels soulless and hollow. The lack of career or campaign modes really hurt what could have been a pretty good game. Above achievements or trophies there’s nothing that’ll compel you to play, making this a short, lacking game. The game features online modes that’ll extend its gameplay somewhat, but good luck finding locals to play with.

As an aside, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish good luck to Peter Scott and Oliver Kraas, who’ll be representing South Africa in Vancouver in Alpine and Cross Country Skiing respectively.

Vancouver 2010 is available for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

For Fans Of: Sports Games, Ice, Canada

Scoring

Gameplay: 7.5

Each sport is recreated in a way that’s actually fun to play

Presentation: 7.0

Slick Menus, Detailed Models – but where’s the spectacle?

Sound: 7.0

Catchy,  fun soundtrack, event sounds are adequate, no commentary

Value: 6.0

The lack of career or campaign modes make for a short gaming experience.


Overall: 7.0

A decent, but lacking attempt at capturing the Winter Olympics.

[Reviewed on Xbox 360]

Last Updated: February 9, 2010

Vancouver 2010
Summary
7

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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