London 2012 game misses the podium
London 2012, Xbox 360, Sega/Sega Studios Australia. Rated E, MSRP $49.99. Kinect optional.
Every two years, the greatest athletes in the world gather at the Olympics to compete on an international stage in the spirit of goodwill, excellence and national pride.
At the same time, the exact opposite happens in the world of video games, as Olympic-themed games have traditionally been some of the worst to ever see the light of day. .
In fairness, London 2012 is one of the better Olympic video games out there, but that is hollow praise considering the calibre of the rest of the field.
Thirty-plus events (more if you count Party and Kinect variants) grace this game, covering most of the “cool” events you would expect from a game devoted to the Summer Olympics, although the absence of judo, taekwondo, fencing and other hallmark events is puzzling.
Out of what is here, including archery, skeet shooting, track events of various distances, table tennis and beach volleyball, most seem like perfect fits for video-game play.
Almost one-third of the events are in the pool, which is great if you are seriously into diving or swimming events. (Condolences to the water polo players and synchronized swimmers out there).
Gameplay is simple and accessible, with most events relying heavily on the use of Quick Time Events to power the athletes.
Button mashing to fill a meter, precision flicks of the thumbsticks, timed releases of buttons — the controls here are somewhat reminiscent of old-school Track & Field arcade games.
On the easier settings, you will be setting Olympic records faster than Usain Bolt does the 100-metre dash. On the more difficult settings, though, the crushing artificial intelligence your opponents pack means you will be lucky to qualify for the medal round at all.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that everything is over in mere moments.
Maybe this is unavoidable when you play sports that last 15 to 30 seconds, but for someone just fooling around with the game, everything is just too compartmentalized to sustain momentum.
The addition of multiplayer modes helps a little because it is obviously more fun to do platform diving or archery with a friend, but the game’s flawed mechanics remain unchanged.
Kinect helps break this tedium up a little because it is a natural fit for the QTE mini-games that are London 2012’s backbone.
If you can combine these two together, you and some friends may have some fun flailing about in front of the TV as you strive for Olympic glory.
There is a surprising amount of bonus content in this title, including customizable playlists for events, unlockable equipment, leaderboards and an online multiplayer aspect.
Graphically, the game is certainly the Michael Phelps of Olympic video games because this one looks 20 lengths better than its predecessors set in Vancouver and Beijing did in 2008 and 2010 respectively.
With relatively non-inane commentary and occasional well-placed songs, the soundtrack to London 2012 isn’t as grating as one would expect either.
But, in the end, this is a collection of mini-games that all play similarly to one another, set against a backdrop that many people just won’t want to invest in.
If you have got a bad case of Olympic fever, then this may be what the doctor ordered, but for most casual gamers, this game will run its course long before the flame is even lit in London.
UPSIDE: Excellent presentation values, decent multiplayer and Kinect integration. Some events bear repeat playing.
DOWNSIDE: Mini-games get old fast, only 36 countries represented. Boxing, judo and more missing. Too much loading time, uneven artificial intelligence in opponents.
BOTTOM LINE: London 2012 misses the podium but earns a possible Olympic-best in terms of effort.
Neil MacFarlane is a Halifax video game enthusiast.