Vancouver 2010 Review
By Ned Jordan
Vancouver 2010 lets you compete for one of 24 countries in fourteen Olympic events. If those numbers strike you as a little low, that's because they are. When you take into account the facts that a large percentage of these events fall into one of two categories and that each one takes place on a single run or track, there's even less here than meets the eye. There's not even much of an Olympic feel to the game, as outside of a few Olympic logos and trivia on the loading screens it would be hard to tell if the vents were taking place at the Olympics or race day at your local ski hill. In short, if you're got Olympic fever, this game will cure it.
I don't think that I've played an Olympic game before that was so devoid of the Olympic spirit. You choose an event, complete it, and then you either see the random person representing you stand on the podium for a few seconds or you're informed that you came in fourth. It seems that in these Olympics only four competitors are allowed per event – there are no standings, medal counts, anthems, or anything else to make you feel like you're competing against a field of the world's greatest athletes. The downhill events are taking place at Whistler this year – one of the liveliest and fun ski towns I've ever visited – so why aren't there shots of the Village at Whistler filled with flag-wearing people in a festive mood? And why are there no Olympic fanfares or national anthems? Why does generic rock music play during the competitions? And why can't I compete as the Jamaican bobsleigh team or Ghana's Snow Leopard in the downhill?
As for the events themselves, the downhill events are fun at first, but they're all relatively similar, the controls are pretty simple, and there's only a single course for each event. How many times do you see yourself running the same downhill course? And once you've taken the gold once and earned your achievement, the only motivation remaining for you to run it again is to try to beat your best time. If you're not the kind of gamer who likes to run the same race over and over again to try and shave a couple of seconds off of your time and creep your way up the online leaderboards, then you're going to have your fill of these events pretty quickly. The bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton events are essentially the same thing, and the two speed skating events aren't that exciting. I liked the first person perspective on the ski jumping, but the simple sequence of timed button presses used to complete the event is quickly mastered. There's an aerial event, but there's no trick system in the game and the event is essentially a stick-rotating mini game. I'm not sure why such fan favorites as the halfpipe and biathlon were left out, and I thought curling was a gimme in these types of games.
In addition to the events, which can be played individually or 'stacked' into a series, the game has a challenge mode. In this mode you're given an objective for a particular event and if you accomplish it, you'll unlock further challenges. It's a good idea, but it's not taken quite far enough. Some of the challenges are enjoyable, such as those that require you to hit a certain speed during a run, but others are a little silly. A timed slalom run in which you must hit snowmen to gain bonus time? What's up with that? Wouldn't it have been interesting to recreate historic Olympic moments and have you attempt to repeat the feat? That sort of challenge has been around for a while in other sports games, after all. There's also a multiplayer mode where four people can compete to see who comes in last, but competing against strangers is about as much fun as competing against the AI. Well, it may be a little more fun since the AI seems to cheat at times. Once I was well in the lead after the first jump in the ski jump competition, scored a personal best on the next jump, and then somehow ended in fourth place. And a familiar sight when you're in the lead on the snowboard or ski cross is to see one competitor zoom past you as if he was riding a rocket.
Unfortunately, Olympic games suffer the same fate as most movie-licensed games – they're designed to sell on the strength of their name and as little work is put into the actual game as possible. It would be nice to see Olympic games support some of the other modes that have become standard in other sports games, but it looks like we'll have to wait another four years before we have a chance of seeing that.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 55%. Fans of the Winter Games in search of a good game will have to wait a least another four years.