Ah the Olympics! It’s that time again where the finest athletes in the world square up against each other in a race for the gold medal across a series of track, field, pool and gym based events and, unsurprisingly, there’s a tie-in game to go along with it. Those of you of a certain age will no doubt have fond memories of joystick waggling days gone by, wasting countless hours trying to beat your personal best across each event, and it’s you who’ll most enjoy what’s on offer here from Sega in London 2012 – The Official Video Game of the Olympic Games.
As you would expect with any officially licensed Olympics title, the presentation and quest for authenticity is one of the major focuses here, and it London 2012 does a fine job of making players feel part of the action. Visually the game’s menus and presentation is stylish, if more functional than anything, with basic loading screens and menus acting as the gateway to the real action. The commentary is quite impressive, even if it does get a little repetitive the more you play, but that’s something that’s to be expected and, despite some occasional confusion as to which country you’re representing (while playing as Ireland we were called Italy on a couple of occasions), it adds quite a lot to the overall experience.
The gameplay itself is very reminiscent of the old Track and Field games of days gone by, and while there may be no joysticks for us to wiggle mightily, there are plenty of buttons to bash as well as accurate thumbstick flicks required in order to ensure that your character lives up to their potential. Depending on the event, the controls can differ quite dramatically, but similar events will all have roughly the same idea, whether that’s hammering away on a button for strength or speed, or getting your angles just right for top quality jumps, or throws, and it’s that overall cohesiveness that really makes the game stand out from many similar titles.
With more than thirty different Olympic events to take part in, there’s definitely plenty to keep gamers entertained here in single player, local multiplayer or online multiplayer, and unlike other sports based titles, it’s actually a game that works quite well on your own. It’s certainly preferable to be taking on your friends in the events, particularly when you’re all gathered around the same console, but the nature of the Olympics means that there’s going to be plenty of longevity here for those who want to continually better their own personal records, and take on both Olympic and world records at their favourite events.
This feeling of competitiveness, no matter how many people you’re playing with, is fostered quite well by the game’s online leaderboards which track the best times and results in the world, offering you a shot at becoming a world champion across each of the disciplines. If you’re the type of person who likes to keep coming back to better yourself, then London 2012 is definitely going to be a sound investment – even if it does spell the end for your trusty controllers, since you’re going to be giving them quite a punishing.
With so many different events it was always going to be the case that some would fare better than others, and that’s precisely how it’s turned out. The more straightforward events like track and field, swimming, gymnastics, shooting and weight lifting all work exceptionally well thanks to their simplicity. Given the fact that you’re going to be spending so much time focussing on your rhythm and timing, the last thing you need is complicated control systems to drag your times down. On that front the likes of kayaking are simply non-starters. They’re simply too complex to work well in this environment, but at least they’re represented.
Another aspect that may put some of you off is the fact that the game features precisely zero authentic athletes. Instead we're treated to a series of stereotypical names suited to each country. It certainly does nothing to help with the overall feel of the game, but obviously it was a licensing issue so we can't complain too much. If it's really a problem for you, you've got the ability to edit each and every athlete in the game so that they're in line with the actual olympics - but then, that's a hell of a lot of work, so you're probably not going to bother. It's nice to have the option though.
With a fairly hefty Olympic Games mode to play through in single player mode, as well as plenty of different multiplayer modes, London 2012 does offer a surprising bang for your buck. Obviously it was never going to be able to stand up to some of the more established, single sport oriented titles, but it does a mighty fine job, and with Kinect and Move integration to get you off the sofa, it’s a title that fares much better than we would have anticipated.