The official game of this year’s Olympics doesn’t hold back on presentation
There isn’t much chance of us getting a yearly instalment of Sega Australia Studios’ London 2012, the official video game of this year's Olympics, and that's just one regret-free reason to pick this up if you own a gaming console (or PC) and are moderately interested in the world's largest sporting event. Packed with a tonne of mini-games, Playstation Move and Xbox Kinect support (don't worry, you can play it with your controller as well), London 2012 is the definitive interactive companion to this year's Olympics. But the question remains: Does Sega’s answer to Konami's 1983 classic Track & Field bring home the gold?
London 2012 features over 45 different events from this year's games. Some are ridiculously simple to just pick up and play (such as the 100 Metre Dash), while others are more complex (diving and acrobatic events). There’s an all-pervasive control scheme for events of a similar type — shot-put and javelin have a lot in common in their controls as do high-jump and triple-jump. This essentially means that you're required to memorise controls for different event types in the same category. Some events are a little more fleshed out, but the game steps in, offering button prompts so that you can perfect a complex dive in the springboard or platform diving events. Most importantly, there really isn't much of a learning curve for any of the various mini-games. If you forget what you're supposed to press, you can simply trigger the tutorial for it. The sheer amount of content, even if simplistic, is staggering, and Sega Studios Australia has done an admirable job both in terms of presentation as well as gameplay.
For the most part, the various mini-games are easy to pick up and play, but there are difficulty spikes that players are sure to encounter. London 2012 isn't a game where buttons can be mashed, rewarding timing and accurate button presses instead — this makes learning those difficult mini-games a more rewarding process. Mastering all the events will take a few plays at best, and as a result, London 2012 is the ultimate party game (particularly with its collection of events). The repetition in control scheme is overshadowed by the colourful stadiums, lush outdoors, swimming pools, waterways and even the Lord's Cricket Ground (where the Archery events take place), all of which feature incredible atmosphere. It's not as visually spectacular as a FIFA or Madden, but it's just as atmospheric.
The commentary might seem monotonous and dull at times, particularly since none of the athletes are referred to by their names, because, unfortunately, despite the 'official' tag, London 2012 does not feature any licensed athletes, squashing everyone's dream of beating a certain Jamaican in the game's various running events. It isn't just athletes, with whole countries being left out. Gold medal-winning nations such as North Korea, Kazakhstan and Georgia are nowhere to be found, while India is missing as well, effectively dashing your hopes of bringing home some virtual gold medals. However, and there's enough content to keep you occupied both while playing solo or with friends.
It might not have officially licensed athletes, feature all participating nations or even let you play all the Olympic sports, but the official game of the 2012 London Olympics doesn't hold back on presentation. It manages to capture the essence of the world's largest sporting event while doing justice to the various events it does feature (over 45 of them). The game's controls remain simple without insulting the player, while challenges await in higher difficulty levels and competitive play (London 2012 is a fantastic party game). It isn't just a game — it's an interactive educational tool that somehow remains entertaining. It isn't without its faults, but there hasn't been a game featuring Olympic sport that has been as remotely interesting to experience as London 2012 in quite some time. Not since Track & Field, anyway.