Vancouver 2010 is the official Olympic video game of the 2010 Winter Olympics that will be held next month in – you guessed it -Vancouver! Read on for our exclusive review from zavvi.com…
If you’re ever looking to instill instant disgust into anyone who has ever played a videogame before, you could do a whole lot worse than to present them with a disc branded by the following death knell: “The Official Videogame Of The Olympics.”
Since the early 1980’s, the Olympic Games have always had an official tie-in videogame released alongside them, and they have always been titles that any tasteful, discerning gamer would rather have ran a perpetual marathon than spent any real time playing.
Because although the first official Olympic tie-in (Konami’s perennially endearing 1983 classic Track And Field) outgrew its initial novelty status to become a cherished cult favourite, everything that followed in that same vein (the self-spawned sub-genre lovingly referred to as “button-mashers” by the cognoscenti) proceeded to get incredibly lazy, and quickly. Skill and craft took a hasty back seat as the ‘button-mashing’ element took centre stage, and each game got ever more sadistic with it, and perversely so, in some instances. Public interest, completely understandably, went south.
What a relief then, to see that Eurocom (the British development team responsible for this year’s massively under-played mini-masterpiece Dead Space: Extraction) under the watchful eye of Sega, have taken the genre in a fresh and entirely welcome new direction.
Because this isn’t just another ugly, rushed game whose sole function is to instantaneously disintegrate the joints of your thumbs, but a polished and oddly relaxed collection of very effective (elongated) mini-games. And the emphasis is rarely, if ever, on furious button-mashing.
The most prominent events are (understandably) the skiing and snowboarding contests, and after you’ve skied or boarded down the side of your first mountain, you’re very likely to be hooked. Although the control mechanics are identical for both sports – which is actually a bit of a missed opportunity, as they are vastly different in reality – it is a scheme that plays like a frost-encrusted dream. Realistic physics are boldly left at the starting gate (you have full control of your character at all times, even whilst in the air) but this only adds to the chilled-out, Sunday afternoon thrill of the whole enterprise. There is almost no learning curve, and it manages to be something that absolutely anyone can pick up and play, but only the dedicated will ever master.
Vancouver 2010 really does have an unusual, and totally endearing, non-combative bent about it. Although the fiercely competitive will head straight for the online component and start trying to dig their skis into a healthy leaderboard position, the game actively encourages you to merely take turns at everything, and scores aren’t important unless you want them to be. The joy is in executing a flawless performance, not in belting past the finish line before everyone else.
The bobsledding, skeleton and luge events are less satisfying (and disappointingly similar to one another) but those feeling nostalgic for the good old days will be happy to note that each of these events begins with a five-second button-mash QTE, before you leap aboard whatever it is that is assisting your rapid descent.
There are other niggles. There are definitely less games than one would expect (and hope for) from a package like this, and although a decision was clearly made to uphold quality over quantity, some of the events appear to have gotten lost in the snow. Women’s Ariels, for instance, is alarmingly easy to master, with perfect runs conceivable on a very first attempt. Having said that, this particular game truly comes into its own in multiplayer, where a head-to-head contest has the power to create that same kind of hilariously sweaty tension that is ever-present in a typical FIFA 10 penalty shoot-out.
Vancouver 2010 is slight, misjudged in places and isn’t exactly content-heavy, but it is well worth experiencing for its (not infrequent) moments of utter genius. It is also the perfect antidote to the relentless violence of most of today’s videogames, and has succeeded in taking an entire genre into fresh and enjoyable new territory.