Top critical review
19 people found this helpful
Great presentation, but a pain to play and incoherent.
on 21 July 2008
It had been quite a while since I tried an olympic-style game on a home format, mainly because I was getting cheesed off with joystick-waggling and button-mashing in earlier titles, mainly because both put a drain on the life expectancy of controllers and made me have to replace my joystick every month or so.
So here we are with the officially-licenced "Beijing 2008". It has a whole multitude of track and field events, gymnastic, aquatic (swimming and diving), shooting range and others such as judo, kayaking, archery and weight-lifting. The various events have their own controls, understandably, but the problem is that those where actions correlate (e.g. running in 100m and a run-up for the long-jump) do not always share the same control method, meaning that often you have to look at the tutorial or the instruction manual again to remind yourself of the controls in case they were not what you might have expected, which can be annoying.
Another thing that annoyed me was that, even in this day and age, when controllers cost about £20+, we are still expected to do life-expectancy-draining button-mashing or stick-waggling for things like running. Now those sticks on the XBox 360 controller, not to mention the triggers, offered scope for alternatives to these, some of which were explored in the cycling and swimming events, for example (where you rotated the sticks in opposing directions). Why didn't they also use the same sort of thing in the running events (where we are expected to waggle either stick if we chose to use it)? Surely this wouldn't have made it any less difficult while at the same time offering a less wear-and-tear-inducing way of doing the event? Or even use the techniques used in the high-jump and gymnastics floor exercise events, in which you pressed the button depicted on the ground the moment your athlete's foot (sorry!) touched it? This worked brilliantly, as it was reliant on timing, and your athlete's performance suffered if you either didn't time it quite as well or didn't press the right button at all.
While we're on the subject of consistency from one event to another, it seems very odd that you could, for example, be training in the 100m sprint in the Training section using one of the two running techniques, yet you could try exactly the same thing in the Olympics mode and it wouldn't work for you very well at all. I tried this approach with several events and I still seemed to find it considerably more difficult in the Olympics mode compared to the Training mode, which seems to defeat the object of the Training mode.
Other well-done events included: archery, where the right stick was used as if it was the arm operating the arrow (pull down on the stick to draw it back, release the stick to loose the arrow) while the left stick was used to aim while holding the right stick down, taking into account wind speed and direction; diving, where you stop the power meter at the desired power and the dive itself goes into slow-motion while you rotate the sticks to follow the on-screen markers' movements as closely as possible; and weight-lifting, in which you rotated the sticks in opposing directions to build up power for the snatch, then pulled the sticks down and rotated them outwards towards the up position for the lift (sometimes you would have to do these two actions again, particularly for the heavier weights) and used both sticks to keep two balance markers in the centre of the gauge for a short time to complete the lift.
Some events are notoriously bad, however, and one particular bugbear is the judo event. You have an on-screen arrow in which you move the stick in the direction the arrow is pointing to gain the advantage in the clinch, then you must press any of the four buttons (Y, B, X and A) in any sequence to do a throw (it's different depending on the order you press them in), and if your opponent tries to throw you you must press the first button that you would have pressed if you were doing the throw yourself -- which is as hard as it sounds. Ricidulous!
However, in each event you have a small meter which gives you a short amount of time to press either bumper to turn on slow-motion to help you pull off a technique. This is a nice feature that I do not recall seeing in a game like this before, but this alone is not enough to save the game.
Ultimately we have a well-presented (the graphics and sound are really good, as is the optional commentary) and atmospheric game which falls flat due to the uneven nature of the events, some of which are unbelievably hard. Even if you did enjoy the game, it would probably be best to wait until after the real Beijing Olympics have been and gone, when the product's price will no doubt have dropped (that's what usually happens with event-themed sports titles anyway).