There's something about video games based on the Olympics that feel disingenuous to me. When it comes to the Olympic Games we're talking about athletes that have devoted their entire lives to this one thing, honing their skills for this one moment. Yet video games suggest that you can master the skills by simply retrying a couple of times. I've heard of practice makes perfect, but this is ridiculous. Perhaps I shouldn't take this Olympic Games bias out on Vancouver 2010, but Sega is hardly the first company to make a bad game based on the Olympics. Instead I should view Vancouver 2010 for what it is - a horrendous PlayStation 3 game that sucks all of the fun out of this joyous sporting event.
The 2010 Winter Olympic Games is made up of 15 different sports, including everything from alpine skiing to speed skating. Unfortunately Sega's Vancouver 2010 only offers eight of the sports, excising curling, figure skating, ice hockey cross-country skiing and much more. What we're left is ski jumping, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, short track speed skating, apline skiing, bobsleigh, skeleton and, of course, the luge. Some of these sports offer alternate heats and events to play, so in total there are 14 total gold medals to earn.
Vancouver 2010 suffers from the exact same problems we've come to expect from countless other games based on the Olympics. Here we have a series of mini-games all based around the snow and ice. Unfortunately, each of them has their own special control scheme and quirks. To make things worse, the game just throws you into each sport after only a short optional tutorial. Some events (likes the skeleton, luge and bobsleigh) give you only a limited amount of control over the action on screen, so it will take a few tries before you get the hang of it.
On the other hand, some of the events are painfully simple. The skiing events are a perfect example of this, since you do little more than hold the gas pedal and steer. Maybe it's not a gas pedal, but the skiing is essentially boiled down to you holding the R2 button to speed up and jamming on the L2 button to take tight corners. The snowboarding is also easy to grasp right out of the gate.
Unfortunately many of the events are overcomplicated. Gone are the days when all you did was mash the face buttons, this Olympics game is needlessly complicated. I point my finger at the short track speed skating, which requires you to mash one button to go, then, using the same button, try and match the rhythm of the character's stride. Also, there's a lean button and a lunge button, just in case it's a photo finish. All of these different rules and buttons take a lot of the fun out of this sports game, leaving you with a series of events that range from "terrible" to "just okay".
It's not that there aren't good events in this game; I had a lot of fun with the skiing and snowboarding sections. The problem is that each event is over far too quickly. It's not like there are tons of courses to race in the alpine skiing, it's really just you racing the same path every time. Had these modes been fleshed out it would have given you incentive to practice the controls and continue to go for the gold. Unfortunately that's not the path they took.
It won't take long before you've mastered each of the events and taken the gold for your country. Unfortunately, after there isn't a whole lot left to do. The game gives you three different modes. The first is a training mode that allows you to play each event as many times as you want without worrying about medals and honor. The next mode is a more traditional Olympic Games mode, which has you playing the events with or without a friend. When you're done with that, there's the challenge mode, which gives you a series of increasingly difficult tasks to achieve in each sport.The problem is that it won't take you more than a couple of hours to play through all three of these modes. The most time consuming mode is the challenge mode, but outside of a few tasks towards the end of the challenges, this isn't as difficult as the name makes it sound. In one challenge you will be asked to average at least an 80 (out of 100) when performing the ski jump. In another challenge you need to beat a certain time while in a bobsleigh. In one of the more inspired challenges you race to the bottom of the mountain with your controls reversed. While there are definitely a few inventive challenges to master, you'll discover that many of the challenges simply require you to master the controls of the event, something that makes this feel more like a glorified tutorial.
Some people may find the game's multiplayer options a source of replay, however most events involve each player taking turns. The offline multiplayer is poorly implemented and doesn't offer enough modes to keep the average Olympics fan interested past the first day. Maybe the online mode is better. I wouldn't know, I had an impossible time connecting with real people over the game's network. Bummer.
The one saving grace in Vancouver 2010 is the graphics, which are outstanding. This is without a doubt the best looking Olympics game yet, which admittedly isn't saying a whole lot. The game does a good job of capturing the speed associated with many of the downhill events, while also finding ways of making the white snow a little different for each sport. The character models are also fantastic, even though I was never sure if I was playing a real person or not. The game comes alive with an interest mix of contemporary rock songs and the standard sound effects. Unfortunately there's not much in the way of announcers or dialog. Even though it's a little plain, the presentation is one of the few things going for Vancouver 2010.
Unfortunately good graphics aren't enough to check out Vancouver 2010. While there are more than a few worthwhile events found on the disk, there's not enough diversity to keep you coming back after the initial play through. None of the events feel intuitive and the title's in-game tutorial is useless. I definitely hope the real Olympics aren't as disastrous as this PlayStation 3 game. Forget about going for the gold, Vancouver 2010 is still dreaming about bronze.