Review: Beijing 2008 (Sony PS3)

Beijing 2008
Publisher: Sega
Developer:Eurocom Entertainment Software
Genre: Sports
Release Date: 07/08/08


Although I’m not a sports gamer by any stretch of the imagination, I’ve always loved Olympic style collections of mini games. Konami’s Track and Field was an awesome game on the NES, and it’s sequel Track and Field II was superior in every way and remains one of my favorite games of the 8-Bit era. My favorite Olympics type collection was probably World Games by Rare for the NES. It had everything from Caber Tossing to Sumo Wrestling, and even Cliff Diving. Truly an underrated game.

SO I was pretty happy when I learned about Beijing 2008. After all,I don’t think I’ve done a sports collection review in all my years as a reviewer, and I generally enjoy Olympic style video games. There were just three problems.

1) It’s a Sega game. I haven’t been happy with Sega as a publisher for a very long time. They used to be my favorite company and I still treasure my old Sega consoles as my favorite systems, but since Sammy bought them? Well, let’s just say I have TRIED to like their games, but the only one I’ve given a true thumbs up to was the remake of Shining Force for the GBA, and that had to be brought over by Atlus! Not to mention it was over FOUR YEARS AGO.

2) The last Olympics based game Sega put out was Mario vs Sonic, and although it sold exceptionally well, the game was pretty lambasted for being a poorly made game. So Sega already had a bad reputation for Olympics games going in.

3) Eurocom developed the game. Yes, this is the company that made Duke Nukem 64 for GT Interactive, but that’s the only game of “quality” they’ve ever been associated with. Remember Predator: Concrete Jungle? Or their previous Olympics game, Athens 2004 which has an overall rating of 3.8 on Gamerankings? Truly these were some big warning signs, right?

So did all the omens of ill portent add up to one giant package of suck? Or did Beijing 2008 beat the odds and manage to come out worthy of the gold?

Let’s Review

1. Modes

There are 36 mini games in Beijing 2008 You have seven different track events (The hurdles are slightly different between men’s and women’s), eight different field events, four different swimming events, two different diving events, six different gymnastics events, three different shooting events, and then archery, judo, kayaking, table tennis, weightlifting and team cycling. That’s pretty impressive.

There are also different modes of play. The first is Training, where you can do any event on its own and just keeping practicing to raise your rank on the leaderboards. This is where you’ll spend 99% of your time. Next up is competition mode, which is multiplayer mode. This is basically training except you’re playing against real life friends. This mode can also be accessed online. The third mode is “Olympics Game Mode.” Here you’re just running through all the events with your chosen country. You’ll have to place in 3 of the 5 events of the day to move on to the next day. Here you’re just trying to get the most medals you can for the country you are playing as.

There are two other more passive modes. The first is “Customize Team” which is actually a big lie. You can’t actually customize your team. The mode is not “Make an Olympian” ala other sports games. Instead, you merely pick from a collection of twelve or so pre-rendered characters to choose for your Olympic events. BIG let down here. The other mode is Leaderboards, where you can see how you you rank world wide. So yes, you can see “AlexLucard” at #1 in the Cycling event. Well, at least I’m ranked #1 at the time of this review….

There are a crazy amount of events in Beijing 2008, and it covers damn near every event you’ll see in the Olympics save Basketball and Baseball. I was really impressed by the selection here, and I can’t think of an Olympics game SINCE Track and Field II that offered this many events to choose from.

Modes Rating: Unparalleled

2. Graphics

Wow is this game ugly. I mean REALLY ugly. Every single character in the game looks hideously deformed. I spent a good amount of my time in “Customize Team” just trying to find a character that looked remotely realistic. The faces are all lopsided or have strange exaggerated features I haven’t seen since the PSX WWF War Zone when CAW mode was first introduced stateside. Yes, we’re talking Playstation ONE rendering.

It’s also alarming to play this game with my hi-def cables in. Yes the game’s output is 720, but man does this game have more jaggies than any other PS3 game I’ve tried. There’s also a weird colour flickering at times, it’s very brief and very quick, and only in the menu’s, but it looks really tacky every time you encounter it.

Backgrounds are highly generic and badly textured. There is very little detail put into the surroundings or the audience watching your character perform. Everything from the grass surround the track and field events to the water in the swimming pools looks like early PS2 graphics.

There is not a single kind thing I can say about the graphics, and it’s uglier than anything I have played on the PS3. Even early first release PS3 games, which is really sad.

If Beijing is really going to be filled with Olympians that look like they used to work for Jim Rose this summer, then I’m glad I won’t be watching this year.

Graphics Rating: Bad

3. Sound

Oh man, it’s even worse here. There is no real sound to the game. Occasionally you’ll get an announcer with a British accent speaking, but that’s only to announce the event and your score. Other than that, this game must have been designed by the deaf.

First of all, your characters are utterly mute. They make no noise regardless of the event or the exertion you are putting out. I have NEVER encountered a person being utterly silent when they are hucking a shot put or doing the hammer throw. This is just bad form.

Sound effects are equally atrocious. The canned applause is poorly done, and sound muffled or recorded improperly. There is occasionally a fake voice over meant to replicate commentators talking about the event, but it just sounds like the “Wa Wa Wa” adults and teachers from Peanuts cartoons. Again, this is amazingly bad. Whether it’s the sound of people running, legs kicking in the water, or even a massive set of weights hitting the ground, nothing sounds realistic. Even to call it half-assing it would be a positive compliment compared to the noises actually coming out of my speakers.

Really really bad guys. Whether its the horribly annoying tracks you hear during the menus or the abominable sound effects, Beijing 2008 fails miserably in this regard.

Sound Rating: Worthless

4. Control and Gameplay

Here’s the thing. If I described this game the way I truly wanted to in my heart, this next section would be two pages of pure profanity thus alienated my exceptionally large audience of children and girls. That is how bad this game is. To say this is is the worst game I have experienced regarding controls and gameplay EVER might actually have a valid argument. Instead of being a gigantic potty mouth however, I will attempt to break down the controls without thinking about how much I would like to break down the developers into Soylent Green.

The two biggest problems revolve around button detection. First off, the game rarely if ever recognizes the actually controller buttons. Long time readers know I specialize in Shoot ‘Em Ups, and that I can press each button about 16-20 times a second. At least that’s what Star Soldier R tells me. So one would assume that considering many of these games are button mashers that I would excel at them.

But then one would be wrong, because the game recognizes maybe one out of every ten button presses I do meaning my racer or swimmer is moving like they are limbless. Thankfully you do have another option, which is toggling either control stick back and forth really quickly. SADLY, this too has issues as you have to move the stick from 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock rapidly and if you are off in the slightest, it will not recognize the input. As well, the PS3 joystick is not meant to have it’s analog sticks go that fast. Even with my hands, I accidentally would hit the Start and even the PS buttons, utterly screwing up my game.

Then there are the shoulder buttons which have the exact opposite problem as in they are exceptionally sensitive in this game. The slightest touch in Beijing 2008 is like pressing them down HARD in other PS3 games. This is a HUGE problem as for several games you need to use these buttons for jumping or for shooting, meaning just brushing against the button sets the game off.

It gets even worse when some games force you to hold R2 or L2 to charge your character before button mashing. I have no idea WHY this was put in, as it’s one of the stupidest things I have ever seen in a sports game, but it gets worse when if you hold it down too much or too hard, your character will false start. Guess what happens a lot? It’s either that or you just don’t charge at all with the shoulder button leaving you at a disadvantage to begin with, meaning you have to button mash even harder…and oh wait. That’s right. BUTTON DETECTION ISSUES.

Holy hell did I want to jump up and down on this disc.

There are also some events like Hammer Throw, Shot Put, and Discus Throw that are literally unplayable, at least with the controls the guide and demos show you. The game simply doesn’t respond to them and you basically have to do trial and error to get it to work. I still can’t tell you how I do it as it seems to CHANGE EVERY BLOODY TIME.

Some games like high jump or floor exercise involve pressing buttons at exactly the right time to earn points. Well…due to button detection issues you pretty much have to jam on each button instead of lightly press them each time a symbol shows up on the ground . Otherwise you’re doomed to a low score.

Diving is weird, because there is no description as to why your selection of dives change from round to round and why you can’t do certain dives at certain times.

Diving and evens like Rings or Uneven Bars have you take the analog sticks and move them in time with a ball. The funny thing is that your analog stick position will always start at north, and the ball you are to follow tends to be in an entirely different place, so you have to get down to it quickly. Too bad the game has speed of the analog stick detection issues.

The shooting games are awful if only because the controls in the game’s manual don’t match up with the controls in the actual game. As well, controls are sluggish save for the actual shooting of the gun, which has a hair trigger response.

Archery is the only event with solid reliable controls and that I can say passes for “working.” Judo has the button pressing issues of other games, while kayaking is simply awful all around. Table tennis is pretty unresponsive and there is no rhyme or reason to where your shot is going. Weightlifting is horribly done and involves moving your analog sticks in two opposite directions at two different speeds. Cycling is the second best game controlwise as it’s just spinning your analog stick and occasionally pressing a shoulder button….for two and a half to three minutes which is annoying as hell.

Bottom line, only two games out of thirty-six work properly and one of those is absolutely no fun at all. This is a god awful game and Sega and Eurocom should both be embarrassed for having released it.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Worthless

5. Replayability

Well there are a lot of events and you can play whatever you want whenever you want. Thus normally this would score pretty high here. However, due to the fact the game is often nigh unplayable, it loses points. After all, all the options in the world don’t mean squat if playing your game is the equivalent of having your wisdom teeth pulled without any anesthesia.

Thumbs in the middle here only because the game does have a great deal of replayability if you choose to sit through it.

Replayability Rating: Mediocre

6. Balance

Ha ha ha ha ha. HA HA HA HA HA. Considering how badly the game plays, do you really think there will be any degree of balance what so ever. Whenever you do anything against computer controlled characters, such as races, you find yourself screaming at the joystick wondering why it assumed you aren’t even touching it compared to the computer runners that are performing PERFECTLY. Totally awful.

Also, this makes Olympic mode barely playable because you have to hit certain levels with each event to move on, but considering you can barely play the game in the first place, this makes progression difficult.

I wish I could go into extreme detail here, but considering how bad the game plays, it’s obvious that its impossible to truly judge balance because there simply isn’t any in the game.

Balance Rating: Worthless

7. Originality

Olympic collections have been around since the 2600 and most likely even before then. This may have the most modes I’ve ever encountered in this type of game before, but it also plays worse than any game in this genre. How can you mess up button mashing? It should not be possible? But good Ol’ Eurocom and Sega have teamed together to DO JUST THAT.

There’s some originality if you count awful controls, or be nice with the fact that I’ve never seen team cycling in one of these games before, but all of the other events have been done before in other games, some of which have been done to death.

Although the game is not totally devoid of originality, the areas were the game has some innovation is the wrong kind of innovation, as in boldy sucking where no game has ever sucked before.

Originality Rating: Dreadful

8. Addictiveness

If it wasn’t for the sheer amount of modes in this game, Beijing Olympics would be my lowest scoring game of the year. I’d rather play Hellboy: The Science of Evil multiple times over than touch this game again.

I hated every single moment of playing this game. Even when I set a world record on the leaderboards or at least made it into the top 1000, the game was just awful in ways I couldn’t have ever imagined a track n’ field game being awful. Truly there is nothing that could make me willing play that game again. I’ll take Nightmare of Druaga over it.

Addictiveness Rating: Worthless

9. Appeal Factor

Konami’s Track and Field series was pretty popular in the days of the NES, but I don’t remember the last time an Olympics game was truly popular besides the Mario vs. Sonic one. Factor in the fact that this is a pretty controversial Olympics with a lot of people boycotting it due to it be hosted by China and their whole human rights issues, and that hurts the game even more. China has already reported far less tourism than they expected from the Olympics and there’s an expected all time low for watching the games this year. Yet again, this is another thing that hurts this game.

Finally, there is the fact that pretty much everyone who has touched this game (Save for 1Up. Shock and gasp there, eh?) has hated it.

Of course there will be people like myself who are suckered in with a double nostalgia whammy of the days when Sega wasn’t awful and the glory of old school button mashing sports games. Sadly this game is a kick in the nuts to those happier more innocent times of our youth and I can only imagine the tiniest percentage of gamers playing this game and keeping with it for more than a few days before weeping into their pillow at this maligned purchase of theirs.

Appeal Factor: Bad

10. Miscellaneous

There is nothing to like about this game. It’s ugly, has the worst audio I have heard in a game in years, is nigh unresponsive and should have never been released without a massive overhaul. There are no extras or unlockables. It’s just 36 poorly designed sports games that will put you off this subgenre forever. Run from this game and never look back as the is nothing positive I can say about this game at all.

Miscellaneous Rating: Worthless

The Scores
Modes: Unparalleled
Graphics: Bad
Sound: Worthless
Control and Gameplay: Worthless
Replayability: Mediocre
Balance: Worthless
Originality: Dreadful
Addictiveness: Worthless
Appeal Factor: Bad
Miscellaneous: Worthless
FINAL SCORE: BAD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary

For the love of whatever deity you worship, do not pick up this game. It is an unresponsive piece of crap that should have never been released. Good job Sega. You have one finally chance with me and that’s the Sonic RPG coming out later this year. If you manage to screw that up. I’m not touching any of your games again unless they are a re-release from your pre Sammy owned days. Stop releasing awful games, dammit.

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