London 2012: The Official Game of the Olympic Games
Developer: Sega Sports Australia
Release Date: 06/26/2012
Sega’s really made use out of the Olympic Games license like no publisher before. Not only are we getting a different sports game collection every two years, but they also are putting out the extremely popular Mario and Sonic Olympic based titles. Now with the London 2012 games upon us, Sega, has FINALLY decided to take the series in-house instead of farming it out to Eurocom, who made some truly terrible sports games like Vancouver 2010 and the deplorable Beijing 2008, which I had the misfortune to review. However, I am a bit of an junkie when it comes to Olympic themed video games, with my two favorites being Track and Field II and World Games, both for the venerable NES (and need to be released for the Virtual Console!). This meant I knew I had to be the one to review London 2012. So did London 2012 bring home the gold, or like Beijing 2008, does it fail to even place as a quality game? It’s time to find out.
There are over thirty different events in London 2012, although they can be divided into six categories: Archery (two different games), Diving (four different games), Swimming (five different games), Gymnastics (two different games), Shooting (two different games), Track and Field (ten different games), and others (six different games). My favorites are Table Tennis, Cycling, Beach Volleyball, Shot Put, both single and team Archery and Javelin. I absolutely HATE all five swimming events and the Kayak Slalom. So that’s six events I really love playing, six events I detest and roughly twenty others I enjoy. That’s a pretty good mix…although Quick Match for Online Play sure loves to put me into ones I HATE.
There are three primary modes of play. There is Olympic Mode, where you battle it out through several events each day throughout the full Olympic Games. How many per day and the total number of events varies by the difficulty setting you choose. Events Play lets you customize your own Olympics and decide what events you will play and in what order. Unlike Olympic Mode, there isn’t a qualifier that you must pass to enter into medal contention. Finally there is Challenge Mode, where you and up to four friends compete in a series of events. If you score high enough (as a collective team), you unlock new challenges to play through.
The game offers up to four player co-op/competitive play locally and up to eight players online. It’s really hard to find enough people for a Quick Match (which gives you random events) however, let alone a Custom Match. It took me several hours to get into a Quick Match game and it ended up being weight lifting and Triple Jump. Oddly enough nearly everyone was playing as France.
All in all, what’s here is fun. I blasted through most of the game in a few hours. After that all that remained was trying to outdo my personal scores and/or go for a world record (Shot Put and Weight Lifting). The lack of people playing online really dampens the experience, but that’s hardly the product’s fault. The majority of the events are fun, if spotty control-wise and if you’re a fan of mini-game collections or Olympic style video games, you’ll probably enjoy all that London 2012 has to offer.
Modes Rating: Good
I really love the opening image you are given in the game – that of a competitor standing atop the diving board looking down. It’s quite striking and highly detailed. Unfortunately this image is the best the game ever looks. Now that doesn’t mean the game looks bad; far from it in fact. It’s just that’s the best visual in the game.
The backgrounds in the game are really sharp. Things like the cycling and archery court look almost as if they are snapshots taking from life. The pools and kayak slalom courses also look incredible. I was really happy with how all the courts and locations looked. Character models however are another story. The animations, movements and physical features of characters all look…off, regardless of events. It doesn’t really matter in the long run how a character’s face looks, but they still look as if they were all made with the “Create-A-Wrestler” aspect from a WWE game. Most end up being very gangly with their heads coming off their necks from odd angles. You won’t end up caring too much, because London 2012 is about the action and so you won’t spend a lot of detail critically analyzing what the competitors look like (unless you are a reviewer), but they really don’t hold up when compared to a lot of other character models released in the past few years.
In all, the visuals are enjoyable. In the case of an Olympic game, the background and court designs are more important than the physical appearance of the athletes. I’m happy with how London 2012 looks, and it’s a massive improvement over Beijing 2008. It’s not the best looking game out there for the PS3, but Olympics fans will be satisfied with what SSA has given them.
Graphics Rating: Good
The audio in the game is a mixed bag. The two commentators (one male and one female) have excellent voices and their posh accents are perfect for a British sports event. However, there’s not enough dialogue recorded per event and so you’ll hear the same lines over and over again. Sometimes you’ll even hear the same line right after it was said! Still, the voice acting done by these two is sharp and much better than I’ve seen in anything comparable. Sure it has a long way to go before the voice acting hits the level of what’s in Baseball and Football games, but those titles are released yearly while we only get an Olympic game every four years, so there isn’t as much of a chance to improve things. As well, it’s Sega Sports Australia’s first game of this caliber, so I’m willing to be lenient on the amount of lines here. I’ll take quality over quantity any day.
Sound effects, such as running, hitting the high jump bar, diving into a pool of water, et all, are nicely done. This is definitely another area where things are noticeably improved from the last Summer Olympics video game. Everything sounds realistic and recognizable. This is probably the best a Summer Olympics title has sounded.
Finally there is the music. There actually aren’t a lot of tracks in this game, but what’s here is decent enough. The most common track is a pretty serene one and although it’s catchy, I would have expected something more upbeat for a sporting game. I was also impressed that the game has all the national anthems for the countries that appear in the game. They sound good although it will take a long time before you hear all of them. I was saddened that the game was missing the theme song from Chariots of Fire, which has been used as a quasi-official theme song for the London 2012 games. Odd this doesn’t have it but Track & Field for the NES did…
Basically the audio aspects of London 2012 fit the same pattern as the other categories we’ve looked at so far: It’s much improved over Beijing 2008, but there’s certainly room for improvement. Olympic fans will be happy with what is here, especially if they owned/played Beijing 2008, but I do hope that the 2016 video game will have more of everything.
Sound Rating: Enjoyable
4. Control and Gameplay
Beijing 2008 had some of the worst controls and button detection issues I have ever seen in a video game. It was nigh unplayable at times. It was just awful in every way you can imagine. So I’m happy to report that this isn’t the case with London 2012. Yes there are some odd control choices and some very noticeable control detection issues on at least two events, but everything is improved over the last game and so that’s a positive. You can really see this in things like the Shot Put and Discus Throw. These didn’t really work last time and now they play wonderfully. Diving is also greatly improved and shooting no longer has the insane hair trigger issues. Table Tennis is extremely well done this time around instead of sporting a complete and utter disregard for the lack of physics as was seen in 2008. Weightlifitng can actually be done more or less this time as you are using analog sticks in tandem instead of going in opposite directions at two different speeds. I could go on and on about how superior London 2012 is to Beijin 2008, but I think you get the picture.
I really like what SSA has done with the running based events. Instead of button mashing as hard as you can to win, they’ve added a degree of strategy. The faster the tap, the harder you run. However, too hard and you sap your stamina and slowdown because you’ve pushed yourself too much. So the key is to press the button at a steady and fast, but not TOO fast rate to win. This also applies to Cycling, hurdles and hucking events. No longer is the winner whoever has a turbo controller. This makes one have to have skill rather than just speed at mashing and I’m glad of that.
On the other hand, SSA made the same terrible mistakes in some events than Eurocom did and that was far too much reliance on the analog sticks instead of the D-Pad. Analog sticks are well known for not being as accurate as the D-Pad and there are some events where the detection of what you pressed is painfully off from what the game registers. A great example of this is with the High Jump where the goal is to flick the left analog stick as close to sixty degrees as possible. Yet you can flick it in the same manner three times in a row only to watch the game register 90 degrees, 10 degrees and 75 degrees – none of which you pressed. The same is true with weightlifting. It registers fine up until 201 kilograms and then it will read lifting straight up and something like a 60-75 degree angle, which is insane. I can’t believe it is 2012 and the only sports game to get weightlifting controls done right was World Games for the NES. Seriously, for the love of god D-Pad > Analog sticks for precision and accuracy. Ask any fighting game or bullet hell shooter fan and they’ve emphatically agree. Not a good decision here and it’s worse with swimming where you have to get into a rhythm with both analog sticks only to constantly find the game can’t register your detection proper after a certain speed. Sigh.
Don’t let that one paragraph throw you off though – although there are still a number of events that utterly suck to play through, London 2012 is a joy compared to Beijing 2008 and I’m pretty happy with my experiences, although my sheer hate for the last Summer Olympics video game may be clouding my judgement. Basically we can divide all of the events into three categories:
Well Done: Individual Archery, Team Archery, 3m Springboard Diving, 10m Platform Diving, Trampoline, Vault, 25m Rapid Fire Pistol, Skeet Shooting, 100m Dash, 110m Hurdles, 200m Dash, 400m Dash, Discus Throw, Javelin Throw, Shot Put, Beach Volleyball, Cycling, Table Tennis
Mediocre: 3m Synchronized Springboard Diving, 10m Synchronized Platform Diving, Long Jump, Triple Jump, Kayak, Rowing
Badly Done: 50m Freestyle, 100m Backstroke, 100m Breaststroke, 100m Butterfly, 100m Freestyle, High Jump, Wightlifting
So overall, the majority of the events are well done and worth playing. Again, there is some definite room for improvement and it’s sad some of these games peaked in the 8-Bit Era, but this is so much better than Beijing 2008, it’s not even funny.
Control & Gameplay Rating: Enjoyable
With over thirty different events to play through, the ability to customize your own Olympic Schedule, four player local co-op/competitive and up to eight player online play, you can spend a lot of time with London 2012, even if your goal is just to better your score in every event. The problem is that after you play each mini game a few times, you know what to do and how to guarantee yourself a gold medal as long as the event is playable. The AI isn’t very hard at all, especially in Versus events like Table Tennis and Volleyball, so really, you’ll just be competing against yourself and for many gamers in this day and age, that can be a bit boring.
Take my own experience for example. The first two days I had London 2012, I played it four several hours at a time. I loved trying all the new events, trying to beat world and Olympic records (or at least my own) and trying to get nine stars (maximum possible) in Challenge Mode or actually find someone online to play against. After that though, my interest dropped off pretty quickly. I was either insanely good at events or could barely play them with no middle ground. Even some events that I sucked at, I was still “good enough” to score a medal because of how weak the computer opponents are. Don’t get me wrong – I had fun with London 2012. it just won’t be a game I keep in my collection or will probably pick up very often while it’s still in my home. Finding people online to play with is far harder than it should be (which might imply poor sales of the game) and there’s only so much that I can do against myself of a very weak AI before I get bored.
There’s lot of potential with London 2012 if you have local or online friends to play with. There are over thirty different events in the game after all. However the events are short and don’t have a lot of lasting appeal. Olympics fans will have fun with this for a short time and then move on to something else.
Replayability Rating: Decent
As I mentioned before, there’s not a lot in the way of A.I.in London 2012. After you play an even a few times, you know exactly how the computer will respond and if you replay a multi character event, like a race, it will unfold exactly the same each time with each player getting the same time as they did before. Same with something like weight lifting and high jump. You will KNOW the max each country tops out at, so you can just go for that, or a fraction higher and spend the other two turns dicking around in an attempt to set a record. The fact the game plays itself exactly the same way each time is both peculiar and disturbing because there are no variables to challenge you. This means London 2012 is still a LOT of fun in the short term, but the longer you play it, the more apparent the flaws are.
Balance Rating: Mediocre
Unfortunately, the Olympic Games are millennia old. As well, Olympic video games have been around almost since the beginning of the industry. London 2012 reinvents a few events but it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. There are supposedly six new events that have never been included in an Olympic themed video game before, but Beach Volleyball has been done many other times before, cycling was done last year (I was ranked #1 in the world at one point), rowing and trampoline have been in other video games and the two synchronized platform diving gamesare merely variation on something that has been done repeatedly. So no, there’s not a lot here in terms of originality, but then, the Olympics don’t really change much each time they occur. They have classic sporting events for a reason. It also helps that we only get a game like this every few years to increase the novelty. So that’s something positive to be said here I guess.
All in all, I appreciate Sega Sports Australia trying to bring some new events to the game, but Sega Sports being Sega Sports, I kind of was hoping for an arcade style Baseball or perhaps even a Decathlon. That would really shake things up. Oh well, here’s hoping Rio De Janeiro 2016 will try for some of the less done events like wrestling, equestrian racing/jumping, badminton, boxing, fencing, field hockey, handball, tennis, relay racing and so on.
Originality Rating: Bad
As I said earlier, you’ll really get sucked into London 2012 at first. With over thirty different events to play through, alternate costumes to unlock, and trying to set new world and Olympic records, it will feel as if the game is insanely deep and you’ll be playing it for weeks. Unfortunately, you’ll speed through everything in a few hours – longer if you’re a trophy hunter. After two full Olympic Games and a few times through creating my own, playing online and doing a few Challenges, I had pretty much done all there was to do in the game. Couple that with the predictable A.I. and the lack of anyone playing online, and you’ll find yourself done with London 2012 after a few days…maybe a few weeks if you are a sports/Olympics junkie. The game is a LOT of fun at first, but it just doesn’t have the staying power of some older, better games in the genre.
Addictiveness Rating: Mediocre
9. Appeal Factor
I remember as a little kid that games like Track and Field were hugely popular and financial successes for the companies making them. As time has gone on though, the audience for Olympic style video games seem to have gone down dramatically. There was next to no one playing Beijing 2008 and those that did play it were badly burned by the experience. London 2012 is a MUCH better game and one I enjoyed playing for the most part, but I love this type of game and I also realize I’m in a small niche group. The few times I played online there were very few people from North America on. The majority of gamers playing were French and Belgian, although the country prode awards show the best players are American and then Canadian. Yet I never saw another player from each. I have enough “friend requests” on my PS3 from people met playing the game to confirm they were all Eurogamers. It would be interesting to see why this game is so much more popular over there (especially in France!), but that’s an article for another time.
It’s been a VERY long time since there has been a quality Olympics themed video game. This is the first this generation and I think I might have to go back several more to find another I could recommend as even a rental. Sure London 2012 gets old quick because of the lack of any A.I., but it’s a lot of fun for a while and I would definitely suggest this as a rental to those that enjoy sports games. I don’t necessarily think the game is a must buy at full MSRP, but when it hits $19.99 or even $29.99, it might be worth investing in. Again, London 2012 is MUCH better than Beijing 2008, but there’s still work to be done before the Olympics Games franchise is back up to a must-play experience like it was in the 80s and 90s.
Appeal Factor: Decent
All and all, Sega Sports Australia did a decent job their first time out. London 2012 is a far superior game to all the Olympic titles Eurocom put out. Although London 2012 IS a flawed game with, it’s still a fun one and I have extremely high hopes for Rio 2016 as they now have four years to work out the kinks and give us a game worth of the 8-Bit Konami era of Track & Field titles. London 2012 might not be a keeper or something with any long term playing value, it is exceptionally fun in the short term. If the game had some variables in the computer A.I. to keep you on your toes, it would be a lot more engaging. Instead. London 2012 makes for a nice little rental or something to tide you over for the next month until the real Olympic Games begins.
Miscellaneous Rating: Decent
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Appeal Factor: Decent
FINAL SCORE: Decent Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
London 2012 may be the official video game of the Olympics, but it’s definitely not going to be a contender for a gold medal. It is vastly improved over Beijing 2008, so that’s something to celebrate, but there’s still room for improvement. It’s a decent enough little game that will make fans of Olympic video games happy, but the more you play the more you realize the A.I. is so completely scripted that it will make the same exact choices every time. Controls are hit or miss as some events are spot on, while some are just downright terrible to play, Still, as a first outing by Sega Sports Australia, I’m happy with what’s here and can’t wait to see what they do with Rio De Janeiro 2016. This might not be a keeper, but for a weekend rental or an eventual budget person, it’s not a bad choice.