The scope of events in Beijing 2008 is somewhat admirable, given that many previous Olympic titles have tended to concentrate on running and swimming events
While the modern Olympiad has an interesting and varied history, the history of Olympic computer games is rather more static – simply because nobody’s yet come up with a better method for simulating the various events than one that simply boils down to “bash buttons as frantically as possible”. SEGA hasn’t reinvented that well-thrown wheel, opting for the familiar button-mashing mechanism for its official game of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
Even with such simplistic gameplay, it’s still possible to have fun, especially in a multiplayer setting, where you can pit your speedy fingers against the button mashing skills of others. It’s hardly brain-enhancing gaming, to be sure, and the skillset essentially boils down to not getting tired (or suffering from RSI) before the other players. In the multiplayer aspect, Beijing manages OK, with online, LAN and turn-based single PC options on offer.
In multiplayer and single-player mode, there are some 38 events to compete in, ranging from track and field, through to swimming, archery and more. These are pretty standard for Olympic Games titles, and it’s plenty to explore, even though 38 is a mild fib: there’s really no difference between the 100m and 200m when they play identically, but one runs twice as long as the other.
Where Beijing 2008 goes astray, is that its interpretation of Olympic events
makes them either painful, poorly explained – or all too often both.
Take the track events, for example. These are pretty simple to implement, normally, with the player with the fastest tapping fingers taking the race. Except Beijing both demands alternating key presses to represent the movement of left and right feet, respectively. If that wasn’t tricky enough, it also includes a starting minigame with no evident timer that’s virtually impossible to win – so you always start at the back.
To pour salt into the wound, if you play the single player Olympic mode, your team starts with no stamina at all. The end effect? You’ve got to race, and race, and race before you’re even in with a shot of actually winning a race. We don’t expect it to take too long before the repetitiveness and sheer finger endurance required to compete has most people throwing in the towel.
Track and Field gets it easy, however, compared to some other events. Cycling, for example, involves twirling both analogue sticks at the same time and pace to win races – an attempt to mimic the turning of both wheels of the bicycle you’re riding, or perhaps the pedaling motion. While it’s inventive, four minutes of such twiddling is tedious. Go on, try it right now. Not much fun, is it? We’re not sure, but we suspect that Beijing 2008’s cycling game might have a place in Guantanamo Bay if they ever decide to replace waterboarding.
The scope of events in Beijing 2008 is somewhat admirable, given that many previous Olympic titles have tended to concentrate on running and swimming events, but even the events that are the most fun to play – Archery, Pistol Shooting and perhaps Table Tennis – are merely inoffensive, rather than actually being engaging to play.
Then there’s the fact that this is just about the laziest console port we’ve ever seen. The instruction manual assumes that every PC gamer has an Xbox 360 pad to hand, because that’s what’s pictured.
This follows through to the meagre in-game instructions, which still assume you’re using that pad only – and you can’t re-assign any other gamepad buttons, so your first few races might involve more than a bit of guesswork. Keyboard play is possible, in that it’s implemented, but given the circular motions that some events entail, it’s a fool’s way to play.
This Review appeared in the September, 2008 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine