As a kid, the Olympics were always a big thing in our house. I faintly remember Nadia in 1976, I remember screaming in the family room during the 1980 Hockey Finals, and of course there was the 1984 Olympics where somehow the absence of the Soviet bloc didn’t quite make the impact I think the Soviets wanted it to.
Of course, during those years I learned to love video games as well. An I’ve been a big fan of Olympic video games since I first played Microsoft’s Olympic Decathlon on the Apple II in 1982 and Summer Games in 1984. While not all of us can be Olympic athletes, at least we can get a taste of the thrill of victory, et. al.
Olympic games have been hit or miss since then. They’ve generally come down to a competition to see who can wiggle their joystick quicker or whose thumbs can move the quickest. Which is why I was very eager to try out London 2012 by Sega for the PS3.
When you start up London 2012, you get treated to a nice video montage that shows off the graphics. One very nice thing about this game is that it’s officially licensed with the International Olympic Committee, meaning that you’ll see all the official logos, sights, and sounds of the real Olympics. They’ve recreated a number of venues in London with uncanny realism.
I wouldn’t say that most of the graphics are exactly photorealistic, but they’re definitely nicer than any Olympic game that’s preceded it. And if you’re lucky enough to have a 3D display, you can view all the action in 3D.
There are a staggering number of events in London 2012. It doesn’t have every sport of the Olympics, of course, but there’s definitely a very good mix of events. Here’s the full list:
- Men’s 100m
- Men’s 110m hurdles
- Men’s 200m
- Men’s 400m
- Women’s 400m
- Men’s Discus Throw
- Men’s High Jump
- Women’s High Jump
- Men’s Long Jump
- Men’s Triple Jump
- Men’s Javelin Throw
- Men’s Shot Put
- Men’s 50m Freestyle
- Women’s 50m Freestyle
- Men’s 100m Freestyle
- Women’s 100m Freestyle
- Men’s 100m Breaststroke
- Women’s 100m Breaststroke
- Men’s 100m Butterfly
- Women’s 100m Butterfly
- Men’s 100m Backstroke
- Women’s 100m Backstroke
- Men’s 3m Springboard
- Women’s 3m Springboard
- Men’s 10m Platform
- Women’s 10m Platform
- Men’s synchronized 3m Springboard
- Women’s synchronized 3m Springboard
- Men’s synchronized 10m Platform
- Women’s synchronized 10m Platform
- Men’s 25m rapid fire pistol
- Men’s skeet
- Women’s skeet
- Men’s archery individual
- Women’s archery individual
- Men’s archery team
- Women’s archery team
- Men’s trampoline
- Men’s vault
- Women’s vault
- Men’s Keirin (a.k.a. cycling)
- Men’s K1 Kayak single
- Men’s Single Sculls
- Men’s Table Tennis
- Men’s Weightlifting over 105kg
- Women’s Beach Volleyball
Now while this game is advertised to have Move support, one thing to bear in mind is that only a subset of games really use the Move. I’ll cover those in depth below. But the vast majority of games, as well as the main story mode, use the Dualshock Controller. As with most previous Olympic video games, it comes down to who can manipulate their controller the best.
Each event lets you view a tutorial on how to play. For most events, it’s mainly a game of timing. For example, in the swimming competition, you press “X” to dive, mash “X” to get your initial momentum, pull back on the “L” and “R” joysticks to do your strokes, press “O” to turn, and press “X” to lunge.
Similarly, for the running activities, you press “X” to start, mash “X” with the right cadence to keep your runner going, and lunge using the “L” joystick at the end.
Overall the controls were pretty intuitive and easy to learn, but did feel a bit dated.
There are a couple different game modes. “Olympic Games” is more or less the “story mode” which lets you play 20 events over several days against CPU opponents at easy, medium, or hard level. You choose which country you’ll be competing for, and you can even customize athletes on your team (unfortunately it looks like all the names are made up; it probably would have been cost-prohibitive to get approval for actual names and likenesses). Then, you choose two events from a short list of events on each day to compete. Your goal, of course, is to win as many medals as possible. As with the real Olympics, you need to qualify first and then if you make it, compete for the medal.
There’s “Events Play” mode, where you can select a group of events to play against the CPU, against other players, or paired up with other players on the same national team.
With “Party Play”, you can jump right into a number of activities that are most suitable for multiple players, including javelin, trampoline, kayak , keirin, skeet, table tennis, and 100m.
“Online Play” is a mode where you can actually compete against others on the PSN Network. You can compete in random events, a custom event, or even take place in a tournament against friends or random players. When I tried “Quick Play” the number of players to compete against were pretty sparse (it took a few minutes for the system to find someone for me to compete against), but that should change as more copies of the game are sold. What’s cool about this is that because the game is sold all around the world, chances are the players are really from countries they represent.
When speaking of the game solely in terms of using the Dualshock controller, it’s fun enough, but really not much different than every Olympic game that preceded it back. That said, the graphics and realism alone put this in a class of its own.
I’ll spend the rest of the time talking about the portion of the game that had Move support.
The part of the game I was personally most interested in was the games that had Move support. Sadly, Move support is really relegated to one part of the game called “Motion Play Party” mode, where you can play a subset of events against up to 3 other players with the Move or against the CPU. The events supported are:
- 25m rapid fire pistol
- Archery individual
- Archery blitz
- Javelin throw
- Javelin target
- Kayak slalom
- Kayak super sprint
- Keirin battle
- Skeet attack
- Table tennis
There are also “Party Challenges” for 2 or more players where you need to compete in certain events to unlock further challenges. I would recommend learning the sports in Motion Play Party mode first.
The first Move event I tried was the 100m. 1-4 players can compete. You basically run in place with the Move controller in your hand and then lunge towards the finish line by throwing your arms back. This one actually felt a lot more natural than the awkward button mashing on the controller, and it acutally provided a pretty good workout. But it was admittedly tempting to cheat by just shaking the Move controller like a drumstick or a baton (which works better than just running in place).
They also have an event called keirin (I had to look it up on Wikipedia…it’s basically cycling on a track). This one was an ill-conceived one for the Move. The graphics and the realism are pretty good, but it’s just not a great use of the Move controller. They have you holding it sideways to steer a la Mario Kart, and accelerating by mashing the Move button. Problem is, your left hand is covering up the glowing ball on the Move controller so the system is constantly losing contact, and it’s awkward for your thumb to reach the Move button. Ironically, this would have been a lot stronger using the Dualshock controller (which has an internal gyrometer that would do just as well for steering) rather than the move.
I had high hopes for the kayaking event. I assumed that you’d be able to hold your Move controller sideways, or even hold two Move controllers, and use it like a real paddle. But instead, they have you swiping your Move controller down and to the left to paddle right and down and to the right to paddle left, almost as if you’re rowing a rowboat with one hand. It’s definitely not a natural paddling motion. I got a decent workout to my right biceps, but mainly because I kept flailing in every direction trying to figure out the controls. Perhaps if you figure out the motion controls to this one it might be fun, but it was too frustrating for me to want to try.
Table tennis was moderately fun, but don’t expect anything even close to Sports Champions. Remember the “ooh, ahh” at how realistic Sports Champions felt the first time you rotated the Move controller in your hand and and saw the paddle rotate as precisely on the screen? There’s none of that here. For that matter, most of the controls are unrealistic and unnatural. I tried playing using “real ping pong” strategies, but the CPU would clobber me. It’s only when I started doing bizarre things such as moving the paddle straight up for topspin and moving the paddle straight down for backspin (without even trying to aim or spin the ball) that I started getting competitive against the CPU. This is a major step backwards from the standard set in Sports Champions.
Where the Move excelled in this game were in the “shooting” and “throwing” games. Pistol shooting, for example, was extremely realistic and precise, something the Move is head and shoulders better at than the Kinect or the Wii.
Similarly, I found the archery to be comparable to Sports Champions, maybe a little bit better. As with Sports Champions you can use one or two Move controllers; using two is definitely the way to go. Unlike Sports champions you don’t have to make the motion to grab an arrow from your back, which I always found a little awkward in that game.
The unrealistic thing is that you can shoot random targets during the competition to get bonus points, multipliers, and extended times, although I have to say that did add to the fun and challenge. No matter how much I tried, one of the CPU players kept beating me, so if you want to win against the CPU, you need to rack up a big lead early and master hitting all the special targets in the last round.
The javelin throw was also quite realistic. You hold the Move controller like a javelin (with the glowing ball facing forward). You don’t need to run, but you do need to time your throw perfectly; the force, angle, and straightness of your throw will determine how far it goes.
I played a couple games in 3D, and the 3D effect really does a lot to enhance the game play, from seeing the depth of vision in archery to the first-person view through the kerin track at breakneck speed. If you have a 3D display, the 3D really takes the already excellent graphics to the next level and adds to the realism of the game.
Overall I’d give this game a 4 of 5 stars. It’s a solid title that any fan of the Olympics can enjoy. I’m not sure of its replay value after the Olympics are over, and aside from one or two Move games it really doesn’t have much for someone looking for PS3 Fitness. But from a fun perspective it’ll be a great game to take off the shelf and play with family and friends during the Olympics and probably for a few months after.