PS3 Review: Vancouver 2010 - The Official Video Game of the Olympic Winter Games

The Olympics are about one thing: worldwide athletic competition. I don’t care what anyone says about it being a time for nations to get together for a public display of unity or some other lofty reason. Each nation wants to prove it’s the best in an endless array of events. Period. And, fans worldwide gather around the TV wondering if their country will take home another medal. Some countries rejoice just to see their country take home one medal. That’s one of the thrills of watching the Olympics: the great competitive upsets. Just like watching the Superbowl, people enjoy seeing the underdog reign victorious, small countries rising out of the shadows to take down athletic powerhouses. Vancouver 2010 may be The Official Video Game of the Olympic Winter Games, but it hardly comes close to realizing the intense thrill of worldwide competition.

Let’s start with the basics. The Olympics feature nearly 100 countries battling it out for medal supremacy. Vancouver 2010 features only 24 countries. The designers have systematically eliminated the whole concept of “the underdog.” If they don’t consider you a gold medal contender, you’re not even invited to be in the game. This puzzled me for a good 10 minutes. I just couldn’t believe that there were only 24 countries to choose from. Maybe, GDP was a factor to get included? It honestly doesn’t make sense. All that they have to change is the texture-mapped outfits on your in-game Avatars. Okay, maybe that’s not it. The designers would also have to get the national anthem for the countries they excluded since the game plays the anthem for all gold medal winners (if you’re a part of the Big 24 at least).

Oh well, so over fifty percent of the countries that compete in the Winter Olympics were excluded from the game. At least you can play through the wealth of winter competitions featured at the games, right? Wrong! There are only 14 events in Vancouver 2010, most of which feel like carbon copies. The game boils down to four events: skiing, bobsleighing, speed skating and ski jumping. Everything else will have you experiencing déjà vu like being stuck in the Matrix. Top that off with a lackluster “Olympics Game” mode and you’ve got yourself a relatively rudimentary game.

In the Olympics mode, you can compete in all 14 events in order or randomize them. The skiing events, which also include snowboarding since they are so similar, do an excellent job of simulating the downward speed and thrill of the winter slopes. You start off with a little button mashing to build up speed then you’re on your way down the slopes navigating through a few intense turns. Bobsleighing, which includes Luge events, has a very similar button mashing start. Then the navigation switches up as you do your best to gain speed without toppling your bobsleigh. It’s really easy to topple your bobsleigh, resulting in a disqualification. So, this event will take the most amount of practice. Jumping events boil down to simply pressing the right button at the right time, while speed skating becomes a frantic button-mashing marathon. Overall, the gameplay hardly changes between the events making it extremely redundant.

The graphics are very good. You’ll get fluid motions from your on-screen avatars. The terrains all look brilliant in HD. Probably one of the coolest features is the first person perspective. You get the insane rush of flying down a hill, or bumping into a snowman in one of the fantasy challenges. They also modify your vision somewhat to simulate ski goggles.

Challenge mode is where you’ll get the best bang for your buck. There are three levels of slopes and several fun challenges. Most of these are time-attack challenges, but there are a few challenges that bring back the fun of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games. I feel like if they were going to include fantasy challenges they should have went all the way and created more over-the-top surreal events.

The music feels like generic pop music that has been rehashed over the past decade or so in games. There is also no commentary as you ski, which would have been a nice touch to this already bare-bones game. Vancouver 2010: The Official Video Game of the Olympic Winter Games comes up short on nearly every front. This game is about as plain vanilla as you can get. Challenges are a nice addition, but if that was going to be the selling point the designers should have went wild to create a vast array of objectives to conquer. Alas, they stopped before they even got down the slope.

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