Torino 2006 Review (Xbox)
Every four years, the world's best at their respective sport gather for the Olympics. Torino, Italy is the site of this year's games, and I was ecstatic when I was presented with the opportunity to review 2K Games' foray into multi-sport competition. With classics in the past, such as Track and Field and California Games, does Torino 2006 live up to the Olympic sized-hype? I was anxious to find out.
Up close, Torino 2006 delivers with great character models and some top-notch scenery. However, seeing the character models in motion is another story. While the player models are well constructed, some clunky animations will leave you scratching your head. I didn't notice any framerate hiccups on my way to winning numerous gold medals. You also will not find any Dolby Digital or HDTV support, but what do you expect? The game is only $20!
Perhaps the area I am most disappointed with is the presentation. This is the Winter Olympics, the largest spectacle on snow and ice, and it takes place once every four years. However, if it weren't for the Olympic rings on the case, you wouldn't know it. The game fails miserably trying to replicate the Winter Olympics. There are no Opening or Closing Ceremonies. The athletes you must compete against are fictitious, but that's not the worst of it. Their names consist of "computer 1", "computer 6", "computer 2", etc. Seriously, how do you expect me to build a rivalry against the "computer 1" bobsleigh team from Germany? Once you finally make it to the medal stand, you'll discover that national anthems also failed to make the cut. Furthermore, the commentary for Torino 2006 is extremely boring, and offers very little to the actual event you are competing in. You'll get a brief overview of each venue before the competition, but after playing the game for an hour or two, the sounds of Torino 2006 become repetitious, and quite predictable.
The gameplay options for Torino 2006 are limited to competitions consisting of 15 or 9 events, or competing in a single event. There is also a Create-A-Competition mode that allows you to create your own Winter Olympics competition by selecting from each of the available single events. However, once you start a competition, you must finish it. There is no option to save in the middle of a competition.
The events are spread across eight different disciplines:
1) Alpine Skiing
2) Ski Jumping
3) Speed Skating
4) Cross-Country Skiing
8) Nordic Combined
In a day and age where the Winter Olympics are dominated by ice hockey, figure skating, and even snowboarding, this list leaves a lot to be desired. Of the 15 events, 9 of them involve skiing.
While Olympic games in the past mostly relied on button-mashing, Torino 2006 doesn't. The speed skating events require the user to rapidly press the A and B buttons to maximize starting speed. After that, you'll alternate pressing the two buttons in rhythm to maximize performance. The biathlon, nordic combined, and cross country events factor in fatigue, and are the most difficult of the events to master. If you don't pace yourself early, you'll be sucking wind just minutes into the race.
The easiest events have to be the luge and bobsleigh competitions. To start the luge, press the A button when the energy bar is full. From that point on, all this competition demands is the ability to stay on the track, and avoid bumping into the side walls. The object of the bobsleigh competition is to is pretty much identical to the luge. Get to the bottom of the track in the fastest time, while avoiding the side walls. However, the start to the competition is different. To maximize your take-off speed, you must press the A button when the icon is in the center of the displayed circle. Both events seemed mindless, as I was able to medal consistently despite scraping the walls for the majority of the races.
Alpine skiing consists of the downhill, Super-G, slalom, and giant slalom competitions. As with the luge competition, at the start of the race, pressing the A button when the energy bar is full will create a more powerful start. From there, the object is to get to the bottom of the mountain with the fastest time. On your way, you'll have to pass through gates, which make maneuvering at high speeds challenging. However, after a couple attempts at it, you'll once again find that the competitions are ridiculously easy.
The last of the disciplines is the ski jumping competition. There are two hills to compete on, a 90m normal hill, and a 120m large hill. The object of the ski jump competition is to achieve the furthest jump, and look good while doing it! Form plays a huge factor in your distance. As your jumper races down the hill, you'll use the left thumbstick to maintain balance, by keeping a the ball in the center of the curved bar at the bottom of the screen. Once you reach the peak of the jump, you'll have to press the A button to initiate the jump. While your jumper is soaring through the air, you'll again have to use the left thumbstick to keep balance. Pressing A as you approach the ground will land your jumper safely. Sound easy? It is, but I thought this was the most enjoyable of the disciplines.
Despite having a fair amount of competitions to compete in, and the ability to play with up to four players off-line, 2K Sports and 49Games decided against making Torino 2006 Xbox Live compatible. They also elected not to support online Leaderboards, which doesn't allow you to compare your best times with other gamers from around the world. The absence of any online capability really detracts from the fun factor, especially since the computer AI you must compete against on a regular basis lacks any semblance of personality.
In the end, Torino 2006 is a sad attempt by 2K Sports and 49Games to cash in on the Winter Olympic craze. The lack of gameplay options, presentation, and the simplistic gameplay are just too much to look past. Even with a $20 price tag stamped on the cover, it's hard to recommend this game as anything more than a rental.