Vancouver 2010: The Official Videogame of the Winter Olympic Games Review (Xbox 360)
With ongoing economic instability and a recent natural disaster taking place, you may hear some criticism directed toward the Winter Olympics. While the athletic competition and international camaraderie is certainly of value, some may see the Games as an unnecessary expenditure, taking money away that could be better used elsewhere.
I will save the politics for other Web sites, but know this: This exact situation is happening on a much smaller scale at your local game store. If you buy Vancouver 2010: The Official Videogame of the Winter Olympic Games, you will wish that you had spent your own money on something more important. This game, despite some high points, is one of the most overpriced titles you will find during the next four years.
Continued Traditions and Lowered Expectations
If you have picked up any Olympic game in your lifetime, you will know what to expect: button-mashing and timing events themed around the snowier sports of the north. There are 14 events, most of them being the downhill variety. Each requires some amount of steering, timing or button pushing to grab the gold -- nothing surprising here.
However, I will get right to the reason why this game is not worth your $50. While the events are somewhat fun (though inherently repetitive), there is nothing connecting any of them together. There is no career mode; there is no true Olympic Games mode; and there is no customization to speak of. You pick a sport and play, or you make a "play list" and play (think Mario Kart racing circuits). And after doing this 14 times or so, you may not find a good reason to come back.
Even the last Summer Games collection had an interesting, but flawed, team mechanic where you managed skills and fatigue -- not to mention Mario and Sonic's Festival Mode looks like Out of the Park Baseball in comparison.
Granted, this game is a good multiplayer diversion. However, these types of "track and field" games are inherently good to play in groups -- or at least much better than playing against the AI. But as a "game," this is nothing more than a mini-game collection with an Olympic theme.
Looks Like Gold...
Which is too bad, because as a polished product, this game is pretty nice to look at. The menus are replete with Olympic flourishes; the in-event graphics and replays are pretty stunning and really capture the feel of a snowy windswept slope; and the falling snow over a dusky snowboarding course is especially nice.
Plus, gameplay-wise, this game does what it needs to do. The controls are pretty tight, and pre-event tutorials are interactive and helpful. It is also a challenging game that will require some time and practice to master.
...But Will Not Medal
But again, without some mode that rewards you for your mastery, I am afraid that most people will not find a reason to master an event. The events, in comparison to the sports at the Olympic Summer Games, get pretty repetitive. Is snowboarding down a course that different from skiing down the same course? Now, the game does try to to make all of the events different, for instance, varying whether you steer using the triggers or sticks, but the differences are only skin deep.
Some of the events are a little more intuitive than others, but this is nothing new for this type of game. For example, the downhill events sometimes mimic a racing game, but the speed skating seems overly complicated.
I wish there were more diversity among the events. Even though figure skating is usually not done well, it is at least different from the downhill events. And, oh yeah, where is the curling?
The closest thing to a lasting experience is a challenge mode where there are three "mountains" to climb. You are scored in different ways, including fastest total speed or amount of snowmen hit (seriously). While this may give you motivation to play the game for a longer amount of time, the mode functions most similarly to Madden Moments. But would you pay full price for Madden if it just had the Moments, and not a dynasty mode?
Or perhaps a better metaphor: Would you pay $50 for Wii Sports Resort with no motion controls, less diversity and prettier graphics? If the answer is yes, and you are a die-hard Olympic fan who lives with other die-hard Olympic fans, maybe this game is for you. For the rest of us, it is simply not worth the money.
On the Slopes: A relatively tight and polished gameplay experience, although one that may quickly become repetitive. The game is at its best when you play it with others.
Graphics: The strength of this title. Everything looks good and animates well. Some lighting and visual effects are subtle enough to be effective without feeling gimmicky. Replays are a nice touch.
Sound Design: Unobtrusive music is only made worse by a lack of any kind of commentary. I did not even hear the Olympic theme song...
Entertainment Value: Terrible. 14 events. A basic challenge mode. No career or festival-type mode. All for $50?
Learning Curve: The events are not easy. Expect to practice (especially since that is about all there is to do) before you begin earning medals. The tutorials help here.
Online: Standard features include ranked matches and leaderboards.
Score: 5.5 (Slightly Above Average)