There’s something rather exciting about the Winter Olympics. Sure, the Summer version might be all about skill, precision and stamina but it’s hard to beat the thrill of watching grown men hurtle head-first down tunnels made of ice at ridiculous speeds with nothing to steer them (let alone slow their descent) apart from the shoes on their feet and a helmet so thin you can see their hair turn white during the action replay.
Eurocom, to their credit, have done their level best to achieve this same sense of reckless abandon with Vancouver 2010, the official games of this year’s snow-bound Olympics. Whilst it’s true that the recent weather meant we could have very well held the event in Blackburn at least Canada has the scenery best equipped for 70mph motion blur – trees, lumberjacks and moose all look great in your periphery as you scream down whatever hill on which you’ve chosen to risk your life for each particular event.
Likewise, the snow is most likely the finest representation of the powdery stuff we’ve had since Horace took his first steps on two wooden planks and although the game’s only running at 30 frames per second the camera shake, blur effects, Dual Shock vibration and deft use of the rear speakers all collaborate to make the feeling of speed as real as you can possibly get without a passport and a woolly hat. The animation’s a little wooden, but for the most part Vancouver’s a decent enough looking sports game.
Where things start to take a turn for the worse is the event selection, and whilst it’s true that the better disciplines like the slalom (with its Zen-like rhythm and superb physics) excel, the toboggan, luge and skeleton are all far too alike (and not really very interesting) and the skating as dull as the real thing. Other events sit somewhere between “let’s have a go” for the downhill snowboard racing and “no, one go’s fine” for the bizarre trick event that requires unintentionally daft use of the analogs.
So, with a handful of great modes there’s a certain amount of enjoyment to be had. In multiplayer (either locally, over a LAN or, naturally, online) competition is rife and the game tracks your standings after each event to ensure that you’re always trying to better your opponents. Some modes offer split screen simultaneous play and some require waiting it out, but highlights include the brilliantly decisive ski jump and the aforementioned slaloms, both of which are compellingly addictive with some friends.
The interface is slick, too – load times are quite short (there’s no install option on PS3) the menu system is gorgeous and the on-screen overlays are nicely done. Tutorials are on offer for each discipline and although the controls stay the same as much as possible (right trigger to crouch/go faster/lean, left to slow/lean and the analog sticks to steer) it’s well worth doing the practice runs a few times as the game shows you how to get the most of out the various elements of each mode.
Sadly, apart from the game’s Challenge mode (a pyramid-based affair) which offers a few tweaks on the core events in the game there really isn’t that much to get your teeth into – there’s a practice mode and an ‘Olympics’ mode, but the latter is just a series of events stuck together – there’s little of the Olympic atmosphere and it feels like nothing more than a few practice sessions interspersed with leaderboards. Multiplayer will extend the life somewhat and there are online leaderboards, but it’s still a bit bare-bones for a full price game.
Thankfully Vancouver kept one ace up its sleeve: first person view. All events have this innovative feature (just tap Circle or ‘B’ in game) and for the first time in a game like this you can experience the various sports through the eyes of the athlete. As you’d imagine this enhances the feeling of immersion and the sense of speed and has been developed with a real attention to detail – you can even hear your on-screen heartbeat as you squint through the plastic goggles towards the horizon. A nice touch, and most welcome.
But that’s really it – Vancouver might offer some good events but there are also a few stinkers and the rest are either variations of the good ones, the bad ones or somewhere in-between. If you’re a big sports fan you’ll obviously get more out of this than most, and it’s certainly authentic with regards to the official graphic design and typography of this year’s Olympics but just don’t go in expecting SEGA and Eurocom to have gone over the top with regards to atmosphere, because there really isn’t any off the piste.
- Nice graphics, great sense of speed
- Slalom and Ski Jump are brilliant
- Local multiplayer is a bonus
- First person view is fantastic
- Some dull events
- Lack of a real ‘Olympic’ feel
Verdict: Vancouver 2010 might be just what you’re looking for – a decent enough set of events that mirror this year’s Olympics as closely as possible. When the game gets its groove it can be really quite impressive to behold, both visually and in terms of the feeling of immersion and speed, but not every event works as well and the lack of a proper career mode makes the whole thing feel a bit shallow. If you’re a big fan of snow-based sports and don’t mind the dip-in and out feel, then give this a shot.
Note: Screenshots sourced via google image search.