Wednesday, 09 February 2005
How many people, if played a few bars of Vangelisí Chariots of Fire wouldnít immediately give reference to the Olympic Games? That song has become so synonymous with the games, that many remember that great song title over many of the competitorsí names. Weíve been missing a decent track and field title on the PS2, but with the Olympics just around the corner once again, itís time for PS2 gamers to crack out those dusty old multitaps once again. But, is it time to sell that old battered copy of International Track & Field just yet?
The opening signs are good as always. High production values (as youíd expect from a title published by Sony) give a very polished and impressive menu system, which is obscenely easy to manoeuvre around. And lets be honest, anything that welcomes you to a game with nice clean and clear manoeuvrability is a top priority nowadays. The great aesthetics thankfully do continue, however they do fall at certain points. While the participants themselves do look fairly pleasing on the eye, the faces can leave you wondering why they seem to have quite disturbing features during certain events. However, sound wise everything takes a great upturn. The commentary is some of the best Iíve witnessed in quite a while, especially as it seems so authentic, utilising the actual commentators who cover the events. In fact, the whole aesthetic package is one that weíre quite impressed by. The whole feel of the Olympics has been crammed onto the disc, giving fans of the events more reason to purchase Athens 2004.
While its commendable, Eurocomís attempt to try and at least revamp some of the traditional gameplay valueís that many hold so dear to their hearts in the guise of Konamiís PS1 classic International Track & Field, does fail to succeed in parts. For certain events, it can take quite a while to get a decent enough grasp to get a hold of the correct timing, and which button to press when, some events even managing to leave you confused long after youíve mastered many of the (admittedly large number) simpler and more traditional events. While the 100m sprint remains to realm of the control breaking , finger wiggling talent possessing few. Longer running events take on much more strategy as you utilise the analogue sticks to guide your chosen avatar around the track, conserving energy, and waiting for the right time to give yourself your ďsecond windĒ so you power past your opponents and take the gold. Other events such as the gymnastic events require precision pad pressing, much in the same way as one of the various dance titles currently on the market. Itís a nice mixture as Iíve shown, but some do impress more over others. The ability to utilise the dance mat as a replacement for the control pad is a novel inclusion, and one thatíll amuse for a night or two, if not the mainstay of the game.
As I mentioned before, the number of events included on the disc amount to quite a bundle. In fact, 25 events in all make an appearance, ranging from the main stay of the genre, the 100m sprint, all the way to gymnastics, and shooting events. The actual track events stick to the same tried and tested formula, but the more obscure events take a walk onto the wild side in a control sense as I told you in the previous paragraph. However, each event seems to have itís entirely unique difficulty setting, which hinders the single player game. Whereas the 1500 race is incredibly simple to come through with the gold, skeet shooting is nigh on impossible to gain high marks on unless you have reflexes on a par with the competitors themselves. Itís this fact that again emphasises that this style of game is much better suited to multiplayer action, rather than one sad lonely character in their darkened bedroom. Add another few human players, and fun quite literally spews from every orifice of Athens 2004. The unbridled joy of coming out on top against your friends, as you pip them to the post with a javelin thrown mere centimetres longer than your closest rival at the very last push can only be rivalled by other high quality sports games. While single player will keep you occupied for a time, itís the multiplayer game thatíll keep you coming back for more.
Athens 2004 is a game that can only really be recommended to gamers whoíll regularly make use of the multiplayer play. The score you see at the bottom can possibly be upped a mark if youíve got three friends to play with, whereas it can be dropped to a lower level if a single player experience is all you can muster. It may be simple to get into and play (although, some events are a little tricky to pick up), but achieving a new world record under the watchful eyes of your pals is a joy that simply canít be beat in the gaming world. Although there are a few let downs, Athens 2004 is a good honest game.