Beijing 2008 PlayStation 3
Published by: SEGA
Developed by: Eurocom
Release Date: Out Now
Games based on the Olympic Games and Olympic events have been popular for years. Games such as Track & Field, Hyper Sports and Daley Thompson's Decathlon kept me busy for weeks during my teenage years and I dread to think how many joysticks they were responsible for breaking. As most of you will know the controls in those games could be a real test of endurance. Rhythmically shaking joysticks from side to side and alternately bashing different buttons really took its toll on my wrists and fingers and as much as I loved those games, I couldn't play them for hours on end. The rather surprising thing is that few games of this nature have attempted to do things differently in the twenty or so years since then. Beijing 2008 does stray from the familiar path a little, however most of the events are played in an all too familiar fashion.
Beijing 2008 includes almost forty different events that have been taken from disciplines such as Track, Field, Gymnastics, Swimming, Diving and Shooting. There are events ranging from the 100m to Kayaking. The modes on offer in the game are Training (which allows you to practice any of the events in the game), Competition (which can be played either on the same console with three others, over a LAN or online) and Olympic Games for the full experience. In Olympic Games you'll pick a nation and take them through the Olympics on a day by day basis.
The Olympic Games mode is the heart of the game and it is here you'll spend most of your time with the game. After picking your chosen nation from the 30+ on offer, you'll get to assign points to a collection of attributes such as Accuracy, Stamina, Power, Agility Speed etc. On each day you're required to qualify for a certain number of events or finish in a medal winning position. If you don't achieve your goals (which initially are easy) it will be game over. Thankfully your progress is saved at the end of each day so you can retry should you fail. Should you succeed at completing your objectives for the day, you'll move forward to the next day and have more points to improve the attributes of your nation. The points can also be used to reduce fatigue. This is an original way of allowing you to play through the events and doesn't require that you master every single event in order to play through a complete Olympic Games which is certainly good news.
Whilst it's great to have almost forty events in the game, the quality of them is what's important. Some of the events are very traditional in their method of control and some deviate from the tried and trusted methods in favour of something different. The running events still requires that you shake an analogue stick (or alternate between pressing the X and circle buttons) and whilst this works it's not a comfortable method of control by any means. The developers even saw fit to include a starting mini-game (for various running and swimming events), where you'll hold down one of the triggers (R2 or L2) in order to fill a gauge. You can't fill the gauge entirely until the race has started otherwise you will have a false start. The idea is to keep it almost filled and then when the event starts, you'll be quick out of the blocks. Should you get the timing wrong however, you'll find yourself woefully off the pace. Even if you get the timing right it doesn't appear to give you much of a boost.
Most events in the game control fairly well but there are some which have unsatisfactory control systems. Kayaking has to be the worst event in terms of its controls. You use the two analogue sticks in a very awkward fashion and at times it feels like you have little control over the actions of your kayaker. Some events, such as weightlifting, require that you rotate the analogue sticks in alternate directions which I found plain irritating. Judo requires that you press the analogue stick in the specified direction and when you have an advantage, you'll press three of the primary buttons to carry out your moves. This doesn't seem so bad until you find you have no idea of what moves you're are performing. You basically feel like you have very limited control over the bout and that's a real shame. Of course there are some good events here too. I enjoyed the Archery event which used the left analogue stick to aim and the right analogue stick to shoot with. The Javelin event also stands out as an event that's been well thought out as you use the left analogue stick to control your throw.
The presentation of the game is quite impressive. The athletes all look good, as do the various arenas that you compete in. The PlayStation 3 version suffers a lot from aliasing problems which is unfortunate (although most PS3 games suffer from this problem). The frame rate holds up pretty well but the load times are a little on the long side at times. Announcer comments are not subtitled but tutorial messages are shown in text. It's worth noting that not all of the tutorials are useful, which is disappointing. All of your daily objectives in the Olympic Games mode are shown in text. Essentially then the game won't give deaf gamers any real problems.
Beijing 2008 is a game that's a mixture of the tried and trusted, innovation and disappointment. A good chunk of the events don't feel that different from the games you may have played over twenty years ago and still rely on joystick waggling or button bashing. Some events do have more original control schemes that work well and there are others which are just plain awkward and you'll want to avoid these, where possible, at all costs. On the whole there's enough here to satisfy those who are looking for an Olympic Games experience on the current gaming hardware, but it's certainly not a classic and won't be remembered as fondly as games such as Track & Field and Hyper Sports in the years to come.