Salt Lake 2002
by Eidos Interactive
The Winter Olympics has always been considered an event that us British will never do well at. The primary reason for this of course is that the sports involved require a climate that we find hard to imitate for practice purposes. As a result of our alienation from winter sports it is easy to understand why the average British citizen has little time for the Winter Olympics. Not since Eddie The Eagle made his brave, but short lived, venture into ski jumping has the nations interest been aroused. So it is with this apathetic attitude that Salt Lake 2002 is greeted. Will it convince us all to have a rethink?
Unlike other Olympic/athletic games, where there is usually at least ten events, Salt Lake 2002 only has six events. The events in question are Men's Alpine Skiing Downhill, Men's Ski Jumping K120 Individual, Men's Snowboard Parallel Giant Slalom, Ladies Alpine Skiing Slalom, Women's Freestyle Skiing Aerials and the Men's Two-Man Bobsleigh. To compliment these events there are a total of four modes. Of course there's the Olympic Mode where you can compete in upto six events in order to grab as many gold medals as possible. Next there's the Tournament Mode. Here you pick an event and play in a knockout competition with fifteen other countries. You have to win four rounds in order to win the competition with the losers of each round being knocked out. Then there's the Classic Mode which sets you a challenge for each event and gives you three lives. Should you complete the challenge then you go on to the next event. However if you fail to pass the challenge you will then lose a life and have to retake the challenge. The game ends either when you lose all your three lives or complete the six challenges. Finally there's the Freeform Mode in which you pick an event and practice until you've had enough.
So we only have a small amount of events but it doesn't matter too much if they are up to scratch, right? Well only the Men's Two-Man Bobsleigh is truly on the button. You have to pull off some frantic button bashing to gain speed and then jump into the bobsleigh. After this it's a case of attempting to keep the racing line without tipping the bobsleigh until you cross the finish line. Other events such as the Men's Ski Jumping K120 Individual are fine but you feel that the game is only asking for a minimal amount of input from you with the odd button press here and there. The other events are OK except that is, for the Women's Freestyle Skiing Aerials. Here the idea is to take off from the slope and perform jumps in order to impress the judges. You have a choice of three jumps to perform and depending on which one you pick the actions you must perform whilst in the air will differ. This sounds difficult but in reality it is easy as once you take off the action goes into slow motion. In fact it is too easy and is probably the event that you will least like.
Graphically Salt Lake 2002 can't be faulted. The character models are fantastic and the use of motion blur in the replays has been used superbly. This can especially be seen in the replays of the Men's Ski Jumping K120 Individual and looks wonderfully dramatic. The night events and different weather effects have also been done well and it begs the question, why didn't ATD put the same effort into the events themselves as if they had we would have a had a really good Winter Olympics game on our hands.
Sport games aren't really that much of a problem for deaf gamers but the failure to subtitle commentary has been a long running irritation. Salt Lake 2002 is no exception here and again the commentary is not subtitled. It's not a disaster though as the commentary doesn't really add anything except atmosphere. It still would have been nice to have it subtitled though.
Salt Lake 2002 should have been a fantastic experience though you can't help but feel that what is on offer here is a muted experience. Many events are missing and out of the 84 countries that take part in the Winter Olympics only 16 are represented. Each event only has only slope/circuit and although conditions can be varied the layout of the circuit remains constant so that in events like the Slalom it becomes all too easy as you know exactly where all the obstacles are. The lack of variation can lead to you becoming disinterested in the game faster than you would like to.
Overall Game Rating: 6.8/10 Salt Lake 2002 is a classic example of a game that could have been so much better. It is a real shame that the developers chose to use only six events when at least double the amount could have been used. A majority of the events are OK but some offer little interactivity and little challenge. That said though it can prove an enjoyable experience at first and it is doubtless that being the official game of the Winter Olympics it will be a deal clincher for fans of the event.
Deaf Gamers comment: Nothing major to add here except to remark that the commentary should have been subtitled. TV sports coverage occasionally has subtitles so why can't games?