You may have already read our review of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games and noticed that I found it much more enjoyable than I expected. Let’s see if Sega’s more serious simulation of the Winter Olympic Games will win me over in the same way as Mario and Sonic did.
I don’t want to start on a downer but I’ve never been a fan of the Olympic Games; not the Summer or Winter variety. I have a feeling that just as with most sports; it’s probably more fun to actually take part in the Winter Olympics than it is to play them on a console. Having said that I don’t ever see myself getting fit (or interested) enough to train for the next Winter Olympics in 2014 so this will have to be the next best thing.
So what does Vancouver 2010 for Playstation 3 bring to the table that Mario and Sonic couldn’t in their take on the winter games? Well of course to start with we have realistic looking human competitors instead of characters from Nintendo and Sega franchises. In the scheme of things this doesn’t make too much difference to the gameplay but will likely make a difference to those who take the sports quite seriously. But then there must be something wrong with someone who can’t take the idea of a blue speaking hedgehog on a Snowboard seriously.
Vancouver 2010 for PS3 has stripped down interface and is very quick to get into the action; right away can choose to head into the Olympic Games, Take part in Challenges or Play Multiplayer online and LAN.
Now unlike a Fifa or Madden title jam packed with licensed players; Vancouver 2010 only allows you to pick a Nation to represent. You then take control of standard Male and Female characters and play every event through in either a set or random order (the choice is yours); there is no ability to add names or create your own athletes whatsoever. I could see this being a sticking point for some but for me I didn’t find it a problem not knowing who was meant to be under a Ski Mask at any particular moment in time.
Before each event you can practice with tutorial showing you the controls and basic skills needed to be able to play. These are well implemented and vital if you want to stand a chance at winning a medal; with no difficulty selection option your chances of winning are all down to you. It’s safe to say that Vancouver 2010 is very low on personality but at least does everything right as far as the fundamental gaming goes. All 14 events from Bobsleigh to Ski Jumping is present and correct with good attention to detail. A lot of thought has been put into making them easy to control but hard to master. The default analogue stick and button control scheme was my favourite but the optional motion control did give a certain events that Wii feel (not in a bad way either).
The online Multplayer is good but still lacks the excitement of the offline play. You and up to three friends can setup a series of events and play through for medals, whoever having the most come the end being the winner of course. If you have no friends then you can jump into a random game with others waiting in the lobby. Those with local friends can try out the split screen multiplayer but I don’t have any friends let alone local ones so I had to pass this up, shame. Voice chat is supported but just like 99% of the PS3 owners out there I don’t have a headset (I could moan at Sony for not including a free one like Microsoft but maybe another time).
It may just turn out the challenge mode is where you’ll spend most of the time. Here you simply complete every event over a series of increasingly more challenging ‘mountains’ in a bid to beat a set score or time. This also is where most of the PS3 Trophies are available to earn but Trophy hunters beware; even the easy challenges are difficult.
As with all Sega’s games lately, Vancouver 2010 is great to look at. The 720p visuals are ultra-crisp and smoother than a Bond Girl’s buttocks; everything from the snow on the ground, the motion blur and the clouds you Ski down through look the business. We’re not quite at photo realism yet but if you closed one eye and squint you could actually trick your brain into thinking you are there in Vancouver. I can’t wait to see what the 2014 Olympic Video Game looks like on a PlayStation 4. On the flip side Vancouver 2010 is certainly one of those games you can put a CD on whilst you play; there is little commentary to hear, the music is pretty bad and there’s only so much enjoyment that authentic crunching snow will give you.
If you’re happy to go into Vancouver 2010 knowing that you’re in for a more simulational experience then I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. If however you were hoping for fun throwaway gameplay then you probably will come away wondering where the fun was. A game for the Olympic purists and those that like to beat personal bests and online leaderboards only. 6 out of 10.
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New: Buy Vancouver 2010 from Amazon.com
Related: Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, EA Sports Active