London 2012 review for Xbox 360, PS3

Platform: Xbox 360
Also On: PS3
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA
Medium: DVD-Rom
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

With the Summer Olympics growing ever closer, it?s once again time to delve into the time-honored tradition of Olympic themed video games, this time coming to us from the fine folks over at SEGA. And guess what? It?s actually a pretty good game, which is probably more surprising than it should be.

SEGA has obviously been getting their feet wet with other Olympic titles as of late, notably the Mario and Sonic series that?s seen some success on the Wii, DS and 3DS. But this title, London 2012, is all business, in the Olympic Games sense at least.

London 2012 is filled with events taken straight from the games, with a lot of noteworthy additions that you?d expect to see, like Diving, Javelin, 100 Meter Dash, and so on. And then a number of events that I literally had no clue were even in the Olympics, like Rapid Fire Pistol. All together there are over 30 events included, a handful of which showcase both Men and Women, while others are restricted to one gender.

The gameplay is what really stands out here, and makes London 2012 a pretty fun party game for local multiplayer. The online mode works well enough as well, but I found myself preferring to play these events via split-screen with a group of friends and family, and would highly encourage any potential buyers out there to base their purchasing decision on whether they could get a group of friends together to play the game.

For multiplayer modes, you can opt to tackle events individually, or you can try your hand at the Challenge mode. In Challenge, your group is tasked with earning a number of stars for three different events, and gaining the requested number of stars will unlock the next set of three events to try out. It?s actually a pretty tough experience depending on the skill level of the people around you, but makes for a more satisfying experience than just playing through the events one on one.

One thing I definitely appreciated in London 2012 is that each event felt like a separate thing, and not only because something like Diving is of course going be different than Cycling, but because the control inputs for each event feel pretty unique and thought out. It?d be easy to make a game like this and make every input for each event a series of timed button presses, but the developers definitely tried to deliver a control experience for each event that does it?s best to mimic that particular event on screen. The only time this really falls flat is with the Gymnastic and Diving events, which do devolve into timed button presses, but outside of that it?s a really fun experience.

This review is based around the 360 version of the game, which does come with some Kinect features as well. Unfortunately, I wasn?t really wowed by what the Kinect brought to the table here. The implementation felt a little clunky, with your standard menu navigation being relegated to moving an on-screen hand prompt as opposed to being more custom built for the accessory.

And using the Kinect to play the events was iffy at best. Certain events worked fairly well, but other more precise things, like Archery, seemed to suffer quite a bit. I had little to no trouble aiming my bow, but getting the arrow to actually release and fire my shot was something that barely worked half of the time. Even after adjusting calibration and lighting, and being sure to give myself ample room, nothing really changed on that front. If you?re interested in picking this up strictly as a Kinect experience, I?d definitely urge a rental before doing so.

But if you?re going to be playing with a controller only, it?s a really great experience. The presentation is a little basic, but there?s a remarkably catchy theme song backing up the menu music, and the visual aspects of the game are really solid. Players look fairly lifelike, and when playing single player the structure of picking the games you?d like your selected country to participate in is fairly fun and similar to the way the real Olympics play out. You won?t be able to go through every event every day, instead you?ll only pick a couple events, which consist of a qualifier round and then the actual event.

The gameplay is also of perfect length for a party game. Most events don?t last much more than a minute or two, and loading seems to be kept at a minimum, even without the game installed to the hard drive. Again, this is a much better experience with a group, but I think even the single player portion of the game is worth checking out.

So I?d venture to say that SEGA has managed to deliver a really fun, fairly precise Olympic experience this year, and if you have any sort of interest in the Olympic Games, you should probably check this out. It?s definitely one of the better Olympic or Track and Field style games I?ve played in recent memory (outside of the mascot stuff), and is well worth your time.

Grade: B