The Olympics are finally upon us, and every merchandiser in the world is trying to milk the most out of the event, including Eidos, who have brought us the official game of the Games, Sydney 2000.
If you’re expecting the entire array of Olympic events here, you may be disappointed. Because of the obvious time limitations, Eidos and Attention to Detail have focused mostly on the track-and-field side of things. These events include the 100m sprint, 110m hurdles, javelin, hammer throw, triple jump, and high jump. Now, if you haven’t played a track-and-field style game before, the basic idea is to smash the hell out of the keyboard in an effort to make your athlete perform better in their sport. The complexity of the events range from the 100m sprint, where you simply alternate two ‘power’ keys as fast as you can, to the triple jump, where you must use the power buttons to build up speed and then time your jump with the action key.
Not all of the sports are track-and-field, which is nice to see. The other options include skeet shooting, 10m platform diving, weight-lifting, 100m swimming, sprint cycling and the kayak slalom. Most of these implement a similar control system to the track events, although skeet shooting, platform diving and the kayak slalom don’t require the rapid keyboard repititions that the other events do.
While this control method is relatively basic and easy to get used to, it is very, very hard on the fingers, especially in the longer events like the 100m swimming, which requires around a minute of continuous button-mashing. But, if you can get past the finger cramps, there is some fun to be had here.
There are four game options in Sydney 2000 including arcade, Olympic, head-to-head and coaching. Arcade mode lets you jump straight into the game and compete in all the events without any athletic training. Head-to-head lets you play against up to eight human opponents, which is almost useless – who has eight spare controllers lying around, as well as eight USB ports to plug them in to? Having sixteen fingers bashing the keyboard at the same time can’t be a good idea either. The coaching mode lets you practice the event of your choice without the competition. But the core of the game really lies in the Olympic mode.
The Olympic mode enables the player to compete in all the aforementioned events, but this time you are required to train your athlete through different exercises, such as treadmill, skipping, depth jumps and bench press, in order to develop them enough to qualify for the different stages of the Games. While a lot of these exercises are repetitive and even tedious, they do add some depth to a game that is otherwise lacking in this department. You can complete the full training programme for any amount of events that you choose, and then send your athlete(s) off to the Olympics to compete. You only really get one shot once you’re in the Olympics, as each heat is sudden-death and only the top three progress.
The graphics in Sydney 2000 are acceptable and do the job quite well. However, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something missing here also. The animations, while smooth and fairly realistic, are somewhat limited and too repetitive. All the athletes seem to go through the same motions, and the player models are all too similar. The stadium and other surroundings (pool, skeet shooting environment) all look fantastic, although at times, mostly when the camera is zooming or panning, the screen becomes warped and everything looks out of proportion. While this never happens during actual gameplay (in my experience), it does give a feeling of unprofessionalism in the development cycle.
Sounds are decent -- in fact, the commentary sounds like it has been directly taken from Beyond 2000, especially in the coaching mode. All the sound effects are well done, from the splash of a swimmer on their dive to the shot of a rifle in skeet shooting.
On the whole, I have mixed feelings about Sydney 2000. While the game shows very little innovation, and is lacking in some areas, it is a good deal of fun – finger cramps and all. If you absolutely must have a track-and-field game and can wait until after the Olympics, I'd pick up this title from the bargain bin and save yourself a lot of the price tag.