The 2004 Olympic Games are just around the corner, and soon, it'll be hard to buy a soda that doesn't have the Olympic logo plastered on its side. Gamers can't escape this inevitable fate either as Athens 2004 has hit the store shelves, but unfortunately, it only gets a gold medal for mediocrity.
In truth, it may be a crapshoot trying to make a decent Olympics game simply because Olympic events are a different breed of competition from the sports games we're used to. Modern sports games ' football, basketball, baseball, etc. ' are steeped in strategy and athletic execution. They're all a meld of skill, strategy, and strength, and more often than not, make for an entertaining game experience. The Olympic Games, on the other hand, revolve around tests of physical strength and endurance. In essence, they're games that test the very mettle of human physicality.
So here's the dilemma in Athens 2004: how do you test a gamer's mettle in an Olympic videogame?
Athens 2004's answer to that is to make just about every game revolve around mindless button mashing that tests your thumbs and fingers to their very limit - a bit ironic (or sad) when compared to the total physical transformation an Olympic athlete must endure. Some games are based off of your finger's dexterity and strength, and other events will revolve around precision-based timing ' and for a real good time, it's a combination of both. Most of the track and field games, for example, have you launching off from the starter blocks with L1, and then mashing the X and O buttons as fast as possible. That is just not fun, and after a while, it's even painful as the early symptoms of tendonitis begin to creep up your fingers. Now, when you take into consideration that just about all the swimming events revolve around the same concept, and the other games that don't revolve around hopeless button mashing have equally mundane gameplay concepts, then it's easy to see what the problem is in Athens 2004.
However, you really can't fault the developers too much for the mundane game concepts. Olympic events are, for the most part, simplistic and it's hard to transfer the strategy used in each event into an enjoyable videogame format. However, make no mistake: Athens 2004 is quite the bore no matter who or what you want to blame it on.
Presentation-wise, Athens 2004 really falls flat on its face too. Both the visuals and audio are sufficient, but it seems there was minimal effort put into both, audio especially. There are no anthems, few sound effects, and one monotonous Olympic theme song that seems to find its way into just about every menu.
Above all, what Athens 2004 fails to do is capture the spirit of the Olympic games. Despite what Athens 2004 presents, the Olympics are more than a series of athletic events. For every country that participates in the games, it's a source of pride, a source of patriotism - and that's why it's a shame that Athens 2004 is such a soulless title.