The strong visual spectacles, new online mode and event variety boost the latest official Olympic video game, which is full of unique sporting events players can’t usually find in other sport titles. A “Redeem Team” men’s basketball game with the actual players might provide more appeal (though a likely logistical nightmare for developers), but you can always count on nostalgic fun on an international scale that includes 32 nations.
This all ages game feature the competition mode where players can get a more customizable experience individually or with a group (up to four players). Select the events (try each one in training mode first) and the order. The main campaign mode, named Olympic Games Mode, features progressive play the require successful completion of certain events to advance and eventually get a shot at a medal.
The online mode (for up to eight players) has a language (seven total), voice chat, friend and maximum player options for a decent variety of modes including a marathon tournament mode. Players can check personal and friend statistics against other players on the leader boards – a mild improvement incentive only for the super competitive.
This game offers overall incentives in a skill point system to make players go for the gold more often instead of skipping through events until they discover a cache of faves. Players improve elements like speed, stamina and agility and speed for points, but this system definitely needs more carry over to other modes, (though players are rewarded for choosing higher difficulties) and continuity (keep those stat fields filled in please).
Familiar repetitive control schemes get a little more variety beyond the button mashing mayhem that engulfed so many other past Olympic titles. This sports simulation title blends motion and rhythm in the analog stick motions with the standard X and O button mashing. No single event is too hard too attempt though players experience varying learning curves for each. Judo, an event with large appeal, exemplifies one of the more difficult experiences, which leads to this title’s worst enemy – player frustration. Eliminating the athlete’s frustration animation in the game wouldn’t really hurt. Players wouldn’t identify with this negative aspect and could quickly move on. The athlete could just come to a stop, then the next attempt (if applicable) would begin.
Many events create a actual physical endurance test for your fingers while almost each event requires some finesse timing with the controls. Strong events like diving and gymnastics provide more mental stimulation. More two player match-ups, like in the track and field events, would be nice. A new slow motion mode (L1 or R1) helps, but only appears in the Olympic Games section. The slow motion really helps players with the control timing and definitely should be expanded in future games.
Players can skip the cut scenes, but might miss out on some nice graphics and expanded, authentic venue views of the Aquatics Center (a.k.a. Water Cube) and the “Bird Nest” stadium. Overly familiar player reactions rule the roost here and they can get repetitive. The common sense commentary does not offer significant enhancement to the game. Bob Costas would be nice here. Tutorials are available, but again no real enhancement, especially for players new to the Olympic game genre (go with the training mode instead). Experienced Olympic players may find the familiar control schemes and overall gameplay frustrating while the somewhat satisfying memories of Olympic games past (Apple IIc, Commodore 64, etc.) remain. Younger, more casual gamers may want to try Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games instead of this mildly entertaining, but well varied, authentic worldwide sports title.
Beijing 2008 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Content Descriptors. This game can also be found on PC and Xbox 360.