Review

Athens 2004

Over to our man in Greece - Barry Hitzelsperger - for all the latest...

With the Olympics now with us there's no better time to review this years sporting offering, Athens 2004, courtesy of Sony. So it's over to Barry Hitzelsperger, our Olympic reporter in Athens:

"Hi. Barry Hitzelsperger here, and welcome to Athens 2004. This year's event takes place in the rather unusual setting of the interior of a Sony PS2 console. It's not the first time we've been at a venue such as this. A few years ago a fantastic games was held inside a PSone, that time called Track and Field. There's also been a very successful event called Athlete Kings held inside a Sega Saturn. Naturally then, expectations are high this year.

The event organisers here have given us a neatly presented, if somewhat visually basic package this year. Spectators have been greeted with crisp, contemporary loading screens and a basic menu layout which has really helped people easily find their way from event to event, which is handy considering that there are 25 events on offer this year. The organisers are also pleased that this year's tournament is fully licensed, featuring all of the official logos and countries, though due to some sort of oversight all of the athletes appear to have lost their names on transit to the games. Bizarrely, these same athletes seem to have also lost much of their individual characteristics and the competitors that I've been fortunate enough to meet so far have all shared the same basic, low-polygon appearance, which is a little unsettling. It's not yet known whether these two phenomena are related. Fortunately, the organisers have managed to construct some crisp, detailed backgrounds and some very detailed animations.

There have been some problems with the official commentator however, as it seems that he's lost the ability to use gender-specific terminology, favouring the use of the generic term "they" instead of the more specific terms "him" of "her". The same commentator also seems to be having some problems judging distances in the event, as his initial judgement is often immediately contradicted by the actual measurement. Furthering his woes, he's also demonstrating the continued use of inappropriate phrases. In one event earlier he persisted in saying that a shot putter's throws were keeping an athlete in contention for a medal, even though that same athlete had been leading the entire competition. The man in question is blaming his phrase databank which he's claiming is too small for the task, though there has been no official confirmation as of yet. But wait, hang on, I'm getting word in my ear that some of the events are beginning as we speak, so it's over to our on the ground reporter, Chad Mcfaffin."

"Thanks Barry. Chad McFaffin here and I'm down on the track where the running events are in full swing. The 100m Sprint has transpired much as we'd expected, with lots of manic button mashing, battered joypads and aching arms. There has been pressure over the years to alter the event in some way, but organisers have decided to stick with the tried and tested traditions of old. In fact, the only additions have been some more camera angles though apparently their impact has been minimal. The same approach has also been adopted for the 200m and 400m events and there have already been some reports of repeated cramp and blistering, especially in the 400m where such prolonged activity is particularly taxing.

Interesting news however from the 800m event where button pressing seems to have been replaced with a new approach. From the reports I've heard from athletes it seems that button pressing has been replaced with tactical analogue pressing. It seems that runners are now required to hold the right analogue stick at a precise angle to control their speed. Some athletes who've been holding the stick too far at the beginning have apparently tired far too early and dropped out of contention. The winner of the race was able to ration their health into the final straight and use the boost function tactically to sweep to victory. Eyewitness reports suggest that whilst the event was tactically reasonably demanding, it lacked the excitement of other events and spectators bored quickly.

The Triple Jump and Long Jump events have now also just come to a close and from what I hear they've been some of the more enjoyable events this year. Those familiar with the events will be used to proceedings, with the X and O buttons being used to gain momentum and the L1 button being used to time the jump. My personal feeling is that it's the simplicity of these events that's key to their success. There have been a few critics of the High Jump event, where button mashing has been replaced with precision control. This year the athletes are required to hit the buttons in time with their own footsteps in the run up, and then tap L1 to execute the jump. Despite some of the questions that have been raised, however, I think the event was a great success.

The same cannot be said of the Pole Vault however. Whilst I understand that the controls are quite similar to other events there has been widespread reports of an ambiguous power-bar that has been confusing some competitors and causing them to time their presses incorrectly. The same criticism has been levelled at the Discus, though the necessity to rotate the right analogue stick as fast as possible has raised a few smiles. The Javelin has also gone down well, though many fans were annoyed with the Shot Put this year, complaining of overly simple controls and random fouling which appeared to be outside the athlete's control. Now though, over to Ursula Spickwangler at poolside."

"Ursula here, and this years events at the pool are well underway. However, as I speak we are suffering from some severe crowd disturbances with lots of booing, some raised fists and even some objects thrown at the competitors. It seems that spectators are complaining that even though we have four events on offer here, the 100m Breast Stroke, Freestyle, Backstroke and Butterfly, they feel that all of the events are totally identical, with no variety of control. To add to the frustration, the ability to breathe seems to have unwittingly been assigned to the L1 button. Whilst the athletes aren't complaining about this in principle, if they miss one of the button presses it slows them down for several seconds until the next opportunity they have to breathe, thus ruining their chances if it is missed only once. Couple this with some extremely poor water effects and most of the people here today seem very dissatisfied.

There's also been a lot of confusion in the gymnastics events where obscure controls seem to have alienated less experienced competitors from taking part at all. There was success at the Vault at least, where all that was required was to mash the power buttons and then hit out a simple combination of buttons as displayed on screen. However, the Men's Floor Exercises have had a very mixed reception. The event has been using a combination of button mashing, timed presses of the X button and bemani style time tests. Whilst executed quite well, it appears that less experienced contenders find that they persistently need to pause proceedings and refer to another menu that explains the rules. Exactly the same criticism has been levelled at the Rings event, whilst those competitors that forget to bring their own dance mats with them have reported that the Women's Floor Exercises have been translated badly to their joypads.

In other events, an animal cruelty investigation has been launched after many of the jocky's in the Equestrian event complained that their horses were handling like clapped out bangers from Driv3r, rendering the event highly frustrating. Some have complained about difficulty in directing their horse, but most of the trouble stems from the unresponsiveness of the L1 button that is used to jump and ill defined jumping zones. The Clean and Jerk Weightlifting has gone down quite well, with the athletes coping well with the traditional button pressing that's required, but there's been huge disruption at the Skeet event. It seems that the only competitor so far that's been able to shoot more than a couple of the clay pigeons per game is a Mr. Obi-Wan Kinobe, but he subsequently faced disqualification on the grounds that he was a Jedi. His complaint that Jedi-like reflexes were needed to succeed in the event fell on deaf ears. At least we can report success in the Archery competition, where the simple aim/shoot mechanic has provided hours of fun for all involved. And with that, it's back to you Barry."

"Thanks Ursula. So overall this years games have been a disappointment on the whole. Whilst some of the simpler events have provided lots of fun for people who have turned up in groups, some of the more contrived control schemes have sought to dampen the enthusiasm of some contenders here. Those wishing to compete alone have found proceedings fairly dull, and most have not returned after a few hours play. So please join us again at the next Olympics in four years time, expected to be held at the yet to be constructed PS3 venue, though some pundits have predicted that if Microsoft continue accelerating hardware development as they are doing currently, we may well see the PS4 hosting, or even the Xbox 3. Goodnight."

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