|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Eurocom||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 12, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
I'm all for difficulty, but some things are just ridiculous. Ok, I understand the gamer should be punished, but how is it that missing a gate SLOWS me down? I skipped it to gain a few seconds. I imagine in real life these are the decisions athletes make; miss a gate and add a few seconds, but lose points. The give and take of the decision is naturally balanced by the point system. In Vancouver 2010, the game physically forces you to slow down, which is illogical and unnecessary.
'Vancouver' spreads it's lackluster experience over three very basic game modes, and adds some online functionality and system link capabilities to extend the life of its 'meh' gameplay. Olympic mode allows you to stack events on top of each other, in any order you choose, to build your own games. Training mode is what it sounds like and Challenge mode tests your prowess by pitting you against unlockable pyramids of individual challenges for specific events-e.g. downhill runs at certain times, or maintaining a certain speed while passing through a gate in the slalom. Just like in the games, your best times are recorded in online leaderboards for users to compare (if you care). The courses are outfitted with tweaks that will alter your strategy slightly, such as snowmen that add more time in a timed run, but it's not enough to distract from the fact that you're still running the same courses and doing the same events. This is probably the most diverse mode, but it begs the question, if I couldn't go 400 kilometers per hour in slalom to win first place in the Olympic Games, how could I do it in challenge mode? It feels kind of unnecessary.
Even in the inexplicable absence of gold medals, a full slate of events, or names on any of the competitors, presentation is the star of this game. You've got to play to understand how sad a statement that is. The competitors at times resemble characters in a Final Fantasy CGI film, music sounds like the Dance Dance Revolution Nagano Mix, and considering the fact that this is a next-gen game with 14 events set on limited tracks, the graphics usually leave a lot to be desired. Still, the developer does a solid job of capturing spatial relationships like height and distance along with speed, motion animations, and other aspects of the events themselves. It seems the most effort was put into the tracks and the competitors although for an HD system title, there's nothing impressive here. I don't doubt a Wii port could probably do the same things. Curiously, as a general rule night time events always look better and lighting effects are smoother.
My favorite touch overall comes after completing a timed event. A clear copy of your athlete appears on the track mimicking your earlier run. It's a nice touch that makes it feel like you're actually competing against yourself.
Thankfully, sound design is purposeful in Vancouver. The sound of skis slicing turns or crowds cheering are good enough, but the implementation of silence and ambient sound during jumps and tricks is probably the best thing about this presentation. I could swear I heard my competitor breathing as she twisted in the air. Of course, that is the moniker by which I am forced to call her since there are absolutely no names in this game and since I don't work for ESPN, it seems like a strange step to me, though I imagine getting all those rights must have been hard.
Bottom-line: This is a game for completionists, leaderboard junkies, and glory hounds, though it should be noted that there are much simpler ways to proclaim one's video game superiority. Almost every achievement in Vancouver 2010 is earned for gold medals, challenges, and online play. It definitely requires you to play a variety of modes and events to complete the game, but seriously, why? Anyone this into the Winter Games would be much better served shelling out the $60 bucks for snowboarding lessons.
Leon Hendrix III
CCC Freelance Writer