London 2012: The Official Video Game of the Olympic Games Review

By Dana Leahy - Posted Jul 23, 2012

While a game based on the spectacle that is the Olympic Games should be fun, London 2012: The Video Game just can't compete.

The Pros
  • The Field events are passible
  • The venues are authentic
The Cons
  • Awful button mashing and quick time event gameplay mechanic
  • The Kinect integration is abysmal
  • Fails to do the excitement of the Olympics justice
  • Does not even come close to other sports offerings

London 2012: The Video Game Review:

I am a huge fan of sports. I love competition. I love watching human beings overcome mental and physical challenges to be the best at something. I love the feeling of watching the end of a race breathlessly, and the warmth of knowing the rest of the world is right there with me, poised at the edge of their seat, waiting to know the who will emerge victorious. I love the Olympics.

London 2012 The Video Game fails in every way to tap into any of those feelings.



The Opening Ceremonies

Being someone who despises the cold, I always get way more excited for the summer games than I do for that icy mess that takes place on the top of a mountain somewhere. Plus, the summer games always come at a time when here in America, we're climbing out of the sports desert: you know, the time when basketball and hockey are over, but before NFL training camp starts, and baseball is at that point in their 2837 game season where everything is made up and the points don't matter.

That's why I get really excited about the Olympics, and the related videogame offering. I think I was one of only about four people who played the convoluted Bejing 08, and I actually kind of enjoyed it. Bejing was difficult. Diving, for example, relied on mastering a complex series of rotating dots inside concentric circles. If you think that explanation doesn't make any sense, you should try actually playing it; however, there was at least a sense of commitment fostered by the complete incomprehensibility of it all.

SEGA went the opposite way with London, making it extremely simple, but they went too far, because much of the time London 2012 feels like a glorified iOS game.

This is an advertisement - This story continues below

Get Ready To Have Your Buttons Pressed

You pound the A button to run. You hit the X button when the game tells you to. Sometimes, you hit the Y and B buttons together.

We're all used to quick time events at this point. It's a simple concept and one that's generally easy to execute; however, despite its simplicity, you'll fall on your face about a hundred times while trying to land a vault. You'll belly flop into the pool while trying to dive. You'll hurl your discus into the net over and over again. You'll do these things until you figure out that the game isn't sophisticated enough to accept the button inputs at the right time. In order to win a gold medal, you have to just mash the correct buttons well before the game tells you to. When you do this, you'll start setting world records, but it's so boring -- even during the field events where the mechanic actually works -- you'll want to retire and do something more exciting like watching paint dry.

London 2012: The Official Video Game

All of this seems very contradictory, and you'll feel that way while playing the game. The most frustrating mechanic is definitely one of the most basic: running. As you can imagine, it's an integral part of most of the events. To build up speed, you have to mash the A button, but not too much or your athlete will slow to a crawl! When I say "too much" I mean hardly at all. Someone might say, maybe it's about establishing a rhythm. Sure, I would say, but that would mean it would be the same across the entire game; however, it's not. While I started to get the hang of it after hours of play, most people will give up long before they reach that point.

The one thing London 2012 will does do, however, is continue the long Olympic video game tradition of causing people all over the world to say, "I think I could actually [insert Olympic event here] better in real life than I can in this game."

London 2012: The Official Video Game

Kinect The Dots

Sadly though, the controller isn't the only way to control your athlete. The game has Kinect integration that is even more disheartening than the standard offering. Available for a smattering of events, the motion control mechanic just doesn't work that well. Take archery, for example. You put your left arm forward as if you were holding the bow, and draw your right arm back to knock the arrow. Logically thought would dicate that to release, you would either open your right hand, or put forward with your whole arm to send the arrow towards the target. In London 2012, you have to flick your entire arm backwards like you're throwing salt over your shoulder. It's like they are trying to make you look silly.

If it were just awkward movements, that'd be one thing, but it's also that the game has a hard time keeping up with what you're doing. This is often a problem with Kinect, but it's magnified here. Once you figure out that the game doesn't know what the hell you're doing most of the time, you can either find ways to cheat it, or you'll turn it off. More frustrating still is that none of the Kinect features work that well, even the menu selection. After ever play you get a replay. With the controller, you just hit A to skip it, but with Kinect, you'll end up watching things over and over while you try to get the dumb glove to select "Skip Replay."

London 2012: The Official Video Game

It's especially disappointing because motion control sports games have come a long way in the past few years. Sports Champions and Kinect Sports are light years beyond what London 2012 has to offer, and if you've played those games, London feels like you're taking a huge step backwards straight into the bargain bin.

While there are the mechanical deficiencies, I think the biggest problem with London 2012 is the missed opportunities. While you can pick a country and compete in a whole series of events, including qualifiers and medal rounds, it just misses the mark in terms of capturing the Olympic experience. There is no athlete customization. How great would it be to make an Olympic athlete who looked like you? Pretty great; however, something like that seems light years away when the volleyball players move around the screen like someone with a bad broadband connection playing with plastic Barbie dolls.

London 2012: The Official Video Game

Daaaaaa Da Daaa Da Da Da Daaaaaa Don't

Maybe I'm the only person in the world calling for a more robust Olympic video game, but so be it. I would love something that found a balance between being accessible for pick up and play party action and an in-depth athletic simulation. I know it can be done, it's just a matter of someone deciding it's important. I think the Olympics is a global phenomenon worthy of such an endeavor. I just hope someone who can do something about it agrees. Here's hoping that Rio 2016 gets a game more deserving of a gold medal.