When the Olympic games come to your city, the good ol’ economists begin to rub their hands in glee. They dream of piles of the glorious green, solid gold toilets and even useable office space. We’ll finally have enough room to put up those supply and demand charts we bought for two bucks from that office furnishings place. Oh, the possibilities. People will flock to your city for the festivities; your usually austere buildings and speed limit signs will be dressed in your native colour; your city will feel loved again. And all these things lead to the eventual consequence: Money. The almighty dollar.
The buzz was around the Athens games in 2004. They sell merchandise, of course, to squeeze as much money as they can out of it. And when sensitive things such as these are squeezed too hard, bad things come out of it. Athens 2004 is one of those things.
Talk about flogging a dead horse: in this case, the dead horse of shoddy Olympic videogames. This game is the sheer epitome of making a game purely to get more money out of a movie/show/event. Since these games are churned out to coincide with the release of the movie/show/event, they don’t seem to go through the amount of quality control testing that other titles go through, and they lack innovation or originality. If you have played any of the other Olympics games that have come out over the years, you should already know what to expect: button mashing.
Athens’ premise is basically a whole Olympic games in one small conveniently priced package of only $79.95. That’s right: only $75.95 (plus $350 postage and handling). Anyway, the game gives you a number of events for your playing pleasure, from the usual steroid-packed 100 metres race, to your effeminate equestrian, to the human marshmallow festival that is the weightlifting. A fairly widely ranged amount of events, most certainly. That’d definitely be a plus, save for the fact that they all play pretty much the same way. All events are played with a combination of pressing the X and O buttons, and maybe the occasional press of the L1 button or the analogue sticks.
For example, the 100 metres race requires you to hold L1 to set, release when the gun goes, and beat the X and O buttons one after the other faster than Sonic on crack, and pray you get there before the Jamaican guy does. Go to the swimming, and you hold L1 to set, release when the gun goes, and beat the X and O…does this seem familiar? All that’s different is that you press L1 every now and then to breathe. Woooooooooow. That’s worth your while.
The repetitive controls and ways you play the events isn’t the biggest problem with the gameplay. It’s the fact that winning half of the events is harder than Charlie Sheen at cheerleading practice that’s the problem. It’s nigh impossible to gain higher than a third place in many events due to the AI being set to the highest of highs.
But the other half of the events is pushed way way down the other end of the spectrum. Some events are just too fucking easy to win. 1500 metres? No prob. Just hold your analogue stick at near the top and just wait. You’ll lap them pretty soon. Triple jump? I got a world record on my 2nd attempt. And I am no prime example of button mashing prowess.
The graphics are definitely nothing to write home about. You only get one athlete who does EVERYTHING. Discus, shot-put, hurdles, running, swimming. About the only things he or she doesn’t do are gymnastics, equestrian and weightlifting (the last of which being that the girth required can’t be put on that quickly, as far as I know). The women athletes are permanently cross-eyed, and look almost like they have a mental condition. It will most definitely scare little children, so keep them away. The models are pretty human like; definitely not the best models you will see, but they are decent enough.
Although this game is shocking in single player, once you get a few friends along to play with you, this game gets a hell of a lot better. What is usually tedious in the single player is actually very fun in multiplayer. The problem of the unfair/not hard enough AI is eliminated, as all you’ll most likely care about is whoopin’ your half-drunk unshaved mate who is oh so close to settling into a position leaning over the toilet. It makes a great party game and anyone can play, too. All they need to be able to do is press buttons faster than a two-dollar hooker.
Athens has its fair share of problems. AI that, for certain events is the most evil thing created in the history of the world, and for others is as easy as getting Paris Hilton into the sack; the events being too similar; graphical issues. But there is some worth in this game if you have a lot of parties. Those things get somewhat nullified when there are friends about. With some friends, I guess the score can be made around 7 or 8, but on your own things are just too tedious and too difficult to make it worth your while. If you are having a party, you could definitely rent this game and not be infuriated with the single player, and only enjoy the good parts of this game: the multiplayer.