User Rating: 7.5 | Athens 2004 PS2
WHEN I discovered that there was an Olympic console game just around the corner I’ve got to admit it raised a smile. It doesn’t matter how many up-to-date, technologically-brilliant, super console games are released, I just can’t help remember my first outing on Daley Thompson’s Decathlon. Sitting there in front of my ZX Spectrum, bashing the rubber keys to within a inch of their life, only to discover that Daley had barely made an impact on the race...whereas I was completely whacked. Then there was a friend of mine who used a joystick to play the game, frantically waggling it to get up enough speed to toss the javelin – memories... Since those heady days of the eighties there have been numerous athletics games – Epyx, Sydney 2000 and Track and Field spring to mind. But things have moved on technically. There are better graphics, immersive sound, but still the same old tried-and-tested button-bashing goes on. It’s as if we can’t get enough of the carpal-tunnel twisting, pain-inducing button-thrashing. Preparing to play I started limbering up my fingers to give Athens 2004 a real run for its money, only to discover there was an alternative. Now you can plug in a dance mat(!) and run for your life – I kid you not. Rather than just imagining you’re competing against the best in the world with your finely-trained wrists, now you actually can go head-to-head with your legs. Now that’s progress! Unlike the real Athens 2004, this game is actually finished and features some cracking events, more than 25 – including four swimming events, skeet shooting, weightlifting, equestrian and four gymnastics games. What a great challenge, and all with your legs! Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a bit of button-bashing needed to compete in these events, but not as much as the ‘good old days’. Developers have really tried to make this THE ultimate athletics game by packing everything into it – even a stadium modelled on architectural plans (not the real thing though because it doesn’t fully exist yet!). There are also over 800 virtual athletes, representing 64 nations from around the world. I really enjoyed playing this game and was amazed I could play it using a dance mat – who’d have thought...running the 100-metre sprint on a dance mat! So if you like sporting challenges (just like Rob Tanner and Michael Beardmore, see sport for more on that little challenge) then dust off your dance mat, put on your running shoes and give Athens 2004 a real run for its money.