Quick trivia question: In the Olympic Games logo, what do the five circular interlocking rings represent? If you knew the answer is the five continents of the world that the Olympic athletes come from, then here's a game that's right up your alley.
As the "official" video game of the Olympic Games, Sydney 2000 delivers a robust dose of polished, visually engaging, finger-cramping gameplay. If you can stand sore fingers and bothersome load times, this game will chew up a good amount of your time in a quest for gold and glory.
The game comprises 12 events, which can be played solo or with up to eight players. The majority of the events follow the de facto standard for track and field titles: repetitive button-mashing plus another button to perform specific actions. The events include the 100-meter sprint, 110-meter hurdles, javelin, hammer throw, triple jump, high jump, 100-meter freestyle swimming, 10-meter platform diving, skeet shooting, superheavyweight weight lifting, kayak K1 slalom, and sprint cycling. Some events, such as sprint cycling and the 100-meter sprint, are ridiculously easy to master, while others, such as weight lifting, will push your finger muscles to their limits. Control is dead-on accurate, with no hint of slowdown or sluggishness for these events. For those having trouble with a specific event, a coaching mode gives players a walk-through tutorial of each one.
The other events offer a bit more challenge and uniqueness. In 10-meter platform diving, a specific sequence of button presses must be executed during the dive. These sequences become more intricate as the dives become more difficult. In skeet shooting, the directional pad is used to aim at targets, while the kayak K1 slalom uses both the directional pad and buttons to control a kayaker through a series of gates. The control of the latter two events is rather squirrelly and takes some getting used to. The use of analog control would've probably made these events more playable, but unfortunately, the setting is not supported in this game.
In terms of presentation, Sydney 2000 does an admirable job. The athletes' motions are wholly accurate and have lots of flavor - the various glorious victory/agony of defeat poses help add personality to the title. Background details such as the video screens in stadiums and the event judges enhance the Olympic atmosphere, and the game has no problems with slowdown or excessive flicker. The incredible variety of camera angles, especially in the replays, helps showcase the game's graphical brilliance. The sound benefits from slightly generic but decent two-man commentary that accurately critiques an athlete's performance during each event (except in skeet shooting, where the audio tracks seem out of sync with the action).
The game's biggest plus is the addition of an Olympic training mode, which lets you develop future Olympians by completing minigame training exercises such as sit-ups and lifting weights. It may sound like cheesy busywork since many of these exercises involve button jamming, but it does give the game an added layer of depth. Another innovation: You can save these athletes on a memory card and use them in head-to-head competitions with other players.
Unfortunately, the lack of gameplay variety and bothersome load times between events (especially in the Olympics training mode) might put off some casual gamers. However, if you buy into the whole button-mashing mentality of track and field games, you'll find that Sydney 2000 turns in a solid, finger-numbing performance.