Agetec's Virtua Athlete 2000 is a track and field title that aims to wrap new-school presentation around old-school button mashing. The game features seven track and field events, support for four-player simultaneous participation, ten stock characters, a character editor, and modem-based Internet rankings. You can play through all seven events with a world championship-style scoring system in the game's quick tournament mode, or select exhibition mode to vary the difficulty settings and event count. Should you meet with success, two hidden characters and a number of hidden attributes may be unlocked. While Virtua Athlete 2000's character designs are nothing compared to those of Sega's Decathlete for the deceased Saturn console, all the characters at least have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. The 100-meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 110-meter hurdles, javelin throw, and 1500-meter run are all that stand between you and gold medal glory.
Although an offering of seven events doesn't afford much in the way of variety, Virtua Athlete 2000's concise feature list paves the way for surprisingly rich gameplay. There may be only seven events, but each exudes a respectable amount of refinement and quality. To play, most events require you to use the A and X buttons for running and the B button as an action button. The 100-meter dash event, elegant in its simplicity, requires only that you push the A and X buttons as fast as you can. However, by alternating button presses, taking into account your character's innate strengths, and making good use of the B button for a last minute lunge, the tide of the race may vary numerous times over the course of a brief ten seconds. The high jump is another good example of this phenomenon. The first leg requires running via the A and X buttons, the second a jump commenced via the B button, and the third a well-timed leg sweep keyed with the directional pad. Since a dead-center jump isn't optimal for someone leaping in an arc, you must also choose an appropriate takeoff point for your jump as well. Timing is everything, and everything happens in the blink of an eye. Should you exercise good judgment, you can earn up to 1,000 points per event, break a few records, and even earn a few enhancements for your saved character. Add in the fact that characters have their own biases for certain events, and what you have is a track and field title that is simultaneously inviting, deep, and fun.
Taking a page from Sega's successful NFL2K and NBA2K releases, Virtua Athlete 2000 delivers fluid polygon graphics with a distinctly broadcast feel. Event camera angles and stadium lighting effects emulate the same viewpoint that lofty, tripod mounted cameras would provide during a televised sports broadcast. As such, the intentionally washed-out stadium and spectator visuals provide striking contrast to the crisply defined athletes in the foreground. Actual character animation, while a bit on the jumpy side, remains fluid throughout. Other than problematic hip joint seams, the 60fps frame rate, realistic motion, and smoothed musculature makes it difficult to believe that Virtua Athlete 2000 is merely composed of polygons. The included plethora of detail touches, such as animated spectators, blowing flags, lounging athletes, and parked duffel bags only serves to enhance this effect. By contrast, the game's sound selection - replete with nondescript grunts, groans, and assorted kitschy studio music - doesn't support the visual experience, but it never really disappoints, either.
Overall, Virtua Athlete 2000 is a track and field blockbuster, provided you're a member of its target audience. If you're not a huge fan of the game's seven track and field events or lack human competition to play with, the game will be nothing more than a weekend fantasy. Internet ranking helps, but not greatly. However, if you have one or two friends to provide constant challenge, or really enjoy the game's included events, Virtua Athlete 2000's longevity will be off the charts. Otherwise, the presentation is solid, the gameplay inviting, and the visuals stellar.