Sydney 2000 is good enough to compete at the Olympic level as far as video games go - but it'll be hard-pressed to earn anything above a bronze medal. The gameplay holds up for the most part despite an inherent lack of variety, but there's plenty of room for improvement.
As the only "official" video game of the Olympic Games, this title features 12 events, nine of which rely on pure button mashing combined with an action button to execute tasks. The 100-meter sprint, 110-meter hurdles, javelin throw, hammer throw, triple jump, high jump, 100-meter freestyle swimming, super heavyweight weight lifting, and sprint cycling fall into this category. For veterans of track and field titles, events such as the 100-meter sprint will prove to be rather easy. Others such as heavyweight weight lifting will probably cause a few of you to break a sweat. Except for the hammer throw and 100-meter freestyle events (more on them later), the control feels very responsive and in sync with the graphics.
The final three events offer a little gameplay variety, although their enjoyment potential is a mixed bag at best. In the surprisingly fun 10-meter platform diving event, you must execute a specific series of button presses during each dive, which become more intricate with difficult dives. In the highly challenging skeet shooting event, you use the controller stick to aim at targets. And you use both the stick and buttons to navigate a kayaker through a gate-filled obstacle course in the kayak K1 slalom. Thanks to the analog control, the skeet shooting event offers decent (if a bit touchy) control. Unfortunately, in the kayak K1 slalom, the analog control seems sluggish at times.
Oddly enough, the Dreamcast version of the game is superior to the PlayStation version in some departments, yet inferior in others - a discrepancy that hurts this game's final score. This version cuts down on the loading times between events, which makes gameplay a bit more bearable. It also supports analog control, while the PlayStation version didn't. Yet the PlayStation version pulls off graphical tricks that the technologically superior Dreamcast fails to include. For instance, all the big-screen stadium video monitors are missing in this version and have been replaced by a plain blue screen. Worst of all, there's a glaring bug (found in the retail version) in the hammer throw event: The meter used to show the proper release of the hammer doesn't work at all. It's still possible to play the event without using the meter, but deficiencies such as these give the game a "beta in progress" feel.
The Dreamcast version's graphics do boast plenty of realism-enhancing details - from judges on the field to birds in the sky. Most importantly, the athletes' animations really stand out, especially when they are celebrating success or failure. These animations, when seen from the seemingly infinite variety of camera angles on replays, really breathe life into the graphics. The only noticeable visual flaws crop up with the water-related events. In 100-meter freestyle swimming, the graphics seem slower and more choppy than usual. In 10-meter platform diving, it looks like the athletes are splashing through glass (triangle polygons and all) rather than water. In addition, the camera view in the kayak competition occasionally gets squirrelly, especially when you take sharp turns.
In terms of audio, the two-man commentary holds its own, although some of the special effects (such as the splashing water sounds) need a bit more variety. As in the PlayStation version, a lag time between commentary audio in the skeet shooting event results in the occasional announcing gaffe.
One solid innovation this game offers is the Olympics training mode, in which you develop athletes via "minigame" exercises such as working a treadmill or moving a medicine ball. Although most of the events require button jamming, a few require quick timing (or good hearing, such as in the starting pistol exercise). For those who can stand the repetitive nature of these exercises, it's rewarding to see an athlete improve and eventually win a gold medal. It also gives the game some replay value. Plus, die-hard fans can "save" these athletes on VMU and compete head-to-head with other gamers.
Timing is everything. With that said, the Dreamcast version of Sydney 2000 seems a little rushed to market - obviously to capitalize on the hoopla surrounding the September 2000 event. Surely, if the developers had a couple of extra months, they probably could have improved this version immensely. Still, it remains a decent enough game for button-jamming fanatics despite its flaws.