Ten minutes in, we had to eject the disc to confirm this was Summer Athletics 2009 and not last year’s inaugural iteration. Same controls, lack of online play, charmless monkey gyrating around on the loading screen, and – barring two skeet shooting events – the same disciplines. Hell, half the Achievements are identical. Summer Athletics 2008: now with added skeet shooting. There’s a shining endorsement.
What has 49Games been doing for the last year? It can’t have been programming the skeet shooting – it’s a turgid reaction test, bringing the world’s dullest sport to life with 100% joyless accuracy. And few man-hours were spared for polishing up last year’s scare-o-visuals. From the soulless android sportsmen to textures seemingly spread on with a cement trowel, this looks like how the mid-1990s perceived games of the future to be. 3D, but totally unreal.
A shame, all in all, as the core controls remain a shining star in a genre plagued by ill-thought-out pad applications. Keeping all events mapped to analogue sticks and triggers plays to the controller’s strengths – with the kind of palm sweats you expect from track and field games, you don’t want to be messing around with those slippery little face buttons. That said, swimming’s inward stick circling remains as swear-inducingly borked as it was twelve months ago.
Perhaps the controls are too welcoming. Twelve out of twenty-eight events boil down to waggling the right analogue stick and acing timed button presses. Bury the nubbin in your palm (fingers tire faster) and it’s not unusual to break world sprinting records and max out throwing distances in your very first attempt – a fact shadily disguised by the conspicuous absence of online leaderboards. Isn’t it meant to take years to train for a medal? We can earn at least five golds while eating Hobnobs with our other hand. We’re legends, us.
Ironically, the whole farce is sponsored by Duracell – a brand famed for its ability to go on and on. (And on.) Pairing with Summer Athletics 2009 is an ignorant move; there’s no way it’ll take the average player more than two AAs to see all it has to offer. Don’t let the games begin.
Aug 24, 2009