The new Olympics game is full of surprises
We've played a near-finished version of London 2012: The official video game of the Olympic Games and found quite a few surprises. So take a look through these huge new screenshots (just hit the expand icon in the top-right corner to see one full-size) and we'll explain along the way.
You can split arrows down the middle
Ever wanted to be like Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves? Well, you can't set your arrows on fire and shoot your opponents between the eyes, but you can split arrows that are already in the target by hitting them dead on. Sweet!
There are two different sides to the game
There's a serious, brand-centric Olympics game as you'd expect. But there's also a party mode which still looks serious, but adds in more videogamey elements like score multipliers.
Not to mention gold equipment
Play well and you can unlock shiny gold versions of your sports equipment. This is a way to show the world that you're a skilled player when you go online, without unbalancing the competition with boosted stats. We want a gold javelin.
And Tony The Tiger('s voice) is in it
On the party mode side of the game, the commentator is a man who 'used to be Tony The Tiger in Frosties adverts'. Sadly there have been a few, so we're not sure which one. But he occasionally says things are 'great', which makes us warm inside.
And the main commentary was ad-libbed
For the official events, BBC Radio 5 Live commentator, Seth Bennett, takes on vocal duties. Apparently, instead of reading from a pre-written script, all of his lines were improvised as he watched the game being played for several hours. That way, every line sounds natural.
Multiplayer is hilarious
We played a two-player battle on skeet, which was hard-fought and competitive. But the most laughs came during the long jump competition. Note: It helps if you jump.
You don't mash buttons to win
The days of broken joypads and blistered fingers are over - there's no 'mash the buttons fastest' to win here. You do have to tap quickly, but it's all about keeping your rhythm. There's a bar on the screen that fills as you tap, with a small sweet spot at the top. Tap too fast or too slow and the bar falls from the sweet spot. Stay in it and the sweet spot gets smaller. Very clever.
All of the areas are faithful
North Greenwich Arena (usually known as the O2 Arena) has been reproduced in loving detail. Why isn't it called the O2? Because the Olympic venue can't have sponsoring, apparently.
Trampoline isn't as hard as it looks
You start the Trampoline events by deciding how difficult your routine is going to be. When you start, the icons flash up and vanish very quickly, which makes it look impossible. But actually, your chosen routine is always shown in the top-left, letting you know which button will come next, leaving you free to just make the timing.
The dev team has had some fun...
Missing your buttons on the trampoline results in some very funny scenes, as the commentator says things like 'He won't score any points just for jumping up and down'. Honestly, it's funnier than it sounds. You can also screw up and do a face plant on the edge of the tramp - something the athlete immediately pretends didn't happen.
Bikes are all about blocking
Things get very videogamey when the bike events come round. Your stamina has to be carefully monitored. But you can use riders behind you to give you a bump and a boost while you recover. You can't fall off, sadly - apparently that would 'not be in keeping with the Olympic ideal'. That's the price of officialdom, folks.
The game explains things well
Usually in athletics sims, you either have to sit through a tutorial or just start the event and hope you can keep up. However, London 2012 has interactive tutorials that let you play things a stage at a time. Add in the fact that the power bar is used in loads of events and the whole game takes on a familiar control scheme very quickly. It works.
Beach Volleyball is new
This is the first official Olympics game to feature Women's Beach Volleyball - and it's quite the eye-opener. You only play as one of your two ladies, with the other either controlled by the CPU or by your friend. Four player is available with a split screen - but not split into quadrants as you're both on the same side.
Angles are achieved through analog control
When you want to throw your javelin, you simply flick the stick towards top-left. The exact angle of your flick on the controller is the angle that your athlete will throw the javelin. It sounds a lot easier than it is and will really test your joypad dexterity.
You can't shoot the birds
Everybody tries, though.
Table Tennis is in!
Although we didn't get to try it in the demo. Still, Rockstar proved that it's possible to make a compelling and enjoyable virtual version of the sport, so we're hopeful this'll be fun.
Scores will be uploaded and friends challenged
There's a ticker feed at the top of the main menu that shows you how your friends are faring in the high score tables compared to you. So even if you've not got friends round, you can enjoy the competition with them while alone.
It's looking good
This is looking like being an excellent multiplayer game and we enjoyed ourselves a lot more than we were expecting when we played it with some fellow journos. We may not have any interest in the actual Olympic games, but the wealth of events here (including some excellent rowing events that we don't have screens of) coupled with teh superb attention to detail should make this one a hit when the real Olympic Games hit London this summer. If anyone actually watches them, that is...