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Vancouver 2010 for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC puts you in the middle of an authentic simulation of the upcoming Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. You'll get to experience the thrill and high-octane rush of some of the most extreme and spectacular of winter sports. With an all-new challenge mode exclusive to the official game, this will be a gaming experience unlike any other immersing you in the most exciting sporting events in the world.
Olympic sport-themed videogames have always been awkward and uninspiring efforts that have broken more controllers, joysticks or fingers than I care to remember. But Vancouver 2010 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC looks to break that painful mould with a game that puts much more emphasis on skill and timing rather than how quickly you can waggle your stick.
The downside to this approach is the limited number of events the game offers. Fourteen different disciplines is a little on the short side if you're looking for the complete Winter Olympic experience, but the quality to the events included in the box more than makes up for this shortcoming.
The biggest difference you'll notice from previous Olympic videogames is the first-person perspective. This gives the game a much more atmospheric feel as you experience motion-blur effects and subtle lighting detail that gives a truly awesome sense of speed as you're skiing down a sheer slope. Given that many of the more television-friendly winter sports like Ski-jump, Bobsled and Ski-Slalom are fast-paced affairs the sense of place in this game is nothing short of amazing. Little touches like hearing the athleteís breath quicken as the event goes on and the visual effect of wearing ski-goggles make all the difference in a genre that's grown stale and boring over the years.
All those events are exciting to play with their high-quality presentation and attention to detail - with the high-speed bobsledding discipline the most enjoyable thanks to its near breakneck speed shenanigans and the helpful feedback the game gives you after taking each corner. This approach to the individual events makes Vancouver 2010 feel like a collection of coherent small sporting moments rather than the disparate array of minigames many Olympic videogames have succumbed to before.
Controlling the game differs according to the actual events and there's a pleasing amount of variety to make each experience unique to that sport. Bobsledding mixes up a bit of the old-fashioned button bashing at the start to initiate the sled before giving you control of the cornering by using both analogue sticks. It's an excellent mix and enables you to get into a certain rhythm when playing to make the game feel like a test of skill - just like the real thing.
Other events rely on skill-based button presses and with Ski Jumping in particular you'll have a variety of variables such as wind direction, ski speed and airborne balance to consider when controlling your athlete. Being graded on each of these makes it crucial that the mechanics behind hitting a certain button or the physics within the game world are fair - and Vancouver 2010 does an excellent job of getting each part of the experience to feel right.
One of the problems that the game suffers from is the nature of the event itís simulating. In the real Olympic Games most events are structured with one athlete following another. In a videogame however, this approach doesn't lead to the same competitive thrill I'd like. It would be nice to see, just for the sake of fun, a splitscreen slalom, bobsled or ski-jump events. The thought of Mario Kart-like downhill ski races should probably belong in Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games but that level of competitive fun would be very welcome in a game like this. Most of these faults are circumvented when playing the game with a group of friends and Vancouver makes for a surprisingly effective party game - adding that welcome brand of vocal multiplayer into the mix for an immersive experience.
Vancouver 2010 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC doesn't blow the doors off the Olympic Games genre but it does tweak the formula enough to make the experience of playing it far superior to previous offerings. The paltry 14 events are a problem but the quality of the presentation and the first-person perspective make this a very enjoyable and immersive Olympic experience that fans of winter sports should definitely pick up.
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