While it captures the grand feel of the Games, London 2012′s dull campaign stops it from taking home the gold.

The Good

  • Some fun, well-thought-out minigames
  • Encapsulates the excitement of the Games.

The Bad

  • No lasting appeal
  • Dull solo campaign
  • No practice mode.

The stadia have been built, the athletes are prepared, and London’s public transport system has been put into disarray, which can mean only mean one thing: it’s time for the Olympic Games. Of course, unless you’re at the peak of your physical ability, you won’t be competing for your very own gold medal this year. Enter London 2012: The Official Video Game of the Olympic Games, which attempts to recreate the Olympic experience for mere mortals. While it doesn’t have any lasting appeal, London 2012′s well thought-out mini-games are mostly entertaining and, at the very least, more reliant on skill and careful timing than mindless button mashing.

Well, at least Mexico’s archers are representing their nation well.

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In the single-player Olympic mode, you choose from over thirty national teams and attempt to lead them to glory in the Games. Two events are played each day and there are two rounds: qualifiers and finals. The tutorials are brief and informative, but there’s no opportunity to really practice the events before you take part in the qualifiers. If you get through, then you repeat the event, but this time with the chance to win medals. Such repetition is dull, especially as you have to pick from a prescribed list of events, and can’t skip the ones you don’t like. Events mode is much better, because it allows you to create and save playlists of the your favourite events instead.

It’s clear from the outset that London 2012 is not a good single-player game. Most of the events can be completed quickly, but the sheer amount of games on offer and the effort it takes to complete one Olympic career don’t leave you clambering to start another. It doesn’t help that the Olympics are really all about competition, and without someone other than the AI to compete against, the experience falls flat. The game does support Kinect and a party play mode, though, which is its saving grace. The social aspects are akin to games such as Kinect Sports, and there’s more satisfaction to be had when you beat a friend or family member to the gold, rather than a faceless AI.

Victory is mine!

Victory is mine!

For the most part, the Kinect-compatible minigames, which aren’t available in Olympic mode, are a lot of fun. In many of the events, the sensor accurately tracks your motions, and it’s easier to use than the control pad. Running in track events requires fast pumping of the arms, and hurdles requires you to jump on the spot–both of which are the kind of fun, responsive gameplay you’d expect from an Olympics tie-in title. But while some Kinect minigames are fine, others are shockingly bad. Events such as beach volleyball and table tennis should be fast-paced and exciting, but they’re horribly slow. The experience is dull, with lots of waiting around to hit the ball, which can easily be done with a brief flail, rather than any actual skill.

London 2012 doesn’t scrimp on quantity when it comes to the main, controller-compatible games it offers, but some of the 30-odd games are worse than others. Trampoline, vault and diving are nothing more than quicktime events, and scoring can be infuriating, as the judge’s temperament seems to vary from round to round. On the other hand, track and field events offer more enjoyment. While there are some shared mechanics between all of these events, there are subtle differences that make each one its own challenge. Button mashing is kept to a minimum in London 2012, and instead carefully timed flicks of the analogue sticks control how far or fast your athlete will go. Mastering each technique takes practice. Sadly, there’s little opportunity to do this in the single player campaign, which rushes you through tutorials, and is more intent on teaching you which buttons to press, rather than when you should press them.

While it captures the grand feel of the Games, London 2012′s dull campaign stops it from taking home the gold.

By Lucy James