On your marks...get set...DOH!
What do the Olympics mean to you? Take a second - it's not just some elementary school essay topic. One would hope that somehow through the Olympics, peace and understanding across the nations could be achieved, that athletes of every color and creed could come together in the name of competition and honor.
Don't that just give ya the warm fuzzies? Hope so, because in the real world, it's a much different story. Nowadays, the whole thing has become far too commercial. Between the crooked bribe-taking Olympic selection committee and the endless tide of endorsement deals, it's sometimes hard to find the actual events. It's like the ideals of athleticism are being sold left and right to fuel the money lust.
So what do the Olympics mean to me? Lots of things, but they sure as hell don't mean an excuse to slap together a third-rate game. Let's get it straight - playing Sydney 2000 is not participating in the Olympics. Playing Sydney 2000 is going through rote finger tapping or timing exercises that will quickly get boring.
Remember Track and Field, that button mashing coin-op from the 80's? Well even if you don't, the guys behind Sydney 2000 sure as hell do, since this is basically the exact same game.
Sydney 2000 is made up of 12 different events, ranging from Track & Field to Skeet Shooting to Kayaking. Control for every one of these events is eerily similar. There are two power buttons. Usually these two are alternately mashed quickly to build up power. Run faster. Swim faster. Lift stronger. Keep those two buttons going. Then there's the action button, which is used at key points within the events to, well, do stuff, like taking off from the starting line or jumping over a hurdle.
On the one hand, the three-button control makes it somewhat easy to grasp. But on the other, you'll have some thoroughly uninteresting gameplay ahead of you, as this play scheme accounts for much of the entire game. Three buttons. Is this the mark of the Olympic athlete?
I'm far from sated when I play a game that simply involves tapping two buttons rapidly back and forth. And those are the better, more interesting events. Skeet Shooting drags on with its poor execution and touchy aiming. Diving is really is just pressing the buttons in a specified order. The only difference with multiplayer mode is that now your friends will get bored with you.
The graphics in the Dreamcast and PC versions are pretty good. The environments are smoothly displayed, and the true-to-life sports complexes of Sydney 2000 come across with sharp lines. Sure, the crowd doesn't look perfect, but better than the blur of the Playstation version.
The cartoonish athletes themselves look a little freaky, though the subtle animations help tremendously. Shaking out the arms during a pre-stretch or breathing heavily while preparing to lift the weight higher adds to the realism. It's a step in the right direction.
Considering that this game carries the 'official' Olympic license, it's a let down that you don't get to use the 'official' Olympic competitors as well. No Michael Johnson, no Marion Jones. The game doesn't have much in the way of player creation, so you can't even really make 'em from scratch.
Across all versions, there's the same noise. Audible grunts here and there, a mostly decent announcer, crowd cheers, and the redundant theme music make for a mediocre experience.
Sydney 2000 also includes a Training mode, a place to beef up your athlete's stats. There are 20 training events, but none of them are very fun. A nice try, but no medal awarded here.
Track and field games aren't a far stretch for a developer. Olympic games have been around since the early, early days of computing. Somehow I expected that with time, there would have been more improvements. Perhaps button tapping like this would have passed for the earliest decathlon games, but it sure doesn't now. And with total presentation so lackluster, it's just disappointing overall.
Sydney 2000 isn't special. It's the kind of game that can pass itself off easily on the impressionable few who still believe in the best of the Olympics...those who believe the measure of honor lies in this "official" game. It doesn't.