The winter blues.
Keep the kids indoors and start sucking down Vitamin C – Winter Olympics fever is in the air! That’s right, the world is buzzing with interest as hundreds of athletes from tens of countries like descend upon Torino,
Switzerland, uh, Norway, er, Denmark, aha, ITALY in an effort to realize their Olympic dreams. It’s such a big deal this year, it might actually be on TV!
Indeed, the bastard child of the Olympics and a cold pressure system is almost upon us, and indeed, most of North America isn’t really into it. Maybe that’s because the Winter Games only date back to the 1920’s, a far cry from the pre-Jesus roots of the Summer Games. Maybe it’s because equatorial countries aren’t even invited (not that there are many Thai skiers trying to make the cut, but it’s the thought that counts). Or perhaps the Winter Games get a somewhat chilly reception because luging, speed skating and bobsleighing just aren’t big spectator sports in America.
[image1]Me? I think it’s because of the crappy video games, and it don’t get crappier than Torino 2006. This waste of a perfectly good disc totally fails to capture any of the excitement of the real thing, turning this second-rate Olympics into a last-rate interactive mess.
That might sound weird since the game is published by the usually excellent 2K Sports. It’s developed, however, by 49Games, a tiny German outfit with precisely two titles to their credit, both about skiing. Talk about showing some faith in a newbie, although after this disaster, I don’t imagine they’ll be signed on for two more.
Unsurprisingly, of the fifteen events depicted in Torino 2006, nine involve skis, although by nine, I mean three, since so many of them play identically. Four are downhill slalom variants, requiring little more than steering and tucking as you careen down what appears to be the same mountain over and over again. Two more are ski jumps – keep your skier balanced as they plummet towards a timed button press. I’m not sure that qualifies as gameplay. The remaining three are bland cross-country trials, including the Biathlon (where you have to stop and shoot at targets) and the Nordic Combined (a combination of ski jumping and cross-country). The control for these events is the same across the board: press X to manage a stamina meter; hold it down too long and you’ll tire out. That pertains to both the game and your patience.
[image2]If it sounds repetitive, just you wait. Bobsleighing and Luging play identically as well, requiring you to merely adjust left and right as you haul ass down an icy tube. The speed skating events (500, 100 and 1500m types) feature an oddly difficult rhythmic button-tapping thing, by far the most complex gameplay mechanic in Torino 2006, though that’s not saying much. Torino 2006‘s terrible gameplay almost makes me miss the ancient art of Track ‘N Field button-mashing.
And that’s all there is to it. Figure Skating, Curling, Ice Hockey, and Snowboarding didn’t make the cut, although considering how lame this thing plays, that might be a blessing in disguise.
There’s nothing holy about the paltry set of game modes, though. You can tackle these boring events one at a time, nine at a time, or all fifteen at once, a task only recommended if all of your other video games spontaneously explode. You can also customize your own competition, but that doesn’t mean you can import better events from other Olympic video games. No character creator, no skills training, nothing.
The anemic multiplayer lets you take on up to four friends in any or all events, making it a great way to lose friends. Astoundingly, there is no online component whatsoever, so don’t expect to take on the world in these Olympics. Ouch.
[image3]At least it doesn’t look terrible. The character models are actually decent and the framerate doesn’t stutter, though that’s also because nothing is going on to warrant much of a crunch. If you actually win a medal, you’ll laugh out loud during the retarded Medal Ceremony as all three winners go through the exact same looped animations, hands waving aimlessly like lobotomized Miss America contestants.
Good luck figuring out who won, because the game is entirely without national anthems. This grievous omission also plagued the nearly as bad Athens 2004, and apparently publishers have learned nothing from that train wreck. Instead, we get the worst commentators since, well, the last Winter Olympics game. They repeat lines endlessly and sound almost as bored as you feel.
If that’s even possible. The Winter Olympics might not have the appeal of the Summer Games, but there’s still plenty of interesting gameplay conventions to explore. Unfortunately, Torino 2006 is so wildly uninspired, so entirely rote in its design that it barely qualifies as decent merchandising even at its discounted $20 price. The GR judge gives this one the finger.