Back in the good 'ol days, when I were a lad, and you could buy a Mars Bar for 10p, there was only really one game that you wanted to play on the Amiga, or Commodore 64 - Daley Thompson's Decathlon, Track and Field or Summer Games. Of course, I had to go to a mate's house, because I had an Amstrad, which was, well, crap. Anyway, thankfully the world has progressed somewhat and I have my own PS2 at home, and no mates anymore (ahhhh- Sub-Ed), which is a bit of a shame when it comes to playing Athens 2004, the official game of the upcoming Olympics.
Being prepubescent, there was some kudos in being able to alternately hit two buttons as a fast as you can. As a beer-swilling man, you reach a point where tolerance ends and hitting buttons becomes boring. Luckily, that only takes out half of the games in this compendium. There are 25 events to compete in, in the main areas of gymnastics, aquatics, athletics and arena. Arena covers horses, archery and shooting (but you don't get to shoot the horses!).
Visually, the game follows the designs set out by the Olympic team in Athens - so you get to see the stupid cartoon-like characters that frequent these occasions - the official mascot is I don't know what ... some sort of Wizbit clone, with no Paul Daniels (they'll need some magic to get the venue ready in time). As with all licensed event products, you have put up with the fact that it's a at best a spin off, at worst a cash-in and not really going to be the best quality game in the world. Regular official games seem to be in a different category, like the FIFA or NBA ones. This, sadly, is just a bit unoriginal and boring.
Graphically it's come a long way since Daley Thompson's 1984 classic, although for all the eye-candy, it's no more fun. Yes, everything has more depth, the rendering of the objects is pretty good, but at the end of the day, that adds little to the game. For example, in the high jump, you need to follow the footprints to make it over the bar - it about the sequencing of the button presses. The swimming may as well be the 1500 metres, or the hurdles, if you want to throw in another button.
Some people will go all out for this - probably because they are new to this and never had the chance to play on days of old. For me, it just wasn't that much fun. It's a filler game, 45 minutes and you're finished. The graphics and sound are all pretty good and you do get a licensed product. Of the range of games, there are going to be some that you love, and some that you hate. In my opinion, the repetitiveness of some of them detract from the overall package. In fact with appeal that short lived, steer clear of the Olympic hype and rent it without the social euphoria that the real event can generate.
All the people who sent it rushing into the charts already? There's always Ebay.