Everyone has a few fond memories from some of these button bashing sporting titles over the years. From that sub-8 second time in the 100 metre sprint, through to a horrifically long 120 metre thrown in the javelin, these incredible feats of button prodding are ones that last long in the memory.
Equally as not so fondly remembered are the holes ripped in jumpers as you stretch the material over two fingers as you frantically try and discover the best way to stroke those buttons. And this latest tie in with the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing doesn’t do much to change this long lasting control method.
The button rubbing remains firmly intact, as eager as ever to ruin your poor little fingers as you attempt to shave a tenth of a second off your best time. This time around the pair of analogue sticks hands over a brand new method to test out, with frantic stick twiddling and pushing available for those whose fingers are still bearing the scars from many years of gaming. Sadly, it’s awkward and unwieldy, nor something that’ll help you break any records, so back the basic two button fiddling you’ll go.
With 38 events available, all those track events that we all crowd around the TV to watch the latest British failure in are fully intact. But sadly the variety in the control method across the full range isn’t quite as fulfilling as we might have hoped for.
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The 100 metre sprint for example requires you to fiddle with the shoulder buttons to urge your character off the starting blocks as soon as the gun fires, but not so much that you suffer from the indignity of a false start. After that it’s your standard painful button prodding fare until you hurl yourself over the finishing line and a deserved rest.
When the race length gets a little longer, you’d expect something a touch less torturous to urge your man around the track. Well, Beijing 2008 doesn’t agree with such niceties, so for minutes on end you’re expected to keep on rubbing your fingers across those buttons. By the end of some of the lengthier events, expect sweat to be dripping off your brow just as if you’d been taking part in the event for real.
It’s not so much a test as a real struggle to keep your hands from giving up in total agony. A short bash at a few control pad buttons with some friends can be a great old laugh. But screaming in agony as you feel your fingers come close to giving up the ghost simply isn’t something that anyone could conceivably call "fun".
Some events do initiate a few differing methods of control. The gymnastic floor-exercises for example simply require you to copy the buttons displayed on screen to take the gold. But the rest range from semi-enjoyable (archery) through to the downright horrific (weightlifting). And the less said about the horribly poor representation of table tennis the better.
The actual Olympic career mode requires you to qualify for each event before you get a chance to try and grab some medals, with a failure displaying a "game over" screen, and a drop back into the main menu. Certainly not fun when you’ve spent the last half hour mashing your fingers to a bloody mess.
Even the graphics are sub-par, with some quite shocking representation of a human being sprinting. It’s all just so uncaringly bland that you can’t help but find your eye drifting off to something vaguely more interesting off screen. Something like a bare wall for example.
So Beijing 2008 doesn’t have much going for it. A large proportion of the events are either a true test of endurance that’ll have you tossing your pad out of the nearest window, or just so unbelievably bad that the game disc itself will soon follow.
A few enjoyable events just isn’t enough to make Beijing 2008 a decent purchase. While button bashing isn’t a bad thing in essence, when it’s used this badly you’ll have your fingers begging you for mercy after a mere half hour of play.
Get back to International Track & Field on the PS1 if you want some Olympic type action. This tie-in just isn’t worth the price of the disc it’s been pressed on.