With as many events as there are that make up Salt Lake 2002, the biggest factor is the control scheme. How do you let the players do their own freestyle aerials? How do you let them leap from the end of the ski jumping ramp? The developers have crammed all of these options into two keys along with the four arrow keys. By default, these are A and Z. It took me a while to realize that when the game instructs you to press the B button, it actually means the A button. When it instructs you to press the A button, it actually means the Z button. That's more residual from its console base.
In general, controls for Salt Lake 2002 are not intuitive. I found myself scrambling for the manual where it explains the technicalities of each event, and the fact that it's a little pamphlet in the CD jewel case doesn't help very much. For bobsleigh, you hold down one key for your team to build up speed by pushing the bobsled along. You hold another for them to enter the sled before the designated mark on the track. For downhill, you hold down a key to build up speed by crouching over. Never does it make sense which key this is! Obviously you can figure it out by trying them both, but usually by that time you've ruined the current attempt.
The game spends too much time having the announcers comment on your excellent or poor performance, giving you flybys of the venues, and watching your athletes prepare themselves for their chance at Olympic glory and taking part in the medal ceremony, which is part of the game. Other than in Freeform Mode, there are no mulligans. You stick with what you get, and it typically ruins your chances at winning a medal. This is what makes up the Olympic Mode. In Tournament Mode, you go through four rounds of competition held at night for one event. Classic Mode takes you through all six events with increasing levels of difficulty derived from tougher goals and weather conditions.
Freeform Mode also gives you the luxury of multiplayer gaming with up to four people on the same computer. Each of you can represent one of 16 nations including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, France, Germany, Russia, and Norway.
Of course, not all is bad. There are numerous nice touches that add a flavor to the game. The wipeout animations are kind of fun to watch, whether it's alpine skiing or bobsleigh. A convincing feeling of grandeur is portrayed by the massive venues in which you compete. Looking out at the stands and mountains while speeding down the ski jump ramp can take your breath away. And you have to grin a little bit when your green-haired athlete celebrates with his buddy after winning an event. When you win a medal or accomplish a goal in Salt Lake 2002, at least you feel good about it and can watch the replay of your wicked move with a smile on your face. I can't say the same for many sports games that I've had the pleasure, or displeasure, of reviewing.
Almost every event features some sort of assistance, either in the form of minimap to tell you which way the course is going to head, or arrows that tell you in what position your skis should be for the most points. Although these are useful in overcoming the frustration of Salt Lake 2002's controls, they also distract you from what's going on and you don't get to spend as much time as you would like watching your athlete take on the world.
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