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Re-Printed From SystemLogic.net
Salt Lake 2002
Not Even A Bronze
Attention to Detail first caught my attention with their arcade racer, Rollcage. It was a simple action game that was entertaining and kept you coming back. Since that project was published by Psygnosis, they have signed a deal with Eidos Interactive, who published their last title, Sydney 2000. It depicted 12 events of the summer Olympics held two years ago. Unfortunately, it was far below par for the world's most grand sporting event. Its only redeeming feature appeared to be its aesthetic appeal.
Essentially, the same is true for Salt Lake 2002. Only this time, the event count has been dropped from 12 to six. In this game, you get the chance to participate in Men's Alpine Skiing Downhill, Ladies' Alpine Skiing Slalom, Men's Snowboard Parallel Giant Slalom, Women's Freestyle Skiing Aerials, Men's Ski Jumping K120 Individual, and Men's Two-man Bobsleigh. It's understandable that an event such as hockey was omitted because it is very complex and EA Sports pretty much has that market cornered anyway. What about Curling, or Speed Skating, or Luge? People might say that the Luge is similar to Bobsleigh, but isn't Skiing Slalom similar to Snowboard Slalom? For goodness sake, they could've at least given us the Halfpipe! The lack of events could be forgiven if the developers had created entertaining presentations and control schemes for the events that are included. Sadly, this is not the case.
It's quite obvious that Salt Lake 2002 was designed from the ground up as a game intended for consoles. The manner in which you begin a game is entirely linear, not meant to be navigated with a keyboard or mouse. Entering your name by scrolling through the alphabet with the arrow keys is frustrating to say the least.
In terms of graphics, Sydney 2000 was at the top of its class. Salt Lake 2002 continues the trend with high-polygon models of the athletes and good depictions of the mountainous scenery in the Salt Lake suburb of Park City. Ski lifts go up and down, people park their RVs and cars to observe the events, and lighting fixtures are set up to illuminate nighttime competition. It takes advantage of hardware T&L and was liquid smooth at 1024x768x32 on my Athlon 1800+ system with 256 MB of RAM and a GeForce3. However, my rig is significantly above average, even for gamers. System requirements are high, running on a minimum of a Pentium III 450 with 128 MB of RAM and a 16 MB video card. What's even more astounding is the recommended system with a Pentium III 866, 128 MB of RAM, and a 32 MB video card. Then again, this is a direct port of a console title, meaning that it's probably best suited for performance at low resolutions, such as those of a TV.
Load times are extraordinarily long, possibly a sign that not all of the coding was done efficiently when the game was brought over from consoles to the PC. If I have to watch the little icon of the spinning CD one more time...
To complement the bleeps and blips over the venues and menu system, Attention to Detail opted to include modern lyrical rock music as a soundtrack. It's catchy enough, but doesn't sound quite as professional as I would have liked more like local bands who wanted to get songs from their demo tape distributed to the public.
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.
Pros & Cons
If you just have that urge to feel like an Olympian representing your country, I would recommend that you either hit the slopes or catch more of NBC's coverage for the next three days. Salt Lake 2002 has impressive realism, ranging from the spandex that the athletes wear to the skills required to make a perfect turn in slalom. However, it just doesn't present it in an entertaining fashion. The controls will drive you mad and too much time is spent admiring the scenery and listening to one of the rock tracks. It's fun for a while, but soon the lack of events will catch up with you and you'll wonder if it was worth the $30-$50 investment.
Re-Printed From SLCentral