The Olympics are nearly here and so are the sporting games. Athletics Tournament is one such game available on the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and PC. Here we review the Wii version. There are 8 disciplines and 20 events to look at, with Wiimote and Nunchuk controlling to master. The graphics are decent for a Wii title; the stadiums are bright and varied with a few modes thrown in as well as 2-4 play simultaneous split screen fun. It’s not a bad game but having said that it’s not amazing either. You would be forgiven to think it’s a budget title and for those after a few hours of fun this will do. Let’s dive right in shall we?
There are a few modes on offer here; the single discipline allows you to practice any of the events on show. When you begin you need to choose a team to play as, right away you notice that you’re not representing a nation but a team. They have names like the Royals, Buccaneers, Wild Hogs and Galactics and they all have different looks and outfits to them. I must admit they look rather camp but that’s just my thought, you may like the colors and spandex. Once complete you set difficulty levels, of which there are four to choose from. ‘Instant fun’ means you have very little input and you basically watch the events, Easy, Normal and Hard settings are based on increasing amounts of control and movements needed to perform them. I would recommend Easy for now. You can also build your own competitions from the available events, so there is some choice offered here.
The meat of this game comes in the form of a career mode; you choose a team and need to train them from nobodys to gold medal winners. Once you start the honeycomb events menu will only have two events unlocked, win at least a bronze and more will be unlocked. Each event also has four modes to them with practice, competition, cup and duel all pretty standard really. You also have the ability to train your team by selecting programs. The different programs will train different areas of the athlete’s body and will lead them to be better at some events than others. There is also the option of completing challenges; there are 49 of these which are based on the events in the game and different goals to achieve and again this is standard.
The events themselves are broken down in 8 disciplines such as running, throwing, jumping, diving, swimming, archery, trampolining and fencing. Within these 8 disciplines there are many events including 100m, 200m, 400m, javelin, shot put, long jump and fencing. These are varied enough for them to be fun, but the control system for some of the events is quite frustrating, and wrist breaking I will admit. For example, the racing event requires you to shake your Wiimote and Nunchuk up and down like a mad man and by the end of the 400m your hands will ache. If anything some of the controls you need to do will make you sweat and actually give you a workout. The other events are all based around tilting, shaking or hitting the right buttons. The archery for me is the best event as the control system is right on the money and it looks great.
The graphics of the arenas are really lovely, with many different stadiums from a Greek inspired arena to the more recent technologically advanced ones. The graphics however stumble on the character models of your athletes as they look blocky and clumsy sometimes. The sound and voice effects are ok and the music is the typical inspiring montage you would hear in a movie. The event animations look nice but again these could do with some more rendering and better smoothing. The multiplayer aspect is fun for a while but the simultaneous nature of the split screen can get quite distracting, as it’s hard to focus on your athlete and perform the actions on screen. The actions on screen are also confusing at times as you will end up just shaking your controllers widely. I recommend you go to practice mode first and view the tutorials on what to do before trying the events to avoid frustration and Wiimote breaking. There is also an online mode where you can only view leaderboards and I found this to be unnecessary as it adds nothing to the game.
If you want a fun game to play with friends and family for a few hours this is it. The budget tag is justified and you will get some enjoyment out of it. There is not much in the way of new and ground breaking work but I suspect the developers weren’t really trying to go for that. The graphics are bright and passable but do not stand up under close inspection, the sounds are fine and the modes on offer will give you some amusement as well. It’s not really an amazing game, if you are after a truly Olympic game then wait a few weeks for other releases. If you’re desperate to be an athlete then get the demo and see what you think.