PC Game -- Torino 2006

Typically, Australia doesn't fair well at the Winter Olympics - hardly surprising given that we barely get enough snow to fill Bert Newton's toupee - and 2K Sports' Torino 2006 is unlikely to win any medals, either. When you begin the game, you have access to a 15-event championship, a nine-event championship and a customisable championship. No mini-games, no training and no online play. Despite this claim of 15 events, it's more like eight sports with various distances/challenges. For the record, these are; downhill skiing, bobsleigh, luge, speed skating (yay!), biathlon, cross country, ski jump and slalom.

The sense of disappointment you'll undoubtedly get from this game is fuelled by two things. Firstly, the sports offer rudimentary skill-based gameplay that have more in common with Mario Party than a sport sim. Depending on the event, you'll religiously focus on a power bar and a balancing bar, frantically pressing keys in the hope that your fingers are fast enough to earn a medal. It'll take you a few attempts to get each sport nailed down (and work out what to do, because there's no training mode). Once you've earned a medal, there's nothing in the way of upward movement to encourage a re-match. Secondly, where are all the other sports, like hockey, aerial snowboarding, figure-skating and curling?

To be fair, while the gameplay is basic, it's certainly playable. Characters aren't blessed with a wide range of animations, but they react fluidly on command, wipe out in style and even look pretty cool in places.

Presentation isn't spectacular, but it is acceptable; environments are static but pretty, and the flashes of other competitors roaring past provide a few artistic flourishes. Unfortunately, for the world's biggest sporting event, the game fails to capture any of the sense of spectacle that you'd expect from the Olympics. Sound effects and commentary are woefully bad (there aren't even cowbells ringing on the downhill), while track and world design never go out of their way to impress. You really are getting the basics and little else.

Torino 2006 is just a shell of a game that's lacking in options, skills, gameplay variation and fun. You might get more legs out of it if you have friends over to play against, or get motivated enough to beat the rudimentary challenges, but your joy won't last long. Veteran gamers out there may be able to remember the legendary 1985 Amiga 2600 title, Winter Games. Well, Torino 2006 may have improved the graphics immeasurably, but the same can't be said for the gameplay.

A Screenshot is available here.
Visuals: Hardly eye-opening. The animation is smooth, but the environments aren't much to write home about.
Audio: A disappointing absence of cowbells and woefully bad commentary.
Gameplay: A seriously unspectacular cash-in on the Olympics that should be avoided.
Score: 2 stars (out of 5)
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: 2K Sports
URL: www.2ksports.com
Price: $69.95

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Chris Stead

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