You now have the chance to take part in the Olympics at home with Sony's official tie-in for the Playstation 2. But, if you were expecting the full panoply of Olympic disciplines, the range of games available will probably disappoint you.
That said, there's a fairly impressive selection to choose from, with most of the track and field, swimming, and indoor events listed and some unusual additions like horse jumping, archery, shooting and gymnastics thrown into the mix. If you're old enough to remember the original Track and Field arcade game, you'll already be familiar with the idea of repeatedly hitting buttons to make things go faster/higher/further. To be frank, there hasn't been this much frenzied button pressing in the Grayson household since the TV went on the blink during the State of Origin decider.
Be warned - this isn't a game for those who like to keep their PS2 controllers in perfect working order. A variety of methods have been implemented to simulate each discipline, from standard button bashing and power meter timing through to analog stick stirring, or a combination of all the above. Some combinations are more successful than others and you may find yourself wishing for an extra limb in events like the swimming and hurdles.
As you'd expect, motion-captured athletes being put through their paces fill the accurate recreations of the Athens arenas. Each of the events can be played or practiced individually, or you can take part in collections of disciplines, like decathlon, heptathlon, athletics, gymnastics and custom arrangements. You can also opt for a full 5-day, 25-event competition back to back - assuming that your hands are up to the task, as there's no save option during the game. Also disappointing is the commentary, which quickly becomes repetitive (when it's not being wildly inaccurate) and some of the motion capture gives the impression that the developers were up against a tight deadline.
Overall, Athens 2004 has many good points and we can see how the party challenge mode could be a lot of fun when you've got your mates around, but the biggest obstacle here is the subject matter itself. With most of the events being completed in under a minute, you'll find yourself flicking through protracted warm-up scenes or waiting for game elements to load, making it a title that you might want to dip into from time to time, rather than a long-running personal favourite.
Score Card:Visuals: Generally good; occasionally lacking finesse
Audio: Cheesy Olympian orchestrals coupled with ambient backing
Gameplay: Patchy. Not enough here to fully engage.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe