With Olympic fever sweeping the world and everyone's thoughts turning to sporting glory, London 2012: The Official Video Game of the Olympic Games offers you the chance to experience Olympic action for yourself – albeit without a lifetime of training and torment.
Developer SEGA Studios Australia has pulled out all the stops to ensure the game replicates all the pageantry, and excitement of the real thing, with lifelike models of the real stadia and arenas, commentary from radio's Seth Bennett and former 400m runner Allison Curbishley and all the official insignia present and correct. Okay, so the skies over the game's version of Stratford may be blue rather than London grey, but that just makes it more enjoyable: while the real competitors deal with drizzle and wind, you can smash records and win medals in perfect sunshine.
It helps that the visuals are top-notch, animation fluid and sound crystal-clear - even the menu systems are well executed, and probably easier to navigate than the real Olympic Village. Every effort has been made to create a super realistic environment in which to launch your gold medal bid. Let's hope you're fit for the challenge...
Going for gold
Though the first things to hit you about London 2012: The Official Video Game of the Olympic Games are its sky-high production values and glossy finish, it's the gameplay that steals the show. Forget what you think you know about athletics video games, because SEGA Studios Australia has rewritten the rule book. Gone are the button-bashing events of the distant (and not-too-distant) past, replaced with a series of event-specific control systems that value precision and skill over controller-crunching chaos.
There are over 45 Olympic events to master, from archery and shooting to swimming and sprinting, and in single player mode each is preceded by a quick, handy tutorial designed to show you the ropes without obstructing the action. While swimming events use the wireless controller's left and right sticks to emulate the powerful flow of a swimmer's arms, the high jump requires you to define an optimum angle with the left stick, then tap a button at the right moment to flip your athlete's legs cleanly over the pole. And although sprint events do require you to tap buttons, any fast and furious mashing will leave you contemplating the bitter taste of failure: only by tailoring the timing of your button presses to the on-screen stamina gauge will you outrun your opponents and claim gold.
You can compete for any nation and customise the names and appearances of your athletes as you see fit – which of course raises the possibility of seeing yourself on the winner's podium, preening proudly as your national anthem swells to fill the Olympic Stadium. What's more, once you've conquered all that the regular mode can throw at you, it's superbly simple to build your own bespoke playlist of events. And as if that wasn't enough, in Party Mode a dozen events – including archery and cycling – are also compatible with the PlayStation Move motion controller, offering you the chance to get an even more immersive (and entertaining) perspective on the action. The long, hard road to glory has never been so much fun.
While all the events are great fun to attack on your own, the multiplayer modes of London 2012: The Official Video Game of the Olympic Games add a huge and healthy dose of replay value into the mix.
You can play against up to seven fellow fans via PlayStation Network and, in a stroke of genius, the developer has organised network play so that your results boost or diminish the efforts of other players around the world competing for the same country. It's a real thrill to know that your performances – good or bad – will ripple out to affect your chosen nation on a global scale.
However, the friendly banter really goes into overdrive in Party Play mode, which sees you face off against up to three friends on one PlayStation 3 system. It's here that events compatible with PS Move really come into their own, spicing up the sporting fun as you battle for medals. This is where all that time spent honing your skills in single player events pays off: the roar of the crowd never sounds sweeter than when you're snatching victory from under your mates' noses.