Version tested: PC
The Olympic Games are perhaps the most celebrated of all the sporting events in the world. There is something about the entire procession that captures even those not usually interested in athletics.
To take such a prestigious event and base a computer game around it is no small task, but ATD felt they were up to the challenge. There is no getting away from it though - Sydney 2000 is simply a "Track and Field" style arcade jaunt, involving the disintegration of your keyboard, and strain of the wrists! However, with the official Olympic sponsorship behind it, we can surely expect something a little more than that surely? Well, as you would expect there is a suitably grandiose video which sets the scene for the events included within the game quite nicely.
You can then choose to play the game either in straight arcade mode, where no qualification is needed, or in the far more entertaining Olympic mode of play. There is also a coaching mode, taking you step by step through all the events and how to control your athlete in each. Playing in arcade mode is useful to verse yourself with all of the events and how they operate, but although this might make Sydney 2000 sound like a complicated game, in reality only three of the events don't involve brainless key bashing!
Chariots of Fire
The Olympic mode is excellently thought out, and provides a stiff challenge, albeit a wrist destroying one! Each event puts you through a tough series of training and qualifying competitions, and don't think that you can skimp on the training either. The result of this will be a poor physique and equally poor qualifying performance.
Training is focused in three areas in a virtual gym, which will remind you of the Krypton Factor straight away, with it's futuristic interface. The gym puts you through your paces with a travelator, weight-lifting, and starter gun reaction tests. Your first impression will be that it all seems a little pointless, but once you start seeing your hard training reaping rewards in the qualifying events, it all becomes a lot of fun.
With any luck you will be fully trained up and your morale sitting at 100% for your final Olympic showdown. And once you have completed that particular event, it's on to the next one. Be prepared to take a few breaks now and again though, as it really is that knackering!
There are a dozen events in all, including usual events such as the 100m sprint and javelin, but also included are a couple of surprises in the Kayak K1 slalom and 10m platform diving.
Controlling your character in the running and throwing events is a simple case of alternating your left and right power buttons, and in certain cases pressing your action button at the right moment. Yes, this is a rather exhausting method of control, but I fail to see how else you can do it. It's certainly the definitive way of ensuring that you are putting in the maximum effort, short of hooking up a travelator to your USB port!
I had no real problems with the controls except for in the skeet shooting, where your crosshair moves far too slowly and there is no support for mouse control, which would have been the ideal controlling method for this type of event. There is no way you can change this sadly, with only a pre-determined set of key combinations for selection, and the optional use of a joypad if you have one installed.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics range from splendid to extremely average, with events like 100m freestyle swimming looking absolutely brilliant, while the Kayak K1 rowing is pretty bland. And for all of the events the crowd is terribly drawn, looking stupidly two-dimensional against their detailed 3D surroundings.
The stadiums are excellently rendered though, with huge television screens broadcasting the live events in sync with the action, and all the expected equipment like the throwing event nets and high jump crash mats looking authentic. The athletes themselves take on a more cartoon like quality, which works very well, especially in the weight lifting where the puffing out of the cheeks is highly comical.
Appropriate audio is used for each event with the grunts of exertion in the hammer event sounding really quite painful. The familiar commentary of Steve Rider accompanies you throughout the games, and really adds to the whole Olympic atmosphere.
With the quality of the events in Sydney 2000, I can't help feeling they really should have pushed the boat out and provided a whole lot more events. After all, this is to celebrate the Olympic games, so why not go overboard and provide the near perfect compilation of events?
With the swimming graphics engine in particular being superbly done, I would have liked for more events based around this. Also, what happened to the discus or shot put throwing events, and what about the rest of the running events? Unfortunately, although twelve events may seem a lot, you will soon find you have seen all there is to see.
What you do get is very accomplished and well presented, but ultimately it just isn't enough to keep you bashing your keyboard well into the night. It is certainly my choice in the Sydney 2000 vs Sergei Bubka war though, with a far better qualifying system and overall feel to the game.
8 / 10