The Olympics. Two words that represent thousands of years of epic competition; the best of the best competing for pride and eternal glory. It is every athlete’s dream to be in these hallowed games and let’s face it, while we may not all be Jesse Owens, video games have given us a chance to don our countries’ colours and attempt to win our own piece of gold. Sega’s 2019 Japanese release: Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game has come to western shores just in time for the rescheduled 2020 Olympics. Has it done enough to win gold, or is it going to fall at the final hurdle?
On your marks…
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game is simple in its core concept. The game consists of 18 mini-games. All of which represent Olympic sports. You will find:
- 100m Sprint
- 110m Hurdle
- 4x100m Relay
- Long Jump
- Hammer Throw
- 100m Freestyle Swimming
- 200m Individual Medley Swimming
- Beach Volleyball
- Rugby 7s
- Sport Climbing
- Table Tennis (singles and doubles)
- Tennis (singles and doubles)
As you can see, the games show an excellent amount of variety and there is enough choice in there to keep even the staunchest Olympic fan satisfied. The controls are also designed for variety and it is refreshing to see that Sega moved away from relying solely on button-bashing to win games. Yes, the 100m sprint is “press x rapidly to win” but other games rely on more timing-based inputs and quick reactions to counter opponents’ swings, serves, and grapples.
I found myself getting to grips with each event with relative ease but there was something wrong. Once I won the qualifiers, I was struggling to even get in the top 3 of any event; my opponents were doing something that was putting them leagues ahead of me. After some digging, I found out that each event has got a hidden set of controls that greatly enhance your performance. These extra controls give you speed boosts, spin-shots, counter-grapples, drop goals, and base-steals (amongst many others). The game tries to spoon-feed you these extra controls through unlockable “tips” but it requires a game-quit in order to view them in a separate menu. You also need to play the event multiple times in order to unlock all of the tips. This is quite simply a terrible mechanic. You should not have to lose an event hopelessly multiple times in order for someone to say “Oh, by the way…this is how you actually win.” The extra controls are hidden behind an “advanced controls” section but it is not obvious to find early on. Keep all the tips easily accessible (and all unlocked) or scrap them altogether. Don’t hover in the middle like this.
The true division in this game lies in the fun factor. Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game boasts a single-player Olympic competition that can also be experienced online.There are no differences in the core gameplay between single-player and online but the overall experience is vastly different. In single-player, the opposing AI either has the skill level of a drunk chimp or the speed, strength, and reflexes of a member of the Justice League. This is made worse by some of the worst team AI that I have ever seen in a video game. If you make a line-break in Rugby, be prepared for the opposing team to run with your player without tackling them and if you play tennis doubles then expect to be regularly hitting the ball into the back of your teammates’ head (no matter how much you try to avoid it). The online element thankfully replaces most of the AI with real humans and it greatly strengthens the experience. You can even set up medleys where you can pick your strongest events to try and win the coveted gold medal for your team. Be wary though, your strongest event may also be your opponents’ top medal-earner.
With all of these stumbles, the game still has enough left in the tank to push through to the qualifiers. There are a number of customisations available for your avatar and I loved being able to compete in the 100m sprint wearing a full suit of armour and bunny-ears. You are able to play against real-life athletes in practice mode and the games have enough variety to keep you entertained until the real games start.
The addition of couch-coop/competition makes Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game a solid Friday-night-time-spender that shines when played with friends/online but quickly becomes stale when played by yourself. The graphics are reminiscent of other games in the genre (think Wii Sports but with more polish and fewer bobbleheads) but the focus on gameplay leaves the wow factor of the graphics back on the starting blocks. If you are looking for a game that brings out the best of each event and will last you until the next Olympic games then sadly, you will not find it here. Events like the Long Jump, Hammer Throw, and Tennis have enough depth to keep you entertained but inconsistent AI makes other events painful to finish. This is not to say that Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game is not fun. Far from it. It is just more of a sprint than a marathon. Sega has ultimately aimed for bronze and achieved exactly that. I would have just liked to have seen more ambition to hit that gold standard.
I give this 6.5 Usain Bolts out of 10
GameRev was provided with a digital download of the game for the purpose of this review.