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July 1, 2004
Athens 2004 - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
499KBDolby PLIIYesYesNoneNo

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Track and Field events.
It may turn out to be the exclusivity deal of the year. Sony snapped up the rights to the biggest sporting event in the world which only occurs every 4 years - the Summer Olympics. Unsurprisingly Sony aren't going to be releasing a game based on any system but the Playstation 2. The developers, Eurocom, have included 25 events spread across seven sports in Athens 2004 including Athletics (100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 100m hurdles, long jump, high jump, triple jump, pole vault, javelin, discus, and shot put), Aquatics (100m freestyle, 100m backstroke, 100m breaststroke and 100m butterfly), Gymnastics(Floor exercises men, floor exercises women, rings men and vault), Equestrian, Weightlifting, Archery and Shooting. This is an impressive list that no other sports, or Olympic, game has ever matched.

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Archery is quite fun.
Gameplay in Athens 2004, as you would expect, is predominantly a button mashing affair. Most of the events require some extraordinarily quick pressing of the X and O buttons to either build power, or maintain speed. Some events, however, are quite different. Archery and Skeet Shooting require precision aiming with wind affecting the archery event. Events such as high jump and gymnastics require precision timing of button presses, while equestrian requires steering of the horse, timing of jumps and altering the speed of the horse. Finally long distance running such as the 1500m and 800m requires timing with when to accelerate the runner, and moving through the pack of runners.

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Using the dance mat.
Multi-player really is the key to longevity of this title and while there is no online gameplay it is possible to play with 4 human controlled players. Given the intensity of some of the events it can be a grueling and tremendously competitive affair. Even more interesting is the ability to use the dance mat to control your characters in some of the game modes, certainly a bonus - now if only the Eye Toy could have been used as well.

There are a couple of issues which I had with Athens 2004 - but keep in mind this is still a very good game, there are just a couple of areas which could have been improved upon. One disappointment is that there is no option to custom make the players. I would love to make all the characters in a multi-player game look like the real people so you could tell them apart. Also, why is it that in a game by Sony they couldn't use say the graphics engine from This is Football to include Olympic Soccer, why are other sports such as Hammer Throw missing, that can't be hard given that shot-put and discus are already there. Some more variety in the swimming would be good, some shorter or longer distances and where is the diving. How about beach volleyball, boxing or badminton? Ok, that's excessive as you would need to develop entirely new game engines, but still... Finally the lack of online gameplay is disappointing. This game is screaming for some international action, and I can't imagine it would create excessive lag due to the turn based events, or limited competitors.

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Equestrian - quite hard.
The biggest issue which I had with Athens 2004 is that some of the events are too similar. One case in point - the swimming events. Although the game includes four styles they are all controlled by pressing the X and O buttons, and L1 to breathe. Sure some variety could have been included such as using the two analogue sticks to control arm movement in say butterfly or breastroke with full circles required.

Graphics in Athens 2004 were never going to be a selling point, but Eurocom have developed a game with some fairly good animations on the athletes, some nicely modeled stadiums and a solid menu presentation. The frame rate is mostly around the 30fps mark although very occasionally it can skip the odd frame or two, especially when you change camera angles in single player mode. Sadly the crowds are very average, although you won't be spending time admiring the crowd during events.

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The weightlifting event.
Although the game includes surround sound, it's usefulness is limited to crowd cheering. The commentary is sparse and somewhat repetitive, and occasionally out of sync with the action on screen, but having said that it's still better then most other sports games. The crowds and ambient effects change with the action on screen while the music generally suits the action such as replays etc perfectly. What I was disappointed about was the lack of national anthems when the winners received their gold medals, the flags are shown but that is all. Surely that should have been one of the first inclusions for sound.

Athens 2004 is easily the best Olympics based title ever, and quite possibly the best track and field/swimming game as well even eclipsing Konami's Track and Field. Almost all the events are superbly executed and the graphical and aural presentation are solid enough as well. Recommended for sports fans.

Review By: David Warner

GRAPHICSEurocom have created a good looking sports game, but nothing great.
SOUNDThe sound effects are solid, the crowd adequate, the music good.
GAMEPLAYSome games have good controls, others need work. It is fun though.
VALUE25 events, 4-player action and quite addictive, no online gameplay.
OVERALLAthens 2004 is probably as good as we could expect from an Olympics based title, and indeed Sony have captured the essence of the biggest sporting event in the world. Some interesting controls are welcome and this game is recommended.

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