2K Sports brings the 20th Winter Olympics home to PC gamers with this selection of cold-weather competitions. Set in a re-creation of Torino, Italy, in 2006, the game hosts more than a dozen events in eight different sports. A television-style presentation is designed to enhance the realism and pageantry of the quadrennial arctic athletics extravaganza.
California Games. Track & Field. Caveman Ugh-lympics. Those were some sweet competition games, highlighting great and creative design elements and gameplay mechanics during gaming's classic days of yesteryear. Unfortunately, with very few exceptions, these sorts of games have gone straight downhill since then. Torino 2006 is not one of those exceptions.
Let's start with focusing on the individual games themselves. Torino 2006 touts 15 various events, ranging from downhill skiing to bobsleigh to speed skating. Unfortunately, these 15 events are made up of variants of eight basic event types, and even some of those are essentially copies of each other - luge is almost exactly like two and four-man bobsleigh, and the Nordic combined is simply a ski jump and cross-country score combined. Similarly, speed skating takes up three events with 500m, 1000m and 1500m distances, and aside from how long you're skating, the events are essentially identical.
With the exception of the start of each speed skating event, the game shies away from the common button-mashing gameplay mechanic that some of the more well known multi-event games are famous for. Instead, Torino 2006 focuses on proper timing, energy management or skillful steering in order to excel. Unfortunately, none of these actions are actually compelling.
Some of the events are exactly as you'd expect them and have likely played before: alpine skiing requires that you steer, crouch and cut, while luge and bobsleigh are simple steering exercises once you're off and running. These sorts of events haven't exactly been the most fun games to play in past Olympic titles, and there's nothing new here in Torino 2006 that makes them stand out.
The cross-country skiing, biathlon and Nordic combined events at least implement an original energy meter for the skiing elements, where you essentially manage how hard you push your athlete while managing your energy for the long run. This at least brings something new to the table, but like the other events, it still isn't compelling.
Therein lies half of the problem with Torino 2006: none of the games are actually fun or compelling to play. There's nothing that'll call you back to the couch for another round of events. At least the old-school button-mashing style of Olympic and track & field games brought adrenaline into the mix so your friends would egg you on to beat their world record. There's simply none of that here.
The other major problem with Torino 2006 is that it doesn't do a whole lot to mimic the majestic and classic exhibition of the Olympics. From the opening ceremony to the medal presentations after each event to the closing festival, a huge part of the Olympics has to do with its presentation. It's a major reason the games get so much attention and such an enormous amount of viewership every year they came around, and Torino 2006 sadly does practically nothing to instill this sense of "history in the making" to the gamer.
For starters, each event simply starts with some extremely drab commentary about the event, entirely unrelated to anything else that's happened thus far, how the CPU has performed or anything else like this. Then you perform said event, see your guy standing on the podium (or not) and then it's on to the next event. It's entirely lifeless, void of any sort of Olympic soul. As a result, it feels like an assortment of strung-together mini-games rather than a life's work competition.
Making matters worse, the commentary is terrible. After the mentioned bland intros for each event, most of what they say is on the order of, "Nice!" "Fantastic!" or "Oh no!" Really, this is some of the worst and laziest commentary we've ever heard.
Another very major aspect of the Olympics that Torino fails miserably at is the world records. Your performance for each event, regardless of whether the event is counted as distance, time or whatever, is translated to some seemingly arbitrary score. If you happen to break a record during an event, you're shown where your score ranks on the top list, but not your actual event time. So, if you set a bobsled record of 58.12 seconds over the previous 58.75, you might see your score of 10,240 beating a score of 10,190 or some such. The only way to compare times, the part that matters, is to head to the main menu and venture into the record books.
The last bit of Torino 2006's presentation that's simply terrible is that the CPU teams are simply labeled Computer 1, Computer 2, Computer 3 and so on. They're all assigned to various countries, so it doesn't make much sense that if Computer 1 is playing as Russia, it isn't just labeled as Russia. This, along with the rest of the massive presentation pitfalls, really takes away the feeling of competing in the Olympics and leaves you with a feeling of competing against computer-generated scores.
Torino 2006 is an essential failure in almost every way. At best it's a collection of rather boring events. At worst, putting the Olympic symbol on the box is a mockery of the games' excellent now bi-yearly presentation. Unless you really, really love competition games, pass on Torino 2006.
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