- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 22, 2004

The official studio of sports simulations for Sony Computer Entertainment continues its tradition of offering the most mediocre of games with its officially sanctioned tribute to Greece’s Summer Olympics.

Just imagine competing in 25 events within seven accurately designed venues as one of 800 athletes representing 64 countries. Imagine going for the gold by competing in such diverse tasks as the javelin throw, 100-meter butterfly, 100-meter hurdles and gymnastic floor exercises.

Now imagine rapidly pushing down on controller buttons until finger muscles cramp into permanently distorted positions, skin melds with plastic and bones bruise from the strain of overuse.

Sounds like fun, eh?

I thought all the other reviews I had read on the title had to be exaggerated. That was until I tried weightlifting. To clean and jerk any type of winning amount of weight, my technique involved firmly wedging the controller between my legs, extending both index figures and, at the starting horn, pressing down in rapid succession the “X” and “O” buttons while carefully monitoring a menu bar so that at precise moments I could engage the left shoulder trigger with my pinky.

Could you imagine this type of nonsense taking place in any football or baseball video game these days? If professional sports titles have such an incredible degree of sophistication every year, why can’t a game that only needs to come out every four years offer the same?

Not all is bad with Athens 2004. Reprieves from doing “the mash” can be found in events such as archery, skeet shooting and horse jumping. The atmosphere, with a majestic musical score, British commentary and even the athlete’s graphics, are palatable, but surprisingly no national anthems are played for the winning athletes. Players also get a geography lesson when they select a country to represent — the globe spins around and stops on the location of their choice.

Athens 2004 even offers eight options for competition among four friends or the solo player ranging from taking part as a male in the decathlon or female in the heptathlon to just participating in aquatics to designing one’s own mini-Olympics by picking and choosing events.

Additionally, a mode exists that requires the use of a dance pad. For those unfamiliar with the peripheral, the roughly 3-foot-square device rests on the floor and has sensors under four directional arrows and icons that when stepped on interact with the game. Costs vary from $15 to $200 for the much sturdier models.

With the pad hooked up, running events actually involve players running, and pole vaulting can be quite the calorie burner.

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