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For Microsoft XboxReleased on January 31, 2007
The 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City inspired a lot of tie-ins and licensed material, but oddly enough one of the best 2002 Olympic-style sports games is based on the ESPN license and completely lacks Olympic rings, torches, and fanfare. But even without official Olympic magic, ESPN International Winter Sports 2002
wins a gold thanks to smooth and simple play.
The game features just about every Winter Olympic sport worth watching: downhill alpine skiing, slalom skiing, bobsledding, half-pipe snowboarding, ski jumping, freestyle mogul skiing, speed skating, figure skating, and curling. Hockey is notably absent from this list; the game developer rightly assumed that hockey fans will be served by a dedicated hockey game such as NHL 2002.
The included events use clever but simple control schemes, and the basics of each event are explained with a tutorial designed to quickly teach you how to perform the necessary actions and go about the business of breaking records. For example, ski jumping involves quickly pressing two buttons and then a third to jump, the former two to extend your distance, and that third one again to land. Bobsledding mainly demands a smooth touch of the digital stick, and figure skating is a choreographed event wherein the player performs onscreen prompts. It's amusing that a game for the fancy Xbox system uses a control system based on the old-school Track and Field arcade machine, but in the past 20 years nobody has come up with a better way to simulate Olympic sport.
While the controls may be dated, the graphics are unmistakably on the cutting edge. The game looks brilliant, crisp and pure as the day after a light snow. The snow fans up when skiers turn, and the polygonal athletes have excellent facial graphics. The presentation is fantastic and so is multiplayer with a buddy.
So, when Olympic fever strikes, even if the Olympics are long gone, you'll want to have a copy of Konami's ESPN International Winter Sports 2002. --Bob Andrews
- Excellent controls and a wide range of sports to play
- Looks fantastic
- The controls aren't really simulations; they can even be physically tiring
- It's missing Olympic accouterments and athletes
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