Official Olympic branding was conspicuously missing from the video game market leading up to the Beijing Summer Olympics. Nevertheless, this did not stop the developers from flooding it with Olympic-flavored entertainment. In fact, there were far more options than usual, which likely speaks to the sheer amount of anticipation that the Beijing Olympics had developed.
One of the many unofficial games was Summer Athletics by 49Games for the PC as well as the PS2, Wii, and Xbox 360. 49Games did not make Summer Athletics for the PS3. Despite lacking proper licensing, 49Games managed to provide enough atmosphere so that the game actually feels like the Beijing Summer Games. A gamer might not even notice the lack of branding unless they are comparing side-by-side with SEGA’s official alternative.
In terms of gameplay, 49Games got it right in many areas. The game offers nearly twenty events, and gamers can play each event in either Arcade or Pure (simulation) mode. Arcade mode is perfect the younger kids while Pure will give the hardcore gamer a challenge. Another nice touch, often lacking in Olympic video games, is the career mode and an in-depth create-a-player aspect.
49Games undermined the Nintendo Wii version of Summer Athletics with a strange and complex control scheme. For the PC version of the game, 49Games swapped out that control scheme with a simple button-mashing scheme that reminds us very much of the Summer Games by Epyx for the Commodore 64 way back when. 49Games could not seem to find a balance. With the Wii, we got complexity, and with the PC, PS2, and Xbox 360, we got simplicity.
Button-mashers are not necessarily a bad thing, and they can be fun for a time. However, it will not keep anyone’s attention long enough for them to enjoy the career mode. It is also undermines the challenge of the Pure mode that exists on the Wii, if you can get past the demanding controls. Bottom line is the 49Games’ Summer Athletics has its moments, so perhaps, rent it, or buy it used at a discount.