There can be few feelings on earth greater than that of winning gold in an Olympic event - conversely, there can be few feelings worse than knowing your entire country just watched you tow your indolent rump over the finish line, stone last.
Thankfully, we never had that much hope for Torino 2006 anyway.
Over the last few years, Olympic sports games have begun to build a nasty reputation for themselves, as being unimaginative, low budget forgeries of their real-life counterparts. Unfortunately, this isn’t an image that Torino 2006 is about to break, as it brings its own brand of dull, lacklustre and decidedly un-Olympian gaming to the field. Torino 2006 is broken up into eight different disciplines, which can be further broken down to a total of 15 different events. Alas, what quickly becomes obvious is that out of these 15 events, only eight or nine are unique, while the others are all functionally identical copies or a simple ‘cut and paste’ mix of the other events. For instance, the ‘Nordic Combined’ event is nothing more than a ‘Ski-Jump’ to determine your starting position for the ‘Cross-country Skiing’ section, and the ‘Bob-Sleigh’ (women’s or men’s, it makes no difference) is near identical to the ‘Luge’ - they even share the same single track! While this most basic and grievous failure is in part due to the nature of the Winter Olympics, it nonetheless remains that there is simply not enough variety within Torino 2006 to hold your attention for more than 20 minutes.
Worse than the simple lack in variety, though, is the fundamental manner in which you interact with the game. Out of the eight disciplines, only the ‘Speed Skating’ section is marginally enjoyable, as it is the only one that makes use of the time-honoured practice of button mashing to build up your athlete’s speed. The others are all just dull, dull, dull. Even seemingly innovative ideas like the ‘Cross-Country’ ‘stamina vs. speed’ meter turns out to be little more than exercises in boredom. Ostensibly the best aspect of the game would likely be its multiplayer facet. Though there is no online play option, or even system link capability, you can play with up to three of your friends by taking turns at each of the events. But what this actually means is that you’ll never really get a chance to go head-to-head, so even this most promising of features is ultimately found wanting.
Despite these flaws, Torino 2006 isn’t all bad - some parts are almost average. The graphics, for example, are fairly decent, and you’ll see some nice reflections on the ice and on the ‘bonnet’ of your bobsleigh as you speed through the course, as well as a few respectable shadows, accurately cast by the athletes. The same, however, cannot be said for the rest of the game’s primitive presentation, which is made up of hollow, lifeless sound effects, repetitive commentary and a dreary interface. One of the things that make the Olympics the biggest sporting event in the world is the atmosphere of greatness that it inspires. While this is not something which can easily be translated into our world of spaghetti programming and polygons, I would still expect more than what is on offer here. Having to watch my gold-winning athlete lamely stab his arm into the air, cheered on by near complete silence, is just unacceptable.
Torino 2006 may be a budget game, but that is simply not excuse enough to make up for the appalling lack of depth to be found in this title. Only the most hard-core of Winter Olympics fans will find anything worthwhile here, and even then I would recommend they try and rent the game first.
For the rest of us, Torino 2006 should best be left well alone, out in the cold, where it belongs.