There's an athletics thing going on in London this summer, and if you hadn't noticed a number of companies have decided to slap their logos on it.
First in line at the London 2012 Olympics licensing party is Sega and its official video game tie-in, which to be fair is looking more polished - and more enjoyable - than any of the publisher's previous 5-ring outings.
Despite not being based in London, Sega Studios Australia looks to have done a fantastic job on the official game. Venues and overall presentation certainly looks the part, with broadcast-style presentation, full voice commentary and slanty 2012 menus making for an authentic feeling experience.
The demo we played included two core modes; the vanilla Olympic Games mode, which features the events and medal-hording antics you'd expect from a London 2012 game, and Party Mode, which features daft mini-games like dart board javelin and spin-off Kinect and PlayStation Move events.
Here are some of the highlights from our afternoon of Xbox athletics...
When most people think of an Olympics video game, 'button mashing' is usually the phrase that instantly comes to mind. For London 2012, Sega says it's "refined" the thumb-wasting pastime, and the solution it's come up with requires more skill and less effort. Basically, it's integrated a sort of golf game 'swing meter' box into sprinting events, which sees you tapping the A button (on Xbox 360) to try and get your meter inside the green 'sweet spot' - and not go over it by tapping the button too much.
In practice it means you need to pace and match your button pressing with the on screen action, starting slowly off the mark and accelerating to Thumb-Speed 5 on the final sprint. You really have to get in to a rhythm to perform well, and the camera is now positioned directly behind your athlete, which makes for a more intense, competitive feel - especially when it's your office mates racing alongside you.
After the challenge of mastering the 'button mashing rhythm' in 100m, Hurdles is basically Hard Mode. Not only do you need to keep your button presses in sync with the on-screen action and not over hit them, but now you need to look out for bloody obstacles as well. The golf swing-o box has a larger sweet spot this time, so it's slightly more forgiving on your button presses, but you now have to deal with using the left stick to get over those hurdles.
We fell on our arse. A lot.
Longjump is more technical than the straight-up sprinting events. Again rhythm is really necessary to build up momentum before a big jump, and a pre-leap 'speed lock' encourages you to really nail your opening run. After the opening sprint, a QTE-esque left stick direction prompt signals for you to position for the absolute perfect angle, which we found challenging to get right. It's tricky, but compelling.
Men's 50m Freestyle
Swimming events take a different approach to the sprinting mechanics, tasking players with using the two analogue sticks to swim instead of again putting your button pressing might to the test. After a button-activated diving start, on-screen prompts help you get in to the rhythm of pulling the sticks back to activate arm strokes. Again the presentation of the event really builds up the adrenaline, with a camera angle right behind the athlete so you're never quite sure how far in front of your rivals you are.