Game Review: London 2012 is great-looking and fun to play

Slickly produced and clearly designed to showcase the UK, London 2012 takes you on a merry tour of a fairly sizeable chunk of the Olympics' long list of sports.

The graphics in the game London 2012 are great to watch, and the commentary is surprisingly bearable.
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London 2012
PS3, Xbox 360, PC

A few weeks ago we brought you a not-at-all-Olympics-endorsed sporting compilation game in the passable Summer Stars 2012, a simple, cheery affair that sadly didn't allow you to once imagine yourself in London without breaking strict sponsorship agreements. Thankfully, we've finally got the real, official deal in Sega's London 2012, a game that fully permits you to pretend you're really there; with your face in a businessman's armpit on the London tube, handing over your life savings for a bottle of water in the Olympic Village, or spending three days in custody for attempting to eat anything other than McDonald's fries.

Cynicism may be compounded by the fact that games come out every single Olympics and, by and large, they're a bit on the rubbish side. London 2012, however, might have broken that unfavourable mould.

A slickly produced game that has clearly been designed to showcase the UK in the best possible light (notice the weather, for starters), London 2012 takes you on a merry tour of a fairly sizeable chunk of the game's long list of sports. In the main game, select your national team and off you go, picking two events at a time, which you must first qualify for and then compete in for medals.

Unlike track and field games of old that were mainly about frantic button bashing, this complicates things by adding a precision element. So while in, say, the 100 metres, you are indeed bashing two joypad buttons; go too wild and you'll over exert yourself and slow down. The trick is to keep the energy bar at a certain level, while then remembering the all-important lunge at the end.

Other events play around with this, too. The long jump sees you build up speed and then use the stick to aim your leap at the right moment, while in the butterfly (one of many swimming events), you ditch the buttons altogether and just use the sticks as your arms. It's all quite simple to get to grips with and hardly the most 21st-century in terms of gameplay, but rather difficult to master.

While the graphics are sublime and the commentary unusually not annoying, the game unfortunately lacks the licensing rights to the players' names, so if you want to be Usain Bolt you'll have to utilise its clever character editing element.

Each event is over in a matter of minutes (you can only go back and repeat things now and again), so your whole Olympics can really be done in a couple of hours. Thankfully, there's a decent online option to keep things going that will no doubt see you develop a fierce Seb Coe/Steve Ovett-style rivalry with a small child in Seoul.

While London 2012 claims Xbox Kinect and PS Move compatibility, this is only in the "Party Mode" for lounge-based Olympics high jinks with your mates. Given some of the motion-capture frustrations of other games, its limited use perhaps isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"The best Olympics game so far" perhaps isn't a huge accolade, and London 2012 might not have the legs to maintain interest once the flame moves on and Londoners return to moaning about other things. But it is a great-looking, fun-to-play effort that should work well as a side game alongside the real deal.