In an Olympic year, there’s always an official game release – such as London 2012: The Official Videogame of The Olympic Games – and then a bunch of pretenders to the throne with publishers who are looking to make a quick buck. On a few occasions, the unofficial titles have surpassed the official attempts in terms of quality. This year though, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
The official game was pretty good, although the Kinect support was somewhat sketchy. So, any unofficial take on track and field would have to be playable at the very least in order to even have a chance of getting the gold. Unfortunately, Summer Stars 2012 has far too many failings to be a serious contender. Given the hit-and-miss nature of the publisher’s previous multi-event title – Winter Stars – that isn’t really much of a surprise, but in all honesty, we certainly didn’t expect this new title to have taken a downhill turn in the quality stakes.
Initially, Summer Stars 2012 comes across as a relatively solid proposition. The controls all seem to work – aside from in the downhill biking event, which is clunky and slow to say the least – and close to a hundred single-player challenges are on offer. On top of that, stacks of bonus skills are available to unlock, buy, and use, and there are even extra “missions” to complete if all of that isn’t enough for you. The graphics aren’t particularly attractive given that the athletes all have a strange, zombie-like look about them but with this much gameplay on offer, that can be forgiven, right?
As you play through the multitude of different events on offer, it’ll slowly dawn on you that the majority of events are something of a con, with controls that only appear to work, rather than actually working. Taking the 400 meter sprint as an example, you can go at it hammer and tongs to post a decent opening time, running up something of a sweat as you try to power to the line. Then, you’ll run the same event again, opening up a 30 metre lead and slowing down your running pace, only to find that the game is convinced that you’re still sprinting. At times, you’ll find that you have to stop completely in order for the game to even imagine that you’ve slowed down a little. Start sprinting again, and it takes Summer Stars 2012 a good five seconds to even recognise the fact that you’re moving. That’s if it picks it up at all, given that we found ourselves abandoning our attempts at the 100 metre sprint due to the game refusing to believe that we’d pushed off the blocks and were sprinting for all we were worth. When you’re still poised in the “set” position at the starting line ten seconds after the gun’s gone off in an event where hundredths of a second are the difference between winning and losing, your patience goes out of the window pretty sharply.
Put simply, the time between you actually doing something and it being represented on screen kills Summer Stars 2012 absolutely stone dead. In archery, you’ll miss the target entirely because the game engine will pick up on a movement you made five seconds before you took the shot, and jink the aiming reticule off to the left or right whenever it feels like it. In fencing, the defensive moves may as well not even have been included, given that they don’t work. In pole vaulting, the pole will snap every other time you attempt a jump, since getting the timing right is next to impossible.
Using a controller, Summer Stars 2012 isn’t absolutely terrible, but is distinctly lacking in excitement and presentation. Opponents seem to have insane spikes in form as a group, which means that you’ll either finish last or first in practically every event you’ll play. Not only that, but close finishes are generally nowhere to be found. There’s something hollow about winning the 100 meter sprint by a clear two seconds when you’re supposedly in the final of an international tournament, racing against the best in the world. When you follow that scintillating performance up by losing the 400 metre final by ten seconds, you get the distinct feeling that something is a little bit off.
On the face of it, Summer Stars 2012 offers more than Sega’s London 2012 game. However, a distinct lack of polish, controls that serve only to infuriate, and horrid AI that seems to win whenever it feels like doing so mean that this one should probably be left on the shelf.