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PSP  header logo

International Athletics

For: PSP   Also on: DS

China crisis?

Product: International Athletics | Developer: Ghostlight | Publisher: Ghostlight | Format: PSP | Genre: Simulation, Sports | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc), on one device | Version: Europe
 
International Athletics PSP, thumbnail 1

Go on, admit it – you've bought a cheap knock-off at least once in your life. Whether it's a patently inferior camera phone from Korea or a bottle of tomato ketchup manufactured by a company called 'Heins' (note the clever alteration of just one letter by the marketing department) the temptation to buy a cheapo version of an official product is sometimes overwhelming.

Which brings us neatly onto Ghostlight's International Athletics. It won't have escaped your notice that the Beijing Olympic games are currently bombarding our TV screens. But beware; for while Eurocom's Beijing 2008 is officially endorsed by the IOC, this isn't. Funny that, a rival title with Olympic events turning up the week before the games begin.

But any other resemblance to the Beijing Olympics ends there.

Essentially this is the equivalent of those odious Barry Trotter books (supposed spoofs of J K Rowling's only slightly less annoying tomes) because thousands of unsuspecting parents will go out and buy this thinking it's the real McCoy. In this case should we protect the consumer or let the casual exploitation of idiocy continue? Well, while it's only a few short steps away from selling fake Gucci watches on a market stall there's no actual law against cashing in like this. This review will just have to serve as a warning.

In terms of events there's 14 to choose from and for the sake of completeness we'll list them all: 100m Sprint, Long Jump, Shot Put, High Jump, 400m, 110m Hurdles, Discus, Pole Vault, Javelin, 1500m, Hammer, Running Target Rifle Shooting, Rapid Fire Pistol shooting and Archery.

Problem is, there's no real structure to International Athletics whatsoever. You can practice any of the events individually by going into the Quick Event mode, do ten of them in the classic Decathlon mode or take part in fictitious tournaments in various countries in the Tournament mode. Apart from getting on the podium and unlocking slightly harder opponents to compete against there's nothing else to motivate you. It all just feels a bit directionless and flimsy.

It would have been interesting, for instance, to have some kind of career mode where you start off as a plucky young trainee competing in local events then eventually work your way up to Olympic standard. Or perhaps an option where you compete in events across an annual calendar? But that would have required a bit of effort and forethought. And, time. Make no mistake about it: International Athletics was most likely put together over a few months just to cash in on the Olympic games. Leave any thoughts of innovation or ambition at the arena doors, please.

But rice paper-thin structure aside it's fair to say that some of the 14 events are actually pretty enjoyable. Our favourites were definitely in the shooting category with pistol, archery and the rifle events requiring quick reflexes and experienced judgement. Archery in particular is the standout event, with pin-point controls and the introduction of wind speed giving it a slightly unpredictable edge.

But the running events are less successful. Unfortunately many of the races ask you to frantically tap the PSP L and R triggers to build up speed, something they clearly weren't designed for. After an hour of this you'll start to worry your Sony handheld is about to sustain long-term damage. And the 1500m event has to be one of the most boring ever designed. It consists of rhythmically tapping the shoulder buttons approximately one second apart for over three minutes. There's some strategy in that you have to conserve energy for a final burst to the line but it feels more like a reflex test for a coma recovery patient.

Putting that aside, your first couple of hours with International Athletics – as you're learning the intricacies of the events and smashing your personal bests – can be reasonably pleasant and entertaining. But after that it gets tedious very quickly. It's a bit like entering a marathon without any training and fuelling yourself up on Chinese takeaways (any similarity here to Jade Goody is purely coincidental): you'll enjoy the first couple of miles but hit a wall very quickly.

International Athletics
also lacks polish, energy and pizzaz. The animations are clumsy, giving the competitors a decidedly broken marionette appearance. The ambient crowd and stadia noises are weak and unaffecting. If you win a race it doesn't feel like a glorious victory, more like you've won first prize in the jam making category at a farmers market.

The addition of an ad-hoc multiplayer mode is welcome, and you can even play a tournament by passing around a single PSP to your friends, but the lack of any real structure means you'll get tired of this very quickly.

Ultimately this is one of those flash in the pan games. A few people will buy it because it taps into the hullabaloo surrounding the Beijing Olympics - and more football-free PSP sports games would be welcome, but even if you're a mad keen athletics fan you'll soon exhaust its possibilities within a day's play. Alas, Ghostlight well and truly dropped the torch with this one.

 
International Athletics
Reviewer photo
Mark Walbank | 7 August 2008
A few decent individual events but as a package International Athletics is less Linford Christie and more tedious Tupperware party
 
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