|Some games take a whole lot of playing before you make up your
mind about them. Some games dont. During the first race of Virtua Athlete I pretty
much knew that by the end of the game the fingers on my right hand would be a little numb,
and the fingers on my left would be feeling pretty useless.
The virtual absence of any left hand activity is downright insulting (especially when youre left handed). You can only press buttons so fast for so long before it gets just a little old. I could never do a marathon, not because I lack the stamina (although I do), but because the thought of putting one foot ahead of the other for over 26 miles puts me to sleep.
The game consists of seven events: the 100 meter dash, long jump, high jump,hurdles, shot put, javelin, and the 1500 meter. None of the events really jump out at you. You press buttons quickly or at the right time to run faster, jump higher, or throw further. The shot put stands out as the least exciting of all the events. The whole event consists of pressing down the B button and then letting go at just the right time. That's it.
The final race is your true test of stamina. Can you run the 1500 meters without setting down your controller in boredom? There was an odd glitch with this mode. If you place you character in front of another runner, he will sometimes push you ahead without you having to use up any precious stamina. It throws a lot of the realism that this game is going for out the door.
With all of the button pushing, this game is more suited to the Arcade Stick than it is to the standard controller. But no controller has the power to elevate a game out of the depths of mediocrity.
One of the great difficulties in contemporary writing is the non-gender specific pronoun. Using "he/she" looks awkward and "they" is technically plural and thus stylistically problematic. There was a day when you could use "he" to refer to all persons without fear of offending. Virtua Athlete has jumped back a few decades and made it all right for me to talk about all characters with the masculine pronoun. What am I getting at, besides a mini-grammar lesson? There are no women in this game. We have equality in FPS games, we have equality in fighting games, and there are definitely lots of female role playing characters. Whats the motivation for misogyny in the track and field world? I dont know, but it's disturbing all the same.
On top of it all, the game is too short, and every time you complete a tournament (which takes about fifteen minutes) you have to suffer through the end credits (which take almost as long as the entire game). There are no shortcuts to starting the game over short of turning off your machine, but if you turn off the console you wont be able to save any of the changes to your character.
You can play with up to four players, which would give this some limited replay value, but there are so many good games out there with four player modes that it really isn't enough to recommend it.
Now, in its favor, if you like to play dress up with your virtual athlete, there are almost endless fashion options to choose from. You can choose from dozens of types of sunglasses, socks, shoes, wristbands, and ethnicity. If only the gameplay was half as varried. You're also able to upload your highest scores to see how you rank against people around the world. Yes, you could be that button masher that makes it to the top.
The most realism isnt in the events themselves but in the character's reactions to their scores. It seems as if the designers spent more time studying post and pre-event composure than they did with the actual event. They also do a nice job with some of the stadium effects. There is just enough movement in the stands to suggest an audience, but not so much activity that it's distracting. This is another good game to show off what your Dreamcast can do. The graphics and lighting will impress even the most jaded Nintendo fan, but turn off the game before they get a chance to play it.
I have to admit that in spite of all its faults I did enjoy playing this game for a little while. Like bad 80s pop music, it was able to evoke a feeling of Track and Field (the game, not the real stuff) nostalgia.
Playing Virtua Athlete 2000 is akin to turning on the Olympics and then furiously mashing buttons on your remote conrol in an effort to help your country win. You get a beautiful spectacle played out before you without really having much effect on it. If you like to hit buttons really quickly, then Virtua Althlete 2000 is the game for you. Mind you, it is a very nice looking game. Graphically, its pretty sweet how far weve come since Track and Field. Ironically the game play has stayed the same if not worsened over time. When the camera tracks the javelin accross the field, you almost forget how little you actually had to do to throw it.