Armchair athletes can compete in up to 38 different events in the official game of the 2008 Summer Olympics

By Gary Eng Walk
Updated July 30, 2008 at 04:00 AM EDT

Videogame review: ‘Beijing 2008’

(Sega; Xbox 360, PS3, PC; Everyone)

In just a few days, the games of the XXIX Olympiad (the 29th staging, for us non-toga-wearing masses) will begin. Taking a page out of the Hollywood Marketing playbook, NBC has been flashing the digits that mark the opening date in its countless promos: 8.8.08. Would-be athletes who can?t wait until August 8, might want to check out Sega’s Beijing 2008, in which they can participate in no less than 38 Olympic events. We spent some time with the game and came away with this observation: If the event involves running, have some Band-Aids handy.

Like past track-and-field-based games (most notably Konami’s ’80s classic, um, Track & Field), running is a matter of mashing two buttons as fast as you possibly can. Beijing 2008 gives you the option of rapidly rocking one of the controller’s thumbsticks, but the end result is still the same — what shin splints are to real-life runners, blisters are to cyber-athletes. Other events feature more innovative controls, albeit ones that require far more refined hand-eye coordination. Executing a graceful platform dive, for example, requires you rotate the thumbsticks to move a pair of on-screen dots in sync within two spinning rings. Not entirely intuitive, but requiring enough skill that nailing a 3.4-difficultly dive — and squeezing out a high score from a snippy judge (we’re talking to you, Russia!) — was supremely satisfying.

Beijing 2008 also includes table tennis, judo, weightlifting, skeet shooting, and canoeing. Though the game deserves a medal for diversity, a lot of these contests are hobbled by confounding control schemes. Conspicuously absent from the game are team sports, an omission even more egregious as Beijing 2008 offers a fairly robust online mode. Whither volleyball? The 4x100m relay? Synchronized swimming? All of these would’ve been a blast to play with friends. Still, despite the many missed opportunities (and risk of carpal-tunnel syndrome), Beijing 2008 delivers more than its share of Olympic glory. B