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ESPN International Track & Field 2000 (DC) Review

Background Info

Are you feeling a little low now that the Olympics are over and you just can't wait another four years to see the next games in Greece? You're probably not, but if you are, Konami's ESPN International Track and Field 2000 could be a quick fix for some decent button smashing, thumb screaming competition. At least one thing's for sure, you don't have to worry about your computer opponent taking performance enhancing drugs and stealing the gold from you. Now, if you invite a friend over for a quick round of events, and you know he's got some quick, crazy thumbs, you might want to use this performance enhancing drug technique by downing a box or two of sugar bomb cereal. This will win you instant gold and wow all your friends.

Presentation/Graphics : 70
One thing that should be right in Olympic type games is the graphics. The majority of the time all you have is one player on the screen doing something with his pole or running and jumping. This shouldn't be too difficult, right? Well, maybe it's tougher than I think. After looking at IT&F a while, I wouldn't say that the graphics are terrible because they're not, it's just that they could have been better.

The actual athlete models are decent. The heads of the players are very nicely done with a unique look given to each one depending on what country they derive from. They do look a little blocky in the arms and legs though and this is the area where my main complaint is. From what we have seen in the past with Virtua Tennis and NBA2K, this shows what the Dreamcast can do. Konami needed to spend just a little longer making these players look right from head to toe and they would have had a lot more satisfied gamers.

The actual stadium that the events are held in has a high polygon count and is very pleasing to the eye, as is the track, grass-field, and anything else that's part of the stadium (including the judges that are standing around waiting for you to fault). There's also some great sky graphics with nice sunsets and wonderful lens flare that's getting oh so popular nowadays. Do you love pancakes? I love pancakes, except when the people in the stands look like one giant, flat, polygonal pancake. Once again, one of those little touches Konami could have worked on that would have just made the game a little more realistic.

Presentation/Audio : 68
There is not too much here to fill your cochlea with. The opening number is a little bit of big hair 80's rock and some decent sounding techno in the actual game portion of IT&F. You have a couple of different announcers calling the intro to every event. The first, being a cool, futuristic sounding woman. The second is just a normal dude telling you where you placed in the event. The crowd noise is decent, but a little on the ambient side. If you capture a world record or win an event, they will give you a nice cheer though. One thing that I thought was funny was the hammer-throw athlete. After he tosses the hammer, he lets out a scream as though a Bot in Unreal Tournament has just blown him up. A little overkill but this game needs all the help it can get in the audio department.

Interface/Options : 60
IT&F has two modes to choose from. There's a trial mode so that you can practice each individual event. After you get good enough and learn how to do some of the harder events like weight lifting, you will then want to try the championship mode. In this mode you can pick from twelve different countries and compete in every event just like a decathlete would. Each event earns you points and a pretty medal for placing in the top three, while the athlete with the most points at the end of all the events wins the championship.

The events themselves are the 100 Meter Dash, Long Jump, Hammer Throw, Weightlifting Jerk and Pull, Pole Vault, Javelin Throw, 110 Meter Hurdles, and the Horizontal Bar. There is also the Triple Jump, High Jump, Women's Vault, and Trap Shooting. The reason I list these separately is because you can't play them immediately. They have to be unlocked through victories in other events and this calls for some patience because that freakin' Weightlifting event is god-awful hard.

Gameplay : 72
Everybody, gather 'round and let's sing a little tune. "We did the mash, we did the monster mash. The monster mash, it was a... tiring, thumb blistering, fore-arm busting event after the second time around." IT&F is your typical button-mashing contest like all other track and field games before it. All running involves pressing the X and B buttons as fast as you can. If you jump or throw something, that requires the use of the trigger button. Before every event, IT&F gives you a first rate tutorial with a six million dollar man look to it. It's very nicely done.

All your events are for the most part straight forward and actually fun, except for the Horizontal Bar. In this event you're supposed to line up arrows really quickly to pull off some moves. If you don't time everything just right, you will just watch yourself spin around and around the bar and want to kill something. The Weightlifting event is the most challenging event and it's not that great. You will need to maintain some stamina for this one, as it requires the most button mashing of all. I almost cried after it was over.

The animation in most of the events is fairly smooth and actually quite life-like. The athletes themselves have a very fluid running motion and look even better in replays. Also the camera angles in almost all of the events were good. Although there were two events that were not up to par. In the Javelin Throw the camera angle was way to close to the athlete making it difficult to see the foul line. And in the Long Jump the angle was too far away from the runner therefore making it difficult to judge when to jump. Both events turn into a bit of a guessing game and can cause you to react short of the foul line. This could shatter an athlete's life long dream of attaining a gold medal. I will never be able to forgive those heartless bastards at Konami for this.

Replay Value : 50
It's hard to say that the regular play of IT&F will keep you coming back for more, because it probably won't. But there are three reasons why you might want to keep playing after you finish two or three games of IT&F. The first is trying to break any world records that you have not broken with regular gameplay. Please call me if you can break the Weightlifting record because I would like to stop by your house and watch that one. The best I could do was third. The second is unlocking the four mystery events that I mentioned before. They are standard events, but are fun and worth the trouble of playing through the game a few times to unlock them. The third is the four-player option mode so that you can compare blisters with your friends, but I don't think it adds a whole lot more to the game.

Overall : 70
IT&F is not a bust by any means, but I'm a little disappointed that Konami didn't spend more time polishing this one off. Inserting a few more options, like adding more countries to choose from or a create-a-player mode would have at least added to the replay value. This is one area that the game is grossly lacking in. IT&F is definitely a quick fix and will leave you feeling empty after just a few tournaments. Now if you're looking for a good rental or a game to play with against your friends, this is definitely something that you would want to try out. Other than that, you might want to dust off the old-faithful Decathlon for the Atari 2600. Now that's a track and field game.

By: Michael Wicks 11/6/00

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