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Virtua Athlete 2000 (DC)

Background Info

One of my favorite things to do in life is plunk down fifty bucks on a videogame, play it for 10 minutes, and then turn it into a drink coaster. This will definitely happen if you spend your hard-earned cash on Virtua Athlete 2000. Can you believe that the folks at Agetec, who brought us a game as good as Virtua Tennis, could be so naughty and make a title as lacking as this? It seems like a lot of companies have decided to throw together a last minute, rushed Olympic game this year and Virtua Athlete 2000 is no exception. They should have gone ahead and named it Virtua Coaster 2000 instead.

Presentation/Graphics : 55
Now we all know how good the Dreamcast can represent a game graphically and Virtua Athlete 2000 did not even come close here. It seems like a step backward has been taken in the drawing of the athletes. You'll notice right away the blockiness of the characters, especially in their extremities. Also, some of them look more like the Michelin Man instead of an athlete. This is totally unacceptable and instantly takes away from any fun to be had. Because every time you're controlling one of your blocky athletes in an event, you will think to yourself "why the hell is he drawn that way," while you're trying to win the tournament.

In contrast to this, the game environments are really sharp with good lighting effects throughout most of the events. The stadium and all the apparatuses that the athletes use are detailed and colorful, like the shot-put area and the sandpit in the Long Jump event. There are also some nice little touches thrown in, like flags blowing in the wind, equipment lying around the field, and lounging athletes waiting for their next event. The people in the stands are a different story. They are bitmapped a little on the rough side but aren't really seen that much. No matter how good these surroundings are, they just can't make up for bad character graphics because the focus of gameplay is on the athlete.

The animation for the most part is on par with the majority of Dreamcast titles out there. The first thing you'll notice in the 100-Meter Dash is the fluid motion of all the athletes. They do tend to look robotic when first jumping out of the blocks, but after that, they're human again. The actual launching of the shot-put or javelin is represented nicely, with good follow through and nice animation of the flight paths for each object. Not much to complain about here.

Presentation/Audio : 61
There's really nothing too bad or too good in the sound department of Virtua Athlete 2000. You get a P.A. announcer that gives you decent, but generic, run of the mill type commentary. As for the characters, they will let out believable grunts and moans when hurling a javelin or shot-put. The crowd is a bit on the quiet side and could have been a little more interactive. A few times they were so quiet, that I had to pretend the audience was watching another event that was going on in the stadium. That way my feelings wouldn't get hurt if I won an event and heard no one cheer.

Interface/Options : 73
Finally, something that Virtua Athlete 2000 does well is give you a nice create-a-player option. First off, you can give your character any name you want. I chose a former great athlete, Ricki Lake. Then you can pick from 12 different faces and body types. There are also a wide variety of accessories to pick from for all you fashion minded people out there. You don't want to get caught with non-matching socks, now do you? Here's the total breakdown of the accessories along with how many different types each one has...glasses-22, uniforms-45, wrist bands-40, socks-40, and shoes-24. There are also a whopping total of 63 countries to choose from. And lastly, there are a couple of hidden characters and attributes to be unlocked. You can attain them after you place in every event and win in tournament mode.

There is also an Internet option available. No, you can't button mash with people around the world yet. Really, all you're doing is posting your best times online against other players' best times. This doesn't do anything for me and it's not worth the time it takes to do it. If you could compete live against other folks via the Internet it would have been great. This could have been the saving grace for Virtua Athlete 2000 because I would play online against other people even if the graphics were only stick figures running the 100-Meter Dash.

Gameplay : 71
I am disappointed that Virtua Athlete 2000 has only 7 different events to compete in, while its competitors, ESPN Track & Field and Sydney Olympics have eleven and twelve events respectively. Agetec could have at least thrown in a seed-spitting contest or potato sack race for good measure. But the events that they do have are fun and very challenging. They are the 100-Meter Dash, Long Jump, Shot-Put, High Jump, 110-Meter High Hurdles, Javelin Throw, and the 1500-Meter Run. The gameplay technique is your standard pound on the A and X buttons to make your player run and then hold down the B button to throw or jump. Nothing new here, but what they do have works fine.

The camera angle works well in most of the events, especially the Javelin Throw. It's easy to judge the foul line and after you release the javelin, the view of the flight path really gives you a sense of speed and distance. This is probably the best event in the game. There is one event that the camera angle messes with the controls of the game and that's the 1500-Meter Run. The camera likes to adjust every time you turn a corner, therefore causing you to have to push your joystick in the opposite direction. Many times this caused me to drift off the main path of the other runners and it would send me to the rear of the pack.

Replay Value : 40
This is the most lacking part of the game and is the main reason not to purchase it. The seven events that are in the game are good, but only take about 15 minutes to finish and the second time around goes by even quicker. The create-a-player mode helps, but you can only change your sock colors so many times. It's nice that four players can compete at once, but again, after about the second time around, you're done. When you get down to it, you have the feeling that Agetec only finished about half the game and then decided to ship it. Who knows? Maybe revenue from Virtua Tennis stopped coming in or something.

Overall : 58
Virtua Athlete 2000 is by no stretch of the imagination a terrible game. It has some solid gameplay and represents the atmosphere of the Olympics well. However, it does have enough glaring weaknesses not to warrant a purchase. The first being its blocky, uninspired characters. And second, it's short, and I mean really short gameplay. With only seven events, the party's over before it even gets started. My suggestion is to get four of your friends together, pitch in a $1.25 each, and drive to your nearest Blockbuster. If there was ever a game that defined a rental, Virtua Athlete 2000 is it.

By: Michael Wicks 11/7/00

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