screenshot from "Torino 2006"
This image from the video game "Torino 2006," provided by its publisher, 2K Sports, shows a skier competing in the slalom.
updated 2/16/2006 12:21:06 PM ET 2006-02-16T17:21:06

At least we can watch the real thing on television.

The official video game version of this year's Winter Olympics, "Torino 2006," is a drab series of snowy events that left me bored in record time.

The problems start early with the lackluster selection and variety of competitions.

Though there are dozens of wintry challenges in the real Winter Olympics, "Torino 2006" (Rated E, $19.99, PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox) pares the action down to just eight different disciplines spread across 15 events.

We get speed skating but no figure skating or ice hockey. There are several varieties of downhill skiing but no snowboarding. (I suppose publisher 2K Sports feels "NHL 2K6" and "Amped 3" already address those fun activities.)

The included events that you'd think would at least get the adrenaline flowing, such as bobsleigh and luge, have instead been programmed into boring, uninspired events that just aren't very fun to play.

The perplexing controls are one of the game's biggest stumbling blocks.

During the luge, for example, you don't really have to do anything but make sure you get off to a good start and avoid grinding along the sides of the icy chute. Similarly, downhill skiing is mostly a matter of pressing the X button at the right time to get a good start. It's all downhill from there.

There's little reward in ski jumping, which involves a series of timed button presses and some balancing of the controller.

Don't even get me started on cross-country skiing, perhaps the game's most tedious, boring competition. An Olympic event for ice fishing probably would have been more exciting.

Graphically, there's no sense of speed or movement to give these races some thrill. It's as if my skier was standing in the same spot on the screen and the ground beneath him was moving, not the other way around.

For a title filled with opportunities for multiplayer gaming, the options here are minimal.

You and as many as three others can take turns at the controls to vie for gold, but there's no online component where you can post record times or host truly Olympic-style multinational tournaments.

If you do medal, prepare for a ceremony that's stupefyingly devoid of actual medals, national anthems or any other Olympic effects. Instead you get three generic-looking athletes standing on a podium, waving their arms before a few pixelated spectators.

Perhaps I'm asking too much of a game that only costs $19.99. If you simply must play despite my warnings, please do yourself a favor and rent it. Anyone with even minimal video game experience should be able to melt through this in well under an hour.

Olympic video games historically have been pretty bad, but whenever there's a new one I still cling to some naive hope that someone finally got it right. For now, I'll just keep waiting. Beijing 2008, anyone?

One and a half stars out of four.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: A gold medal is just a click away


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