Well, since I’m officially obsessed with 3D Olympics coverage, I thought I’d give some more observations.
NBC started broadcasting again today (Sunday, July 29) right on time at 5 AM. They covered swimming (including Michael Phelps’ stunning loss), as well as men’s gymnastics. While the NBC 3D Schedule is now completely filled out until the closing ceremonies, it’s clear that there’s very little production that went into scheduling these events. You’ll basically see a block of several hours of one event, followed by several hours of another event, a few random rebroadcasts in between, and even some random 3D general interest segments. And of course the same commercials over and over and over again. What the advertisers don’t realize is that after watching the same commercial 50 times in a row, it puts a pretty bad taste in your mouth. Also, I kind of wish that NBC would have given more detail than “you’ll see swimming and gymnastics for 8 hours”, especially since we’re on 24 hour tape delay. But we’ve already covered why they don’t.
Once again the coverage started with no commentary, just the ambient noise from the arena, which I loved. It really made me feel like I was there. I’m also watching a lot of the streaming commentary-less events on the Web, and I’m really struck about how little I miss the commentary. Although I think some of the people at NBC are just realizing that their 3D coverage doesn’t have any commentary, as by the time 3D gymnastics started to be aired they started to superimpose the audio from regular announcers on the 3D footage. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.
The 3D, again, was stunning, adding a whole new dimension (no pun intended…okay pun intended) to the telecast. With swimming, being able to see all the lanes in perspective gave a much, much better feeling of being in the action and a much more precise view of how each swimmer was doing. Here’s a picture of the men on the starting blocks–notice how much difference seeing the perspective makes (again, use the “cross-eyed” method of viewing).
Similarly, the men’s gymnastics really came alive. It seems that they have fewer cameras than the 2D telecast, but they’re placed very strategically so you can see gymnasts from the best angles. On floor exercises, you can see them running right at you.
It’s funny, taking these screenshots is making me flash back to the 2004 Athens game, when NBC broadcast a special OTA channel of its HD footage, and I was frantically recording and taking screenshots of the amazing HD picture 🙂 Time will tell if eight years from now 3D will be relatively ubiquitous to the point where I’ll look back and think all these screenshots I’m taking are silly 🙂
I wish I could stay home and watch all the 3D footage, but of course I’ve got my day job tomorrow. So I set the Tivo for 13 hours, which should just about fill it up each night. I’ll check in from time to time over the next few weeks.
As I mentioned in my review of MiCoach, one thing they don’t mention very prominently on the game packaging or in online advertisements is that the game does require some extra equipment that doesn’t come bundled with it. You can still use the game without this equipment, but you’ll have to skip lots of exercises that use the equipment. You’ll know whether you have to use the additional equipment in any given exercises by looking at the icons next to each exercise. Also, your on-screen instructor will show you exactly how to use the equipment, either verbally or clearly in the demonstration of the exercise.
In order to have a full experience, you’ll need to invest into buying some additional equipment. I’ve put some of my suggestions below.
Towel – Any old hand towel should do here. In some games you’ll fold the towel and use it as a pad to make exercises more comfortable.
Bench – This is another piece of “equipment” mentioned. You’ll need this from time to time to rest a hand or foot on it for support. You should be okay with a folding chair or a kitchen chair here, just keep it handy near your workout area.
Stability Balls – The manual suggests you use an “Adidas Core Stability Gym Ball”, but as luck would have it that’s not available in the United States. You should be okay getting any brand of Exercise Balls. I just decided to go by the highest Amazon ratings and go for the one with the highest ratings, the Body Sport Exercise Ball. The Isokinetics Balance Ball Chairis a pricer option but also one I considered, as that could also double for your “bench”. To choose the right exercise ball for your height, use this as a guide:
34-inch (85 cm): For users 6′ 7″ in height and taller
30-inch (75 cm): For users between 6′ 2″ and 6′ 6″
26-inch (65 cm): For users between 5′ 8″ and 6′ 1″
22-inch (55 cm): For users between 5′ 1″ and 5′ 7″
18-inch (45 cm): For users between 4′ 6″ and 5′ 0″
Dumbbells – Dumbbells are used in some exercises to introduce resistance and help with strength and muscle conditioning. Again, brands of dumbbells will work, but I like these Valeo Hand Weights because of their rating and the ease of holding them with the PS3 Move controller. The game will advise you on what weight to get, so I’d suggest playing it a couple times without the weight to get a sense of what the exercise entails. One bit of advice–don’t go too high too fast in your weight selection. Even the lightest handweights get very, very heavy as you get longer into a workout.
Heart Rate monitors – The game integrates with heart rate monitors. Obviously, the one Adidas wants you to buy is the Adidas MiCoach Pacer Bundle Heart Rate Monitor. But I like the fact that they didn’t make it so that you had to use their own proprietary heart rate monitor (like EA Sports did), but will support any third party heart rate monitor or USB dongle that supports the ANT+ standard. Here’s a list of some at Amazon that range in price from $30 to $300. When you have this equipment set up, your heartrate will be displayed on screen throughout your workout.
At first, I wasn’t happy that I had to buy all this extra equipment to use this game. Then again, I figured these are all pieces of equipment you should have anyway in your home gym or when doing your workouts on and off the PS3. Plus, I’d rather choose my own equipment than have a flimsy resistance band or non-standard heart rate monitor like EA Sports did. Bottom line is, MiCoach is not just another game–it’s a system that will require a bit of an investment to get the full value out of. Shop around and try to find the highest quality, lowest price equipment to use.
An excellent new entrant into the world of Playstation fitness games but not without its faults.
miCoach by Adidas is the most promising PS3 Fitness Game to come on the scene for a while. It features excellent technical workout plans of the caliber that’s given to professional athletes, and also features instruction and master classes from some of those athletes themselves. Unfortunately, this title is marred by spotty motion detection and buggy integration with MiCoach’s other properties.
Rating by steve: 4.0 stars
I’ve been waiting with great anticipation for the release of miCoach by Adidas.Those who’ve been keeping up with this blog are familiar with the drama this game went through to get release. It was originally supposed to be released by THQ, who after going through financial difficulties decided to scrap the title. This didn’t sit well with Adidas, of course. Lawsuits ensued and at the end of the day 505 Games was chosen to publish the game.
The last really excellent workout game that was developed for any system was EA Sports Active 2, but it seems that EA has all but abandoned that franchise. The Wii U will be getting Wii U Fit in the fall, and the Xbox will be getting Nike+ Kinect, which means Adidas MiCoach is really the only serious player in the fitness game market for the PS3 in the foreseeable future.
The first thing to know about Adidas MiCoach is that it requires the Move controller. The game doesn’t even allow you to use a Dualshock or a Navigation controller to select menu items, which I found a little frustrating. After a lot of trial and error, I found that the best way to navigate menus is to point the Move controller up (or down), and then lightly tap the trigger button to move from option to option.
The game starts out with a video greeting from the athletes who’ll be “training” you. What’s very cool about this is that all of them are real athletes and stars in their respective sports, from Dwight Howard to Kaka to Tyson Gay, to Andrea Petrovic, to Eric Berry. The online trainers are rendered very well; with a few exceptions they look like their real selves and not some creepy computer-animated version of themselves (I’m talking to you, creepy Jenny McCarthy). One other useful thing I learned from this intro video is that the game is pronounced “My Coach” and not “Mee Coach”.
One thing that no one really bothered to tell me before I bought the game is that you do need to have additional equipment, namely a towel, a stability exercise ball, and dumbbells. You can use the game without these, but you’ll be limited in how many of the over 400 exercises you can do. The game also supports the use of any ANT+ compatible heart rate monitor; if you have this your heart rate will be displayed throughout the game.
Something else important to know before purchasing the game is that you need a LOT of space. You need a least 10-12 feet of space in front of your PS3 Eye camera, 10-12 feet from side to side, and the camera needs a full and unobstructed view of your whole body, as well as the floor. If you don’t have this the game will be terribly frustrating for you.
There are three basic options in the game: Training Plan, Training Games. and Conditioning.
I would call Training Plan the “hard core” portion of the game that literally lives up to the name “My Coach”. I would say that Training Plans are not suitable for somebody looking for casual fitness, but rather inteded for someone who wants to do some professional-caliber, in-depth training for a sport or an upcoming event like a marathon.
In fact, the first thing you do when you select Training Plan is to select a sport you’d like to train in. Your choices are basketball, football, running, soccer, and tennis. You can also choose from two generic options: men’s training or women’s training, and you can select “Getting Started” which will acclimate you to the system with some simple stretches.
The training provided can get very technical. I’m not a professional athlete, but I’d guess that the programs here are comparable to the types of programs that professional strength and conditioning coaches might use for their respective sports.
For each of the sports there are core exercises to 1) build strength, 2) increase speed, or 3) maintain a certain level of fitness during the season. Within each of these options are additional choices; for example, under “build strength” for basketball, the sub-options are 1) game shape, 2) build lean mass, 3) maximize strength, and 4) sky high, each focusing on a different area of strength training.
Once you choose one of these sub-options, you’ll get set up with a set number of workouts over a set number of weeks (for example, “sky high” consists of 12 workouts of 4 per week over a 3 week period). You’ll also be told what equipment you need, and your calendar in the game will be set for you.
Here’s a video of one of the workouts under Football. Those of you who follow the blog will recognize my ninja outfit; for those of you new to the blog, the reason I hide my identity is twofold: first, I’m bashful, and second, I have no intention of becoming the next Wii Fit Girl.
These are not easy workouts. Most of them last anywhere from 45 minutes to over an hour and have an intense number of exercises. As I said, the exercises get very technical, tailored towards working out parts of your body needed to excel in the sport you chose–there are floor exercises and stretches, cardio workouts, and drills. And with each sport, you’ll have actual professionals who’ll demonstrate the exercise to you and give “insider” tips during the training. The professionals include:
Tennis: Ana Ivanovic, Andrea Petkovic, and Fernando Verdasco
Football: CJ Spiller, Eric Berry, Jozy Altidore, Von Miller
As you progress through your workouts you can unlock video “master classes” from the athletes which give you further advice.
One thing to note is that you do NOT get intense cardio workouts with these exercises, which are aimed more at strength and flexibility training. See the “MiCoach Integration” section below for more about this.
This is the “lighter”, “more fun” portion of the game, and it is fantastic. It consists of simulations of actual sports.
Specifically, you can practice shooting baskets. You basically hold your Move controller in your hands while pressing the trigger and make a shooting motion like you’re holding a basketball. Release the trigger to shoot. The sensation is shockingly realistic. Like real basketball, it takes some trial and error to figure out how hard to make your throwing motion, and admittedly sometimes you’ll make a slight move and the basketball will go sailing over the backboard. But once you get used to the game, it’s an amazing simulation. What’s more amazing is that you can move to the left and right and the image on the screen will move with you. By far the most realistic basketball simulation I’ve played on any video game system.
You can also simulate being a soccer goalie blocking shots, again an excellent simulation that really requires you to move. As the ball comes toward you you have to time your leap and your hands to block the shot.
Finally, there’s a tennis game that has you returning serves and trying to hit blocks; not the most accurate simulation, but one that’s still a lot of fun.
The level of workout you get from these training games is not nearly what you’d get from playing the real thing, of course, but it’s a very well executed part of the game that provides some workout, and some very good fun and much needed distraction for the shorter-attention-spanned amongst us.
This is the part of the game I’d suggest for the more casual fitness gamer. Each conditioning routine consists of a certain amount of exercises, followed by recover periods, followed by training games. The conditioning workouts seem to be around 20 minutes, making them ideal for morning or evening exercise. Strangely, you can’t schedule conditioning by itself into your calendar, you can only add it on to an existing Training Plan (great if you have 2-3 hours a day to workout, but not great for the rest of us).
Now for the most important question in a PS3 Fitness game: how accurate were the motion controls?
Interestingly, not all exercises use the Move controller. The game attempts to be Kinect-like by use just the Playstation Eye camera to track certain exercises. This is a welcome development for those exercises where it’s just too unwieldy to try to hold a controller. As for how well it works, I’ll be honest, it’s hit or miss. There are times when I’d be adjusting my position to prepare myself for the exercise, and the system will have already counted my random movements as two or three reps.
For those exercises that use the Move controller, again, I found them hit or miss. I found that exercises where I had to lie on the floor were more “miss”, while exercises while standing or on the stability ball were more “hit”.
The biggest takeaway for me was not that the motion controls were horrible, but that your conditions need to be absolutely perfect for the system to recognize your motions correctly. It’ll take some trial and error to figure out the best positioning for you (both standing up and lying down) as well as for your PS3 Eye camera. One good thing that MiCoach does is allow you to skip an exercise if it realizes it’s not tracking you properly, instead of berating you mercilessly for your failure (I’m talking to you, creepy Jillian Michaels). But I would have much preferred for them to provide some better guidance on how to set up your system and your environment rather than just bail on you.
INTEGRATION WITH MICOACH
MiCoach for PS3 was designed to integrate with MiCoach.com (and by extension with their iPhone app). MiCoach.com was designed to give you the ability to set up both cardio workouts and strength/flexibility workouts for different sports, and to track your progress–using high priced MiCoach accessories, of course, but also allowing you to enter on the Web site any exercise you did (say, if you played in a softball game or a tag football game). What the PS3 version of MiCoach does is replace the “strength/flexibility” workouts on the Web site with interactive versions of the same workouts.
Again, it’s up to you to supplement your workouts with the cardio workouts on the Web (most of which are interval training). For example, I’ve decided to do the “Men’s Training – Get Lean” program on the PS3, while using my iPhone to track the cardio of me walking 20 minutes a day from my office to the train station.
As I mentioned before, the game does communicate with MiCoach.com. I already had a MiCoach account, so all I had to do was enter my Playstation ID and a personalized six-digit code under “Settings > Sharing/Connections”. If you don’t have a MiCoach.com account yet, you can set up a new one for free (you’ll be prompted to do so when you first set up the game) and you can enter your console ID when you sign up.
The integration isn’t perfect. There are times I’d set up plans on the PS3, and the Web calendar wouldn’t be updated (for example, when adding conditioning exercises to Training Plans). Similarly, there are times I’d make adjustments to the calendar on the Web (such as adjusting the date for a specific workout) and the PS3 version wouldn’t be updated. The Web version had a pretty good overview of all the activity I do, but the PS3 version was lacking everything I did on the iPhone. You’re very much limited in what you can do on the PS3–you can change the days of the week you work out or “catch up” on missed workouts by picking up your plan from today, but you can’t delete workouts or move them around. There also seem to be a lot of bugs with data on the PS3; according to the stats, last week I travelled 31,726 miles in one workout (in case you’re wondering, the right answer is 2.12). One wonders how much the THQ/505 Games snafu contributed to the sloppiness here.
Overall I give their integration efforts an A for effort, but a D for execution. They have a lot of work to do here.
Overall, MiCoach for PS3 is a game that shows a lot of promise. If you are already an active user of MiCoach; already own the required equipment such as an exercise ball and hand weights; or are actively training for any of the supported sports, I’d highly recommend it. If you’re more of a casual gamer I’d still recommend it for the training games and the conditioning exercises, but the full training plans may be overkill for you.
I give the concept, the graphics, and the attention to detail in the individual exercises a 5 of 5, but the motion control issues and the snafus with integration are enough to push it back down to a 4 of 5. Still, I’d say the game easily surpasses games like Fit in Six, UFC Personal Trainer, and EA Sports Active 2–and is on par with Get Fit for Mel B–to jump into the echelons of the Best PS3 Fitness Games. Hopefully they will continue to work on these things and send updates to both the Web site and the PS3. This thing has a ton of potential, but it just falls a little bit short of perfection at the moment.
Right now I’m watching the London 2012 Opening Ceremonies on FIOS Channel 1003 (if you have Comcast, AT&T, Cablevision, etc. you’ll find it on different channels).
It took me a while to get it to work right. I had component cables going from my Tivo to my PS3 Display, but the Display annoyingly wouldn’t allow me to switch into 3D mode–the 3D option was completely greyed out on the Display. After a bit of fiddling, I realized that I needed to connect my Tivo via HDMI.
Now on Friday night, I’d watched the NBC coverage “live” (actually, no one in the US could watch it live because NBC blocked access to everything except its tape delayed coverage). I watched about 10 minutes of it before I had to shut the sound off. I have nothing against Matt Lauer or Mededith Viera, but I found their constant need to provide non-stop commentary to be utterly annoying to the point of my wanting to throw something at the TV. It was impossible to enjoy the beautiful music and the wonderful sounds of the Opening Ceremonies because they felt a need to constantly explain to the viewers what was going on. The worst of many bad moments of the night, when Matt Lauer saw a scene of British nurses and children recreating classic English storybook scenes and decided to interject “while the healthcare debate is going on in the US, Britain is proud of its universal healthcare and wanted to proudly display it to the world”. Uh, thanks Matt.
The one bright spot of the evening was Bob Costas, from whom we heard painfully little compared to the always-on Viera and Lauer. It was touching to hear his “audible” where he called for a moment of silence for the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Munich massacre, an event for some strange reason the Olympic committee decided to put on the back burner.
Overall, I give London’s Opening Ceremonies an “A” and NBC’s Friday night prime-time coverage a solid “F”. I hate to break the news to NBC, but the reason the Today Show’s ratings are plummeting was not because of Ann Curry. It’s because no one wants to wake up in the morning and hear the painful and endless drivel the likes of which we heard Friday night.
Okay, this is a blog to talk about 3D coverage, so I’ll talk about NBC’s coverage of the same event on the NBC 3D Olympics channel.
The coverage stated at 5 AM sharp. After a montage of videos of Olympic athletes, we cut to Bob Costas, who gave a brief, one-minute introduction to the Olympic coverage. Then, the Opening Ceremonies began.
I braced myself for the annoying commentary. But it never came. Instead, I heard the beautiful voices of children singing. I heard the rich sounds of the orchestra. And I could see the most stunningly beautiful images that have ever come out of my Playstation 3D display, in glorious and deep 3D.
It turns out that NBC decided to air Panasonic’s raw footage untouched. From their point of view, they probably knew that very few people would be tuning in, so it wasn’t worth their time to get on-air “talent” to provide running commentary. For me, this was the most brilliant decision the boneheads at NBC made yet. Because even though it was 24 hours later, I thoroughly and immensely enjoyed this coverage from start to finish.
NBC did find ways to ruin even this experience. Every 10 minutes, and in some cases during pivotal moments in the action, NBC abruptly cut to commercials right in the middle of the action, making us miss key moments. For example, during the point in the festivities when the ironworkers forged the beautiful Olympic rings, we jump from the scene where the red-hot rings are being lifted to the ceiling, cut to commercial, and come back to see that the rings are lit up, presumably as part of an impressive pyrotechnics display that happened when we were enduring the 50th airing of Matthew Perry’s new show on NBC this fall (which I will boldly predict will not last the season). Still, what they did show was stunning (use the “cross-eyed” method to view these and other 3D images).
The one saving grace was that most of the commercials themselves were for movies and Blu-Rays in 3D from the Avengers to Finding Nemo in 3D, but of course NBC put in 2D commercials for its own shows.
Another very annoying thing is that it seems every three minutes they’d superimpose an animation of The Lorax with silly sound effects, sometimes during the most dramatic or emotional moments.
You’d think that they’d get a college intern to putting commercials in the right places, and to make sure that their annoying animations didn’t interfere with the show. But the message from NBC was clear. We don’t care about 3D viewers, and we’re going to milk as much as we can out of them. Thanks NBC.
Still, that couldn’t put a damper on the excellent quality of Panasonic’s 3D. Colors were vibrant, the camera angles really maximized the quality of the 3D and made you really feel “part of the action” in a way that traditional 2D never could. Watching the Parade of Nations (again, thankfully without constant commentary) was a really fun experience. Here’s a still of the US team entering the stadium:
Scenes like the fireworks displays over the stadium were truly jaw-dropping (unfortunately, the one thing NBC decided to do was to cut into the fireworks to splice in a montage of scenes from past Olympics, ruining perhaps the single most impressive 3D images of the evening).
The Opening Ceremonies went from 5:00 AM to about 10:00 AM, at which point NBC started looping the coverage again through the day. Tough to tell if they’ll be doing that for the other Olympic action, or if they will be providing commentary for the sporting events. But I have to say, the great anticipation I had for the Opening Ceremonies (as you can see from all my posts leading up to it) was well warranted. Even though I know it was out of laziness and an utter lack of concern for its 3D viewers that NBC decided to not invest any production costs into its 3D coverage, for me that turned out to be a positive. I grade their 3D coverage of the Opening Ceremonies an A+ for the way it let me experience the Opening Ceremonies in an unprecedented way. It just makes me wish there were a mute button that should shut up some of their on-air “talent” on their regular 2D coverage.
If you have a 3D display and FIOS, tune to 1003 and check it out for yourself over the next few days. If you don’t have FIOS, sign up here with referral code IWANTFIOS to get it now with a nice gift card to boot! And if want to experience beautiful 3D for yourself at the cheapest price possible, Best Buy has the PlayStation 3D Display Bundle for only $199–that’s $400 less than suckers like me paid for it!
I have to say I’m really excited about watching the Olympics in 3D on FIOS channel 1003. I got my PS3 display too late to enjoy the US Open tennis, so this will be the first time I’ll watch broadcast signal on the PS3 Display.
If you haven’t done it yet, make sure you have an HDMI cable going from your cable box or Tivo to the PS3 monitor. Then, change the settings to “side by side”. Charge up your glasses, and enjoy the festivities.
I noticed a few days ago that the satellite feed changed from a test pattern to a graphic of the Olympics Logo, in 3D no less. I’m looking forward to the next 16 days.
Charge up those 3D glasses! The NBC 3D Channel has released its 3D broadcast schedule. While Verizon and Cablevision have been strangely quiet about it, the announcement was officially made that AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Cox, DirecTV, Time Warner, and Verizon FIOS will be carrying the Olympics in 3D.
While it’s unclear whether some cable providers will be charging extra for the privilege, it’s virtually certain, if the past is any indication, that coverage will be completely free for users of Verizon FIOS. The test pattern you’re seeing on 1003 is the same pattern that preceded free coverage of the US Open Tennis Tournament. Come Saturday morning, that test pattern should be replaced on Saturday morning by full and free 3D telecasts of the Olympics.
If you’ve got a Playstation 3D display, make sure you have an HDMI cable going from your cable box or TiVo. On Saturday, you should see two images next to each other. Turn 3D mode on and switch to “Side By Side” format. Then, put on your glasses and enjoy the 3D. If you don’t have FIOS yet, sign up here with referral code IWANTFIOS to get it now with a free gift card no less! 🙂
All of the competition will be on next-day delay (meaning you can watch the Opening Ceremony Friday night and then Saturday at 5 AM watch the rebroadcast in 3D). They claim that there will be a full 12 hours of coverage each day, for a total of about 242 hours over the 16 days. For some reason, they seem to have divided their listings into two portions of the day: one from about 5 AM to 9 AM, and the other from about 9 AM to 6 PM. Hard to tell if it’ll be all original coverage throughout the day, or if they’ll loop the broadcasts, but we’ll see.
Here’s the schedule that’s been released for the first few days. I’ll keep updating this as they do:
5:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Opening Ceremony – London, the first city to host the Olympics thee times, welcomes the world and Queen Elizabeth II officially opens the games.
4:00 AM – 6:15 PM – Gymnastics: men’s team competition; Swimming: qualifying and finals.
5:00 AM – 7:30 PM – Gymnastics: women’s team competition; Swimming: finals; Diving: women’s synchronized springboard finals
5:00 AM – 7:45 PM – Gymnastics: men’s team final; Swimming: finals; Diving: men’s synchronized platform final; Canoeing: whitewater qualifying
5:00 AM – 7:15 PM – Gymnastics: women’s team final; Swimming: finals; Diving: women’s synchronized platform final; Canoeing: whitewater final.
So, I was turning the channels on my FIOS when I got to a test pattern on channel 1003. The old name of the station had been replaced with a new one: NBCOL3D
As I suspected and hoped, it looks like the 2012 London Olympics WILL be broadcast for free to FIOS customers. While there hasn’t been any official announcement by Verizon yet, this is a clear signal (no pun intended) that they’ve switched the channel over to Panasonic’s feed.
If you don’t have FIOS yet, you have until Friday 7/27 to get it to watch the Olympics. Click through this referral URL and you’ll get a $50 bonus in addition to whatever introductory pricing they’ll offer you.
If you’re wondering what my setup is, I have an HDMI cable going from my Tivo to my PS3 3D Display. When the test pattern gets replaced with a real signal, it’ll probably be in side-by-side format (which the US Open was in), in which case I’ll switch to that mode of 3D.
Even though there’ll be a 24 hour delay, just being able to view the Olympics in 3D without paying for the higher tier of service (which ESPN 3D requires) is a big, big bonus.
As a kid, the Olympics were always a big thing in our house. I faintly remember Nadia in 1976, I remember screaming in the family room during the 1980 Hockey Finals, and of course there was the 1984 Olympics where somehow the absence of the Soviet bloc didn’t quite make the impact I think the Soviets wanted it to.
Of course, during those years I learned to love video games as well. An I’ve been a big fan of Olympic video games since I first played Microsoft’s Olympic Decathlon on the Apple II in 1982 and Summer Games in 1984. While not all of us can be Olympic athletes, at least we can get a taste of the thrill of victory, et. al.
Olympic games have been hit or miss since then. They’ve generally come down to a competition to see who can wiggle their joystick quicker or whose thumbs can move the quickest. Which is why I was very eager to try out London 2012 by Sega for the PS3.
When you start up London 2012, you get treated to a nice video montage that shows off the graphics. One very nice thing about this game is that it’s officially licensed with the International Olympic Committee, meaning that you’ll see all the official logos, sights, and sounds of the real Olympics. They’ve recreated a number of venues in London with uncanny realism.
I wouldn’t say that most of the graphics are exactly photorealistic, but they’re definitely nicer than any Olympic game that’s preceded it. And if you’re lucky enough to have a 3D display, you can view all the action in 3D.
There are a staggering number of events in London 2012. It doesn’t have every sport of the Olympics, of course, but there’s definitely a very good mix of events. Here’s the full list:
Men’s 110m hurdles
Men’s Discus Throw
Men’s High Jump
Women’s High Jump
Men’s Long Jump
Men’s Triple Jump
Men’s Javelin Throw
Men’s Shot Put
Men’s 50m Freestyle
Women’s 50m Freestyle
Men’s 100m Freestyle
Women’s 100m Freestyle
Men’s 100m Breaststroke
Women’s 100m Breaststroke
Men’s 100m Butterfly
Women’s 100m Butterfly
Men’s 100m Backstroke
Women’s 100m Backstroke
Men’s 3m Springboard
Women’s 3m Springboard
Men’s 10m Platform
Women’s 10m Platform
Men’s synchronized 3m Springboard
Women’s synchronized 3m Springboard
Men’s synchronized 10m Platform
Women’s synchronized 10m Platform
Men’s 25m rapid fire pistol
Men’s archery individual
Women’s archery individual
Men’s archery team
Women’s archery team
Men’s Keirin (a.k.a. cycling)
Men’s K1 Kayak single
Men’s Single Sculls
Men’s Table Tennis
Men’s Weightlifting over 105kg
Women’s Beach Volleyball
Now while this game is advertised to have Move support, one thing to bear in mind is that only a subset of games really use the Move. I’ll cover those in depth below. But the vast majority of games, as well as the main story mode, use the Dualshock Controller. As with most previous Olympic video games, it comes down to who can manipulate their controller the best.
Each event lets you view a tutorial on how to play. For most events, it’s mainly a game of timing. For example, in the swimming competition, you press “X” to dive, mash “X” to get your initial momentum, pull back on the “L” and “R” joysticks to do your strokes, press “O” to turn, and press “X” to lunge.
Similarly, for the running activities, you press “X” to start, mash “X” with the right cadence to keep your runner going, and lunge using the “L” joystick at the end.
Overall the controls were pretty intuitive and easy to learn, but did feel a bit dated.
There are a couple different game modes. “Olympic Games” is more or less the “story mode” which lets you play 20 events over several days against CPU opponents at easy, medium, or hard level. You choose which country you’ll be competing for, and you can even customize athletes on your team (unfortunately it looks like all the names are made up; it probably would have been cost-prohibitive to get approval for actual names and likenesses). Then, you choose two events from a short list of events on each day to compete. Your goal, of course, is to win as many medals as possible. As with the real Olympics, you need to qualify first and then if you make it, compete for the medal.
There’s “Events Play” mode, where you can select a group of events to play against the CPU, against other players, or paired up with other players on the same national team.
With “Party Play”, you can jump right into a number of activities that are most suitable for multiple players, including javelin, trampoline, kayak , keirin, skeet, table tennis, and 100m.
“Online Play” is a mode where you can actually compete against others on the PSN Network. You can compete in random events, a custom event, or even take place in a tournament against friends or random players. When I tried “Quick Play” the number of players to compete against were pretty sparse (it took a few minutes for the system to find someone for me to compete against), but that should change as more copies of the game are sold. What’s cool about this is that because the game is sold all around the world, chances are the players are really from countries they represent.
When speaking of the game solely in terms of using the Dualshock controller, it’s fun enough, but really not much different than every Olympic game that preceded it back. That said, the graphics and realism alone put this in a class of its own.
I’ll spend the rest of the time talking about the portion of the game that had Move support.
The part of the game I was personally most interested in was the games that had Move support. Sadly, Move support is really relegated to one part of the game called “Motion Play Party” mode, where you can play a subset of events against up to 3 other players with the Move or against the CPU. The events supported are:
25m rapid fire pistol
Kayak super sprint
There are also “Party Challenges” for 2 or more players where you need to compete in certain events to unlock further challenges. I would recommend learning the sports in Motion Play Party mode first.
The first Move event I tried was the 100m. 1-4 players can compete. You basically run in place with the Move controller in your hand and then lunge towards the finish line by throwing your arms back. This one actually felt a lot more natural than the awkward button mashing on the controller, and it acutally provided a pretty good workout. But it was admittedly tempting to cheat by just shaking the Move controller like a drumstick or a baton (which works better than just running in place).
They also have an event called keirin (I had to look it up on Wikipedia…it’s basically cycling on a track). This one was an ill-conceived one for the Move. The graphics and the realism are pretty good, but it’s just not a great use of the Move controller. They have you holding it sideways to steer a la Mario Kart, and accelerating by mashing the Move button. Problem is, your left hand is covering up the glowing ball on the Move controller so the system is constantly losing contact, and it’s awkward for your thumb to reach the Move button. Ironically, this would have been a lot stronger using the Dualshock controller (which has an internal gyrometer that would do just as well for steering) rather than the move.
I had high hopes for the kayaking event. I assumed that you’d be able to hold your Move controller sideways, or even hold two Move controllers, and use it like a real paddle. But instead, they have you swiping your Move controller down and to the left to paddle right and down and to the right to paddle left, almost as if you’re rowing a rowboat with one hand. It’s definitely not a natural paddling motion. I got a decent workout to my right biceps, but mainly because I kept flailing in every direction trying to figure out the controls. Perhaps if you figure out the motion controls to this one it might be fun, but it was too frustrating for me to want to try.
Table tennis was moderately fun, but don’t expect anything even close to Sports Champions. Remember the “ooh, ahh” at how realistic Sports Champions felt the first time you rotated the Move controller in your hand and and saw the paddle rotate as precisely on the screen? There’s none of that here. For that matter, most of the controls are unrealistic and unnatural. I tried playing using “real ping pong” strategies, but the CPU would clobber me. It’s only when I started doing bizarre things such as moving the paddle straight up for topspin and moving the paddle straight down for backspin (without even trying to aim or spin the ball) that I started getting competitive against the CPU. This is a major step backwards from the standard set in Sports Champions.
Where the Move excelled in this game were in the “shooting” and “throwing” games. Pistol shooting, for example, was extremely realistic and precise, something the Move is head and shoulders better at than the Kinect or the Wii.
Similarly, I found the archery to be comparable to Sports Champions, maybe a little bit better. As with Sports Champions you can use one or two Move controllers; using two is definitely the way to go. Unlike Sports champions you don’t have to make the motion to grab an arrow from your back, which I always found a little awkward in that game.
The unrealistic thing is that you can shoot random targets during the competition to get bonus points, multipliers, and extended times, although I have to say that did add to the fun and challenge. No matter how much I tried, one of the CPU players kept beating me, so if you want to win against the CPU, you need to rack up a big lead early and master hitting all the special targets in the last round.
The javelin throw was also quite realistic. You hold the Move controller like a javelin (with the glowing ball facing forward). You don’t need to run, but you do need to time your throw perfectly; the force, angle, and straightness of your throw will determine how far it goes.
I played a couple games in 3D, and the 3D effect really does a lot to enhance the game play, from seeing the depth of vision in archery to the first-person view through the kerin track at breakneck speed. If you have a 3D display, the 3D really takes the already excellent graphics to the next level and adds to the realism of the game.
Overall I’d give this game a 4 of 5 stars. It’s a solid title that any fan of the Olympics can enjoy. I’m not sure of its replay value after the Olympics are over, and aside from one or two Move games it really doesn’t have much for someone looking for PS3 Fitness. But from a fun perspective it’ll be a great game to take off the shelf and play with family and friends during the Olympics and probably for a few months after.
The summer of the PS3 Fitness Game drought continues, but I did want to chime in with a pretty good promotion from Amazon. This is a teeny tiny promotion that Amazon isn’t making very obvious, but it’s a good one.
On the PS3 product page, there’s a teeny banner that says:
Clicking on it takes you to a page about Amazon Instant Video, on the top of which is a teeny banner that says:
So it seems that if you register your PS3 with Amazon to start watching videos on the Amazon Instant Video application on your PS3 (which I’ll bet you didn’t know you had), you’ll get a cool $5 to use towards buying or renting a video.
The cool thing about this is that is really expands your ability to use your PS3 for fitness. How? There are a ton of exercise and fitness videos out there, most at only around $1.99 to rent or $9.99 to buy. And so while the PS3 hasn’t been graced with a Jillian Michaels video game like the Kinect or Wii (trust me, we’re not missing much), we can still have Jillian grace our PS3 screens by using one of her videos. Not to mention Bethanny, Bob, Denise, Billy, and the gazillions of others who’ve put out exercise videos. It’s the perfect antidote for the paucity of PS3 fitness games lately.
Here’s exactly how to do it.
1) On your PS3, go to TV/Video Services. You may already have a green icon there that looks like this.
If not, go to the “My Channels” icon that looks like a test pattern and select the Amazon icon.
2) Once you select the icon you may be asked to download software.
You may or may not have to install a system update. After that you’ll be asked to sign into your PS3 account. Don’t worry, you’re almost there 🙂
3) Finally, you’ll get to the main Amazon video screen.
The interface looks similar to what you’ve seen on devices like Roku, Apple TV, and Xbox LIVE.
4) Next, select the box that says “Register Your Device”. You’ll be brought to a screen showing you a 5-digit code. This code will be unique to your device.
5) Next, go www.amazon.com/mytv. If you have multiple people in your household with Amazon accounts, make sure you sign in with the account you want permanently associated with the PS3.
6) Magically, on your PS3, you’ll see a success screen.
7) Next, you’ll go through screens asking to confirm your 1-Click settings. From Amazon’s perspective, they of course want to make it as easy as possible for you to make an impulse buy :P. They’ll then try to push you to buy Amazon Prime, which actually is not a bad deal if you do a lot of ordering on Amazon. Not only do you get free 2-day shipping on all orders, you also get access to a bunch of free videos you can watch through streaming. The free videos you can watch with Amazon Prime aren’t the latest hits, of course, but there are some good ones (I watched all three seasons of Arrested Development using Amazon Prime).
8) Finally, you’ll get to the success page on Amazon.
Now here’s the annoying thing. Amazon, of course, makes it difficult to look up your promotional certificate balance. To do so, you have to choose an instant video and then look at the tiny print under the product description.
When I checked, I saw a balance of zero. Not cool.
I started a chat session. I was bracing myself for a big fight, but they were fast and very, very nice.
This is where I love Amazon. While other companies I’ve had similar issues with would argue with me, ending up costing hundred of dollars of their customer service people’s salaries to fight against me just to deny me the $5, Amazon credited it right to me, no questions asked. This is why I continue to be a loyal customer.
So your mileage may vary. A lot of people are reporting that the $5 credit is being instantly credited to them, but even if it’s not Amazon is smart enough not to deny it to you if you ask about it.
Once I registered I was able to see the videos I’d previously purchased on Amazon under “Your Video Library”, and also access the free Prime videos, as well as buy new videos of course.
So that’s the story. I actually just made a great deal with Verizon FIOS and upped my Internet speed from 50/25 from 15/5, so Internet is blazingly fast on my PS3 now. When I had cable and DSL, I was used to video pausing in the middle at random times and being choppy, but right now I’m watching a video that’s running as smooth and clear as a Blu-Ray. The nice thing about FIOS is that you get your own dedicated line, meaning if the teenager in the apartment upstairs has WoW playing 24×7, you won’t see your bandwidth affected and your video streaming will still be lightning fast (self-serving note…if you’re interested in FIOS go through this link to sign up for FIOS, and both you and I will get a shiny new $50 American Express gift card :)).
So that’s it. Enjoy instant video on your PS3…and start working out those abs!