I am a lover of old-school Olympic games such as Olympic Gold, Lillehammer 94, London 2012 and so on where there are tons of events, easy controls but with skill and nuance to the events. You could button mash some but others require timing, dexterity, quick reaction times or balancing multiple things. The Winter Olympics often gets the butt end of the games so I’m delighted Winter Games 2023 exists at all, even if its whole shell feels like it’s been lifted from a PS3 series called Winter Stars from a decade ago.
There are 10 events although several are very similar such as Downhill and Super-G both being skiing and Bobsleigh and Skeleton sliding down the same chute. Annoyingly, like the ski racing events, there is only one mountain with one course and so there is a lack of variety and replayability when you go beyond the initial numbers. Most of the controls revolve around accelerating, braking and steering like a racing game to complete an event, or rhythmically matching button presses to build up momentum. As the game feels very low budget and struggles with its FPS (and has a weird gaussian blur to it), the timing-based events suffer from the low FPS as you have to press pre-emptively to match the actual timing required. It’s annoying but you get used to it. The FPS does cause issues with Bobsleigh and Skeleton as it struggles to keep up on the tighter turns as you steer the chunky polygons down the course.
Two events stick out as being the best of the bunch. Biathlon works well because it’s a mixture of rhythm skiing without having to button mash and the shooting targets puts some real skill into the events that are missing from almost everything else. The AI aren’t much of a battle but multiplayer is more fun. Curling is also fantastic because the controls are really easy to use and understand. It’s simple to adjust speed and add in some curveball action to your shots. This means it becomes strategy over dexterity and so again, it feels different to everything else.
The game is split into small single-player cups to win and each cup has three difficulty levels. These increase either the speed of your competitors or things like the wind speed for Biathlon and Ski Jumping so that things are more tricky to perform. One event that suffers a bit on harder difficulties is the Speed Skating event as the other competitors love to ram you off the rink. You can then build your own cups for local multiplayer which offers a mixture of turn-taking events or head to heads.
I had a lot of fun with Winter Games 2023 in spite of its technical flaws and lack of scope. I hope this is the start of a series that expands to more events, more courses for each event and also some different control schemes to ensure each event feels unique. I am definitely its target audience which is probably why I’m enjoying this more than the average player, but if you see this cheap on a modern console, give it a whirl. There’s nothing else recent to fill the gap and it scratched my winter games itch for now.
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