For the avid computer video game player, the concept
of the "button bashing" sports sim is not
new. How could anyone possibly forget destroying your
Spectrum 48k keyboard playing Track and Field just to
win the 100 meters. These type of games were also a
hit in the arcades and you could usually hear a bunch
of kids practicing at being electronic athletes before
you even saw them. This type of game though is the first
on the GBA and it will be interesting to see if the
concept of the finger athlete is still an appealing
and fun experience.
Welcome to the Decathlon or what most athletes regard
as, "THE" athletics event. Set over ten varied
challenges, the Decathlon really does push the competitor
to their limits and diverse disciplines are required
simply to survive it. This title allows you to take
part in everything from 100 meters to the triple jump
without leaving the comfort of your own home and whilst
you can either choose to master the decathlon or single
events, the latter is probably the best option as a
We'll start with the 100 meters, which if you choose
the Decathlon option, will be your first event. As we
mentioned in the intro, this title requires a fair amount
of button bashing but in order to get the best time
and have a chance of first place, you'll need to employ
additional strategies too. Achieving success means doing
things the right way and at the right time. For example,
in this event 'on your marks' has you wondering over
to the starting block but 'get set' is an instruction
to push 'up' on the control pad. Failing to do this
means you'll start later than the rest although running
too soon will give you a foul. The button bashing comes
into play in earnest after the starters pistol but approaching
the finishing line requires a 'down' and 'right' to
gain that last burst of speed.
All the events are very different in the way you
approach and control them but most are done on an individual
basis so you can watch the other contestants if you
wish. After each event everyone is scored depending
on performance and then it's onto the next challenge.
You can then choose to save the game but this is only
really advisable if you have gained a good score and
position, otherwise, try again.
The link mode is fantastic and once you've realised
that everyone in the world of athletics is substantially
fitter than you, there's a good chance you'll want to
try it out. You can either choose the single event or
decathlon mode here, though it's important to realize
that your records won't be saved. Obviously, it's more
satisfying beating friends than the computer and this
is all available with only one copy of the game.
This is where what could have been a truly memorable
gaming experience comes unstuck. The problem is that
everything's just too complicated and fiddly, and whereas
a computer keyboard has ample space to press the 'A'
and 'B' keys very quickly, it's almost impossible on
the GBA. There are also the events themselves, as everyone
one of them requires a different combination of button
presses to be successful. This is all detailed in the
lengthy manual but stopping all the time to read up
on the next button combination really does disrupt the
enjoyment and flow of the game. There is one aspect
of FILA Decathlon that may save some players, however,
and this is the practice mode. Here a personal trainer
will take you through every event and show the most
effective way to compete in them. It's still difficult
but at least you know which buttons to press and in
The graphics and animation throughout are quite simply
spectacular. Gone are "wooden" looking athletes
that previous athletics sims have featured and replacing
them are "real" people. When I say "real"
I'm actually referring to the fact that all of the various
participants have been motion captured, making for some
very smooth animation which is a joy to watch. It's
not just the decathlon entrants that are blessed with
this enhanced movement, but the officials too who will
raise a flag and shout "foul" just as if you
were watching on TV. Outstanding!
Sound & Music
As with the other production values that have been
employed in this title, the sound and music too is outstanding.
The intro is accompanied by some excellent music which
is just like the kind of thing you'd hear on a televised
Athletics special and is also played in between events.
The real highlight though is the commentator's voice,
evident throughout the events, which in addition to
being incredibly clear, also adds a lot more atmosphere
to the whole game.
With an incredibly high standard of graphics, animation
and audio you'd imagine that THQ would have a real winner
on their hands but unfortunately the control system
is so badly conceived that the whole title becomes a
flawed and ultimately frustrating experience. This is
a real shame as everything else is outstanding but what
you're left with is an impressive looking title that
only the most dexterous of players will be able to enjoy.