While the BBC spends most of its TV licence revenue on overpaying chatshow hosts and making fine nature documentaries, ORF, its Austrian equivalent, prefers to splash its cash on overpaying chatshow hosts and making fine free winter sports games. For years ORF have been dishing out top-notch ski simulators. The latest – Ski Challenge 2009 – lets you slide down six famous European peaks at breakneck speeds. Don’t be put-off by the Deutsch web page. The installer and game menus are all in English.
As lovely as SC-09 is, it lacks – like all skiing sims I’ve tried – a certain physicality. The challenge of adjusting speed and line are there, but there’s no sense that you’re actually hurtling down the mountain on two planks of carbon-fibre rather than one. You might as well be on a sledge or a cello case. I’m still waiting for a ski sim in which each ski is controlled by a separate key set, or thumbstick.
If SC-09 puts you in a snowy mood then the demo of Biathlon 2009 is another interesting place to spend time. Skiing plus shooting should be an irresistible mix. The fact that it isn’t, probably owes something to that lack of physicality again. Until some clever dev does something fresh with this subzero sub-genre, all skiing games will remain slightly prettier versions of William Tang’s 1982 opus.