For some, the Olympic Games are about four years of hard training, reaching the pinnacle of sporting achievement and standing for the amateur ideals of Pierre de Coubertain and Dr William Penny Brookes. For others, they're about staying up all night because of a sudden fascination with judo, diving and 25m rapid fire pistol shooting. And for those armchair athletes, the official Beijing 2008 game is out on PlayStation 3.
After choosing your nation you can play your way through the mammoth Olympic campaign in single player, competing in 38 selected events including qualification rounds, or create your own competition and take on friends, either locally or online. Olympic Games mode is particularly impressive; it includes a levelling system that awards points based on performance that can be used to improve attributes, such as speed, strength and agility.
The range of events on offer is staggering. The 38 are split into track, field, aquatics, gymnastics, shooting and other. All the expected athletics events are present, such as 100m, long jump and javelin, but there are also a few welcome surprises, such as judo, kayaking and both platform and springboard diving.
Fans of previous Olympic titles will feel at home with the controls; sprinting in track events, swimming and some field events is done by repeatedly pressing the X and Circle buttons - or, controversially, placing a sock over your hand and rubbing them into a frenzy - while jumping and throwing actions are usually performed using either the L2 or R2 button.
Some events adopt control schemes based on context. The gymnastic floor exercise, for example, plays like a rhythm action game with button prompts appearing at the gymnast's feet that need to be pressed in time to the music. Archery is also well realised; pulling back the right stick draws the bow and brings up a cross hair, and releasing the stick at the right time releases the arrow. It's more difficult than it sounds, because you also have to take into account the strength and direction of the wind.
The game's presentation is superb and the athletes' movements are well animated. The graphics are brilliant, considering the range of events and environments, displaying an attention to the small details, such as realistic splashes and ripples as a diver breaks the water's surface and the reflection of cyclists on the velodrome track. This attention to detail goes a long way towards capturing the Olympic atmosphere.
A crucial aspect of the Olympic Games is the spirit of competition, present here in the form of local and online multiplayer. Online play is simple and flexible, allowing you to set up your own matches with any combination of events, or simply join a random match to get straight to the action with minimum fuss. Up to eight players can join in, making the track and pool events in which everyone is racing at the same time particularly exciting. Also, there are online leaderboards keeping track of world records.
If you're an athlete and you get it wrong at the Olympics, you have to wait four years for another shot; it's a similar situation for developer Eurocom, and it's come through with a solid title that features an incredible range of events without compromising on detail. Multiplayer mode is especially good, either locally or, if you like a challenge, online.
And fittingly, it's a game that works up a sweat: bashing those buttons is no mean feat.