Annualized sports game is something that never gets the attention it deserves. They’re a nuisance to some and there’s no doubt that they never change too drastically from year to year but as most sports fans will tell you, they change just enough. Though that can’t always be said as some games seemingly churn out nearly the same experience year to year or, of course, have an off year or two. In this feature I will analyze the sports games of 2012 and ultimately decide which sports game did the most to improve, and which did the least. This is by no means determining the Sports Game of the Year category in our annual GiR awards; it’s merely my opinion on the past year’s beloved recurring franchises that often include a ball… or a puck if you want to get real crazy.
NCAA Football 2013
This year’s NCAA Football brought about some much needed changes to the franchise mode while also attempting tweak a few in game controls to make for a smoother overall experience.. The franchise changes were well received and revolved mostly around improving the recruiting experience while tightening up the still unnecessarily complex UI. The in game changes were mostly insignificant and only noticeable by people that play each NCAA game every year. No newcomer will realize that you can now throw the ball to a receivers back shoulder, nor will they become particularly excited when seeing it.
The biggest addition this year was the addition of a Heisman challenge mode where you take over the shoes of a previous Heisman winner, RG3, Doug Flutie, Barry Sanders, etc., and follow along his footsteps until you too win the Heisman. It’s a simple mode that featured some nice ideas such as giving you a checklist of things to complete that the player himself also accomplished. But in the end, you begin to realize that’s just a checklist and completing those four things are never anywhere near as fun as you might hope.. The biggest issue was the lack of personality from your character that would help you feel more like the actual player, as opposed to just another stud running back who is knocking people over left and right.
It’s no secret that MLB 2K, to put it nicely, has been MLB The Show’s little bitch for the past few years but even with that, I’ve always found some kind of enjoyment from it. I mostly enjoy it for its UI, art style, and most importantly, it’s on the 360 so I can get those sweet, sweet achievements. This year MLB really fell on its face as it felt like they introduced almost no new things to their yearly franchise, apart from the generic “gameplay and control tuning.”
The actual changes only slightly went beyond that as the AI and pitching controls were improved, but not quite enough to bump it up to the levels of MLB: The Show. MLB 2K12 is the definition of a rehashed product simply produced to earn a tad bit more money before the franchise dies. That death seems to have come as MLB 2K was left off of 2K’s 2013 fiscal year report, which is also how we learned of the cancellations for both the NHL and College Hoops franchises.
Fifa seems to taken the same route as MLB 2K did this year, minus the mediocre feel and instead brought about brilliant AI changes that only enhance the remarkable football/soccer experience that everyone comes to Fifa for. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been a guy to delve into Fifa’s many modes; I’m more of a home body that sticks to playing quick match after quick match. I think it’s a testament to the quality of Fifa as that’s the only game I’ve ever done that with. The changes themselves are a tad complex but still very welcome, such as players now battling before the ball is in a players possession, this could result in a poor first touch and ultimately losing control of the ball and giving it up to the opposition. Also added was a bit more intelligence in the AI as now when they attack, they’ll use strategies such as running a certain way to throw off the other team and then open up a nice passing lane to split the defense and ultimately have a goal opportunity.
For you crazy people that do dive into the career modes, EA introduced the possibility of becoming an international player/coach. Producer David Rutter stated that it was the most fan requested feature and even from the outside looking in, it does sound interesting. I would love to actually participate in the mode but I become so overwhelmed with the barrage of football info flying my way that I can’t help but step back and say “Oh God, I don’t know what any of this means.” I then resort back to my quick play options, and I see nothing wrong with that.
MLB 12: The Show
The Show continued to dominate the baseball market this year and while it’s pretty apparent that the opposing MLB 2K series will not be around much longer, The Show continued to storm on with a fun and fresh feeling experience. Though it’s becoming harder and harder to do, Sony managed to make the actual in game experience even better by tweaking the at bats and pitches slightly to increase the drama you experience when someone steps behind the plate. They also brought in full Move support, though I’m sure that’s something most will never lay a hand on.
One of the biggest additions was the new Diamond Dynasty Mode where you can create your own fantasy team and take it online to compete with others. It’s similar to the Ultimate Team mode in both Fifa and Madden where you have cards relating to the players and must upgrade their skills while gaining them more and more playing experience. It’s nothing too revolutionary, but it provides a few hours of fun and I could definitely see people getting hooked on building up their perfect dream team. MLB: The Show has always been regarded as one of the best sports games out there, but it’s about time for Sony to make some kind of change to freshen up the experience. Here’s to hoping that big change will come in the near future.
Look for Part 2 in the near future. It will reveal the most improved, least improved, and thoughts on the following games:
Madden NFL 13