By David Song, November 23 2017 —
Sports video games are a peculiar intersection of two disparate fan bases. Many sports fans would rather play or watch tangible sports than digitized versions while many gamers lack an interest in the sports world.
But many, including myself, have a foot in each door. For us, sports video games blend the best of both worlds. They allow us to recreate our favourite sporting moments, role-play our favourite athletes and customize the major leagues to our liking. Attending a Flames game or playing backyard football with friends can’t be simulated, but sports video games are an enjoyable way to indulge in both passions.
Of course, the kind of sports video games you like depends on the sports you enjoy. Based on my experience, here are three standout sports video game franchises.
EA Sports UFC series:
The UFC series is distinguished by its graphics. The visuals are elite, delivering accurate and photorealistic renditions of each fighter. Its physics-based engine simulates rippling skin and flying sweat as blows land and knockouts occur based on the momentum of a crucial strike. Basic kicks and punches are supplemented by advanced combinations, evasion and counter-attack mechanisms and a flawed but serviceable ground-fighting system. The UFC games also feature vivid presentation with authentic match graphics, music, transitions and commentary.
However, the weak replay system doesn’t always deliver intuitive angles or each round’s greatest highlights. The franchise also suffers from a lack of depth in some modes, such as UFC 2’s repetitive career mode.
Still, UFC 2 is the most visually appealing sports game I’ve ever played. The learning curve is a bit steep for beginners but is downright fun when you get the hang of it. UFC 3 promises to raise the bar even higher when it drops on Feb. 2, 2018. Check out this series if you have even a casual interest in mixed martial arts.
Madden NFL series:
The Madden series has received a fair dose of criticism for its well-documented glitches and failure to establish meaningful innovations year-to-year. However, there’s still plenty to enjoy. Madden NFL 16 is a significant improvement from 15 with revamped passing controls, stronger run-game animations and diverse camera angles. All of these elements create more organic and satisfying plays than its predecessors.
NFL 17 introduced a new broadcast team and much-needed fresh commentary. NFL 18, the most recent version, added a story mode called Longshot, bringing an unprecedented level of narrative to a sports video game. In Franchise Mode allows you can play as your favourite team throughout consecutive seasons and Ultimate Team lets you build the strongest possible roster by collecting trading cards.
Glitches occur, especially in more competitive play and the Ultimate Team mode preys on gamers’ wallets by encouraging you to pay real money to unlock card packs faster. Regardless, Madden is a deep and aesthetically pleasing way to bring NFL football into your living room.
EA Sports NHL Series:
Since its conception in 1991, the NHL series has become a treasured franchise. NHL 17 and 18 feature strong graphics and the visuals in older versions like NHL 14 are advanced for their time. The controls encompass basic actions, such as passing and shooting, as well as more complex moves, like saucer passes, shot blocks and intricate dekes.
The adjustment settings in NHL also allows you to generate a highly specific experience to fit your gaming tastes. The simulation preset generates realistic skating and puck movement and a more authentic pace. The arcade preset creates a speedier, less technical gaming experience where players are turned into speed skaters.
Like Madden, the NHL series features various modes, such as Ultimate Team and Franchise Mode. NHL 18 added NHL Threes — a three-on-three game that modernizes old-school arcade hockey. Hockey rules and mechanics aren’t emphasized. Instead, Threes involves a smaller rink, gigantic hits, fast-paced action and “money pucks” that are worth than one goal. The Expansion Draft in NHL 18 also allows Franchise Mode players to build teams in new locations, similar to the real-life Vegas Golden Knights.
The NHL series is also plagued by glitches and a lack of yearly innovation. But unlike both Madden and UFC, the NHL series lacks a narrative-driven story mode. However, it boasts fluid gameplay and quality aesthetics. It’s a must-have for gamers and hockey fans.