How all major sport games took a big leap forward this year
2012 might as well be named “the year of the sports revolution” in gaming. There were a number of improvements for each game (Madden 13, FIFA 13, NBA 2K13, NHL 13) that made a world of difference.
Physics are all the rage in sports games this year. Madden finally introduced a physics system this season instead of relying on canned, boring tackle animations. FIFA took a step forward by re-tooling its physics engine introduced in FIFA 12 by giving players weight that is felt throughout the game. NHL 13 added its new player acceleration and speed, which completely changed the way the game is played. Not only do these changes make the games better, it also adds layers to the realism of each. Seeing the bigger NHL players bullying the smaller players by the crease might seem like a small change to some, but fans that know how the NHL works inside and out will really appreciate it. The same goes for Madden, where bigger NFL backs are more likely to truck over smaller defenders or battle for the extra yards against similarly sized opponents. In previous years of Madden, for instance, seeing smaller running backs like Felix Jones running over Ray Lewis was a game breaker.
The physics systems will never be perfect, but they do get improved each season. FIFA was a great example of this, as weird glitches would crop up during regular game play. This is also true for Madden’s inaugural physics engine, as after a play, action is marred by stupidity. It is perfectly normal to expect players to trip over each other after each play as well as players falling and planking on the ground, running into each other, and other weird glitches that shouldn’t have made it past play testers or developers. This has to be ironed out in Madden 14 for people to take the game seriously, or else the physics engine might be more trouble than it’s worth.
All the small things
Little touches here and there can be the difference between a good game and a great one. NBA 2K13 does a phenomenal job of this by picking up all the little things that make the NBA unique. Driving to the hoop and drawing contact now results in the players yelling as if the foul was worse, something that has been in the NBA but not captured in the game for years. When Jason Terry knocks down a clutch shot he does the “JET” celebration, along with other signature celebrations for specific players. Celebrities that 2K sports have the license for also appear courtside at the games, specifically Jay Z at the Nets games and Justin Bieber is present at Laker home games. The players are smarter in game play as well. If there is two seconds on the clock, the player’s shot will be quicker in order to get the shot off on time. Play also continues after the foul whistle is blown, which is much more realistic than everyone completely stopping.
Madden takes a similar approach. Each player is wearing their specific helmet / accessories that you would see in the game as well as different ways taunts and celebrations after the play. Other small details like the way the quarterback throws and sounds, right down to the way a running back holds onto the ball.
Little touches like this show gamers that the sports developers care about the game and understand the nuances behind ratings and points. Getting the basics down is hard enough, but going into this much detail is really impressive.
What do you think about this year’s crop of sports games? Did you think they were a big leap forward, about what you expected, or a step backward from last year? Let me know in the comments below.