The 2017 Sports Game of the Year
Nothing brings people together for some creative trash talk quite like a sports video game. A sports game’s social component, however, is just one piece of a larger, entertaining puzzle, and companies continue to serve challenging single player modes to keep gamers hooked while living out their fantasies as an athlete, manager, or athlete-turned-manager.
Numerous sports titles took a leap of faith this year with the addition of a unique single player story mode. Fans of soccer, baseball, and football were treated to the lives of fictional characters hoping to establish themselves as an important figure in the large pantheon of legendary athletes. It’s definitely the new normal.
So how did these titles stack up?
Runner-Up: Pro Evolution Soccer 2018
What PES lacks in licensing, it more than makes up for it with deep, intelligent gameplay. PES18 is no different, and delivered with intuitive, immersive gameplay that brought every sensation of knocking a long-range rocket or deftly maneuvering past numerous defenders through the box for a sublime floater feel as natural as a few flicks on the control stick. Unfortunately, fans can’t do it with Real Madrid because they’re in the game as Madrid White thanks to a lack of rights.
The lack of team and league rights leads to a smaller fanbase, which leads to a smaller pool of players competing online, a shame if there ever were one as the PES League is a wonderfully competitive and challenging online and PVP tournament featuring some of the world’s best from across the globe. If you get your hands on this one, get it on PC or PS4 and prepare to invest some time searching for the best customized teams to download, in order to patch the fake teams with real ones.
Sports games rarely get prettier than the NBA2k series and that’s still true. It looks so good that it could easily fool any passerby into believing it’s the real deal until a player fires up the pause menu to interrupt the illusion. Thankfully, the gameplay is as impressive as the visuals thanks to numerous tweaks and incredible motion-capture work.
The huge addition this year for the hoops franchise was Neighborhoods, a free roam mode of sorts that puts gamers into a large area that connects three of the game’s modes and where players can customize their characters with virtual currency.
Unfortunately, if there’s one thing that can ruin a game’s favorability among players, it’s virtual currency. And man, did gamers complain about this year’s hoops game leaning heavily on virtual currency. Gamers felt that developer Virtual Concepts implemented VC in such a way that it’s almost impossible to advance further into many of the game’s modes without it. They responded by slashing VC prices on numerous items, but arguably, the damage has already been done.
Runner-Up: Madden NFL 18
The Frostbite Engine is a godsend for Electronic Arts. Not only did it change up everything for its FIFA franchise, but it made this year’s Madden title the prettiest, most realistic game around.
The Longshot mode is an entertaining addition as a single-player story mode, but many gamers might be put off by its emphasis on the story and its lack of gameplay. The balance between both is a little off, and there’s very little actual football for a story about football.
Thankfully, there’s TONS of gridiron action outside of that mode, especially in Madden Ultimate Team, Franchise mode, and Play Now Live.
Runner-Up: MLB The Show 17
A video game controller may never replicate the feel of an actual baseball glove, but this title certainly replicates the feeling of a perfectly thrown pitch. That’s all thanks to numerous changes, upgrades, and tweaks that the hardcore have clamored for what feels like eons now.
If there’s one improvement worth noting, it’s one that makes outfield players a wee bit smarter. They no longer run the most direct path to the ball, nor take their sweet time in launching a pitch to first base, thereby missing what should be an easy out.
More importantly, San Diego Studios reinvented the wheel this year and reworked every line of code containing the physics for the ball and bat. In other words, the most fundamental aspect of baseball was remade to deliver the best baseball title yet.
Winner: FIFA 18
Electronic Arts took a bolder stance with its soccer franchise in a few ways this year. First, the company made a larger investment into its new story mode this year with the sequel to The Journey. Players followed English lad Alex Hunter on his quest from to prove himself among the world’s elite soccer players. It even incorporated old favorite FIFA Street into the story.
Second, Career Mode finally got a facelift and a few tweaks that made things easier and/or more interesting, in addition to offering more options.
For the multiplayer fans who don’t care about any of that single player nonsense, the title remains the best online soccer title around. Seasons, Tournaments, PvP, and Ultimate Team remain fun and competitive.
Plus there’s no denying the power of the FIFA license. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty close.
Congratulations to FIFA 18, winner of GameCrate’s 2017 Sports Game of the Year!
Check out our full 2017 award list for more.