As 2008 draws to a close, we continue with our recap of the most noteworthy games of the year. As we wrote before, 2008 was a great year for racing games, but unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the sports genre. While there were the usual annual iterations from the EA and 2K stables, few of them stood out, and most of them don’t spark much interest in India anyways. So here’s a look at the most significant sports games of 2008 – the good and the bad.
EA Canada finally got football right on next-gen consoles. Going the all-out simulation route, FIFA 09 brought to us the most accurate representation of the beautiful game. Armed with more responsive gameplay, a reworked physics engine, lifelike animations, a gamut of multiplayer options, and possibly the most impressive visuals in any team-based sports game yet, FIFA 09 exceeded everyone’s expectations and surged ahead as the competition stood still.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2009
PES 2009 was more about correcting the wrongs from its disastrous previous effort. And while it did that in almost every way, Konami did little to move the series forward. It still played with the fluidity that made it the best football game in the PS2 days, but PES 2009 was outclassed by EA’s effort in nearly every other aspect.
2008 was a year severely lacking in action-sports titles. Facebreaker, a quirky arcade boxer, was the debut title on EA’s new Freestyle label (the one that killed SSX). And the label couldn’t have got off to a rockier start. Bashed by critics, this pointless button-masher disappeared from public memory like it never existed. But unfortunately, it did. Maybe EA can issue a public apology in 2009 in the form of Fight Night Round 4.
After kicking EA’s NBA Live franchise to the curb years ago, 2K Sports’ NBA 2K series continued its domination in 2008. With fluid controls, crisp visuals, and five-on-five online support, NBA 2K9, while not making too many drastic changes from last year, did enough to keep its crown for another year and established itself as the most realistic basketball simulation ever.
Top Spin 3
With more and more developers toning down their games to appeal to a broader audience, 2K Sports stuck with Top Spin’s signature punishing gameplay with Top Spin 3 this year. A worthy follow-up to Top Spin 2, it featured solid gameplay, competent AI, a robust career mode, and well modeled, lifelike player likenesses, with a roster boasting some of the biggest names in professional tennis.
FIFA Street 3
As popular as football games are, the FIFA Street games never managed to strike a chord with football lovers. FIFA Street 3’s shallow gameplay and unrewarding trick system did little to change that. While EA nailed the simulation aspect of football with FIFA 09, they seem to be running out of ideas on the arcade side with FIFA Street, and it seems increasingly apparent that this franchise needs to be put out of its misery.
So there you have it; the sports games of 2008. Some of them mediocre; most of them forgettable. But 2009 shows a lot more promise, with games such as Skate 2, Fight Night Round 4, Stoked, EA Sports’ new tennis title, and of course, the standard EA and 2K fare. Who knows, we may even see Tony Hawk attempt to take his crown back, as well as the much awaited Backbreaker. And SSX maybe? Please?