MAKE SOME NOISE!!!
E3 is almost upon us, and with it comes in-depth access to most of this falls sports games. No other genre boasts such a punishing yearly schedule, forcing developers to consistently delivery freshness and quality lest they be pummeled by fans. We wont spend time here focusing on the back-of-the-box highlights each game is promising (although many of them are needed and in some cases seriously awesome); rather, well focus more holistically on what we want to see from each of our favorite sports titles.
While most of the titles are entrenched, long-standing franchises, theres one brand new face this year as well as a couple of other games looking to bounce back from recent struggles. The landscape for sports games is shrinking, too, as there are only two sports (basketball and soccer) that feature direct competitors. Youd think this would make it easier on the others, but in fact its the opposite the pressure to deliver high quality when youre alone in the marketplace can make or break you.
So heres a look at what we want from sports this E3.
Madden NFL 13
Simply put, we want the best Madden ever, the kind that is a clear step forward to casual and hardcore fans alike. For many reasons, Madden has been pretty good but not amazing this console generation, and the development team has been way out in front this go-round telling us how many more resources went into crafting Madden NFL 13. From gameplay to online to franchise to presentation, weve been promised that virtually everything has been overhauled.
That means we want impeccable gameplay that rewards smart play, looks and sounds like real NFL football, allows us to be connected to our Madden universe wherever we are, and keeps us involved with compelling, emotional single-player, multiplayer, and online modes. Basically, we want it to consume our life like it used to back in the day. Thats not too much to ask, is it?
NCAA Football 13
If NCAA Football 13 simply does two major things adjusts the defense to make the incredibly difficult passing plays easier and fixes its crushing Online Dynasty bugs then the game will be rock solid. After all, last years game was superb save those two major items, and depending on your play style and gaming habits you may not have even known those problems existed.
Assuming that happens, what we desperately want is for the just-announced Heisman Trophy mode to be even more compelling than anything weve seen before, drenching us in history and emotion to break the mold of great mechanical experiences but little to no human element. No sport, other than baseball, boasts the history and stories of college football, a great and untapped reservoir of material.
Where do you go after a huge reboot? Thats the question EA Canada is hoping to answer emphatically as soccer fans around the world eagerly hedge bets on who will win the Euros in June. Weve gotten a first-look at FIFA 13 recently, and EA has sold us on the promise of many new features, including a revised first-touch, new dribbling, and touch-ups to tactical defending and the FIFA Impact Engine.
What were hoping to see is how much the improved teammate AI that EA claims will think two steps ahead when were online against other people. Although we loved FIFA 12, especially when taking on CPU opponents, human savvy overpowers every time. As a result, wed see teammates animate into space instead of actively participating in defending or positioning for attacks. Arguably, this feature may be just as important as the anything can happen dynamics of bouncy first touches.
We want to know more about how FIFA 13 will update EA Sports Football Club and what the team has in store for online this year, but in true EA tradition, well probably just get a basic hands-on. That should hopefully be enough to understand how smart our teammates will be.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2013
Pro Evolution Soccer has been in an ailing state this console generation, though it's leapt bounds from its lowest point five years ago. PES 2012 introduced the off-the-ball system, which allowed for some really ingenuous gameplay wedded to razor-sharp AI teammates. However, its launch was a complete mess (a day one patch fixed goalkeeping AI, but failed to update from PES 2011s roster one month after the August transfer window closed), and thats saying a lot, considering what sports fans will tolerate.
It sounds like both FIFA and PES are looking to incorporate tweaked first touch and a plethora of new features, including more manual control over not only passing and shooting, but one-two passing. PES, however, needs a major overhaul in several of its creaky presentation and AI elements. Were not sure if Konami will be ready to present, but we want to see major overhauls to features still fossilized and unaddressed for years.
We have faith in Konamis ability to create brilliant AI patterns that are great at knowing exactly where to be, and we love the off-the-ball content from last years game. Were excited by some of the big premises that the team is pitching for this year. But there are still several small elements that need major updates for this years game to avoid death from a thousand cuts.
*Note: This screen is from NBA 2K12, as 2K Sports has not released images for the new game as of publishing time.
How do you top greatness? For two years running, the NBA 2K series has been the apex of sports game experiences, thanks to the Jordan Challenge of 2K11 and the NBAs Greatest of 2K12. Simply put, both modes are as good as anything weve seen in the genre since games got started.
Even so, there is room to improve some of the clunky passing mechanics and the craptacular online experience, which eventually got working better but never came close to holding up its end of the bargain. Were pretty sure there will be some gameplay improvements and online upgrades announced because if there arent, a riot may ensue.
What we really want, though, is another mind-blowing mode we didnt see coming, such as including the 2012 Olympic license, tournament, and teams or an all-new take on the old-school clubs and current era squads. Perhaps theyll tap into the historical players theyve already secured with some story modes which would be amazing. With an all-new competitor lurking, theres no time to rest on their laurels.
NBA Live 13
*Note: This screen is from NBA Elite 11, since it's the last EA Sports NBA game we've got screens from. Yes, we know...
The fact that NBA Live even exists is reason for celebration not because we dont love NBA 2K but simply because competition and choice are good for gamers everywhere. In a shrinking landscape, a newcomer to the dance is welcome indeed.
To be frank, we want a game that looks beautiful and is more accessible to the common fan thats intimidated by the hyper-complex NBA 2K series. We also want an online experience thats highly functional and mobile, letting us manage our team easily no matter where we are.
We can do without some of the bells and whistles of legendary players, All-Star Games, and pickup-style games if the 5-on-5 basketball is solid. If that happens, were all in.
Looking over the laundry list of items the team is promising for NHL 13 including a new skating engine, a new GM Connected feature, NHL Moments, and much more theyre all well and good, but theres only one thing we really, really want from EAs tremendous hockey sim.
Make us care about the Legends.
For all its strengths and there were many the Legends feature felt tacked-on, lacking any character or emotion. Well see a lot of great improvements to gameplay and online modes for sure, but above all else we want the E3 presentation to floor us with a game-changing, mind-bending display of the best players in history pursuing the greatest trophy in sports the Stanley Cup.