Sports games have always been one of the most popular genres. But this doesn’t mean that every sport has successfully made the transition into the virtual world.
Cricket, for example. It remains one of the world’s most popular sports, and yet for some reason the days-long, cerebral activity has never really had a satisfying realisation in the attention-span-shredding world of quick rewards and easy thrills that is video games. Odd.
Still, many others have found a home.
The simplicity of tennis as a game has led to easy translation to the video games format. The challenge is to get an engrossing and challenging experience out of a format that could consist of nothing more than moving an avatar around and pressing A for ‘hit’.
Probably the most successful one so far is Top Spin 4. Using nothing more than a button choice and an analogue stick, you can control the kind of shot, its direction, and its strength, all while having to monitor fatigue levels and opponent movements.
What results is a huge amount of subtlety and complexity from what is essentially such a simple idea – much like in the sport itself.
Golf is another sport in which the format is simple enough that it should lend itself easily to a gaming version.
In actual fact, developers have struggled to capture the simplicity of the idea behind the sport without that simplicity carrying over into its actual execution. The idea is simple, but the sport is not – or, at least, shouldn’t be.
Traditionally, swings have been determined by well-timed button presses, making landing the ball perfectly on the green all too easy.
But things have improved. Though choice isn’t vast, the best currently available is Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13: you swing using an analogue stick, and the game offers you detailed feedback on your thumb motion, which translates to the straightness of your swing.
A whopping 16 courses round this off a fun and content-rich golf game.
If football games are more your thing, then the increased funding in game development that comes with the popularity of the sport more than offsets the increased complexity of translating a fast-paced team sport like this into game form.
Big profit potential means money has been poured into making the best football games possible, with each year seeing significant improvements to gameplay mechanics, as well as to graphics and AI.
The cream of the current crop comes in FIFA 13. Realism is enhanced by adding to the user’s control over the individual player; by implementing ideas from FIFA Street, FIFA 13 allows the player to pull off intricate tricks and flicks with the touch of an analogue stick, and the player no longer has to face the direction in which they’re dribbling.
Furthermore, the player’s first touch is no longer a guaranteed thing: the quality of the pass and the player’s individual abilities all make a difference to the ensuing level of control.
The Best of the Rest
Basketball: NBA 2K13
Baseball: Major League Baseball 2K12
American football: Madden NFL 13
Ice Hockey: NHL 13
Athletics: London 2012: The Official Video Game of the Olympics
There’s still no real choice in the world of rugby or Aussie rules football: Rugby League Live 2 and AFL Live are currently the only non-awful options. Still, both are promising for the future.