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E3 Sports Games Recap

Sports games always seem to go a little overlooked at E3. They’re included in company’s stage shows, but seem to just get swept under the rug after the conferences are over. It’s understandable since most (if not all) sports titles are yearly installments, but that doesn’t mean no changes are being made. New material was announced for the major sports franchises (some more than others) during E3, so in case you missed any, here is what’s new and some impressions of each game…

FIFA 14

As the most popular sports game in the world, EA Sports has a lot to live up to each year with their FIFA franchise. While it’s easy to fall into the perennial release trap of not innovating enough, FIFA has always been a title where the development team really pushed to institute new changes each year to improve the title. For FIFA 14 there are a handful of new additions. A lot of the changes highlighted at E3 may go unnoticed to players who may not be familiar with the FIFA franchise, however, for the players who have spent time over the past few iterations playing, the alterations will be very evident. The first change is that players have a new momentum control mechanic where players can alter their first touch to maintain their movement speed. Live demos showed players spinning 180s while receiving the ball, or jumping over the ball to let it keep rolling and keep their running speed up. These can drastically change a first touch and potentially create scoring chances.

Personally, one of my favorite additions is the new styles and forms of headers. Using EA Sports Ignite, the new engine for EA Sports games, new styles of headers are now possible. Now more than two players contest balls in the air. Players have a choice of finesse headers (much like finesse shots) that grant a whole new level of control. Headers were always frustrating in FIFA 13, so it’s nice to see the development team address those concerns with all new animations and gameplay mechanics. In addition to the new header system, the entire shooting mechanic has been revamped as well. Players will now stutter step to get their shot lined up correctly, the ball has an all new physics engine behind it so it can curve more accurately, and (in the words of the development team) shooting will feel better than that it ever has before.

All of these additions so far have been offensive focused, but the big defensive alteration is that players can now use body position to steal the ball. Body position is a huge part of soccer, so it’s great to see it more incorporated into the defensive side of FIFA 14. Defensive players can now box off offensive players while defending an attack and use body position to gain possession. This is much more realistic to real life defensive strategy, so it should fit seamlessly into the game.

NBA Live 14

NBA Live has been on hiatus the past few years, but is finally making a return. After EA abandoned last year’s attempt at the title, it’s good to see the game is still alive and being developed. The new focus in NBA Live 14 is dribbling. During the Microsoft press conference Monday, Kyrie Irving made an appearance to talk about the importance of dribbling in real life, as well as in the game. Using the new bounceTek system, NBA Live 14 is supposed to give players more control than ever when performing dribble moves. Not many details were given beyond that, but Live will also be running on the new Ignite game engine.

NBA 2K14

The dominant force within the basketball game division the past few years has been NBA 2K (arguably due to the complete lack of competitors). With that being said, 2K sports has not rested on past success; they are always trying to institute new features to the game. This year’s E3 focus was on realism. The trailer shown during Sony’s press conference was all about how much Video Game James resembled real life Lebron James. No new gameplay mechanics were shown or detailed, but the animations did look astoundingly crisp and realistic. NBA 2K13 had Jay-Z as executive producer, so it will be interesting to see if a similar path is taken for this year’s game. As a side note for any true NBA fans out there, check out the homage to Ray Allen during the trailer. Ray Allen is notorious for spending hours shooting on his own before every game and I love that the developers put him in the background of the trailer working on his shot. It’s a very small detail, but pretty clever.

Madden NFL 25

Similar to other titles, not much was revealed about Madden, other than it also runs on the new EA Sports Ignite engine and that a new focus is being placed on the offensive linemen this year; they will move more fluidly and have more natural movements and animations. Connected careers is always a hot topic within the Madden universe, so more details surrounding that and other gameplay modes are likely to leak over these last two months before the game’s release.

UFC

EA Sports adding the UFC brand to their stable of games is a big deal. UFC had a tremendously successful first title in 2010, but since then the game has lacked the commercial success they would’ve wanted. With this new agreement with EA, the UFC is seemingly poised to release a monster game that will convert many fans to octagon fighting. Details were shed on tactics used within fights that can really swing the momentum in one player’s favor and the newly improved tapout/grapple system that, according to Jon “Bones” Jones, is the most realistic in history. The UFC has changed a lot since their last video game was released. Women are now fighting in the octagon and new weight division have been added, so it will be nice to have a game that encompasses all these recent changes.

 

Overall, the sports games showing at E3 was fairly standard. No surprise announcements were made, some famous athletes made appearances during press conferences, and the release date for each title remained almost unchanged. The biggest takeaways were that EA Ignite is the engine of the future for sports games and UFC is finally back having paired with EA Sports. I was personally disappointed that no collegiate sports games were even mentioned during E3. NCAA Football is a perennial sports game, but has recently been pushed aside to focus marketing on Madden. In addition, my pipedream of a studio finally going back and making an NCAA basketball game did not come true. The last iteration was NCAA Basketball 10, and although I didn’t expect to hear any announcement during E3 (or ever really), it would’ve been the singular thing that would’ve blown me away in terms of sports surprises… maybe next year.

Lucas has evolved in his video game preferences. With a foundation in predominantly sports game, action adventure games are now his favorite to play. He is a competitive swimmer and likes to play volleyball, basketball, and golf.

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