This month EA Games went up against Visual Concepts for the best sports video game of the year with the former debuting FIFA 18 and the latter NBA 2k18. The gameplay system for both were challenged to change the notoriously console focused games to work on the new Nintendo Switch, which requires playability in both handheld, multiplayer, and a big screen. It’s just the most recent competition that has arisen in recent years as game publishers attempt to replicate the real life sports into a video game with as much realism as possible.
Earlier this year, Madden 18 debuted to sub par reviews due to its inability to create anything new to the longtime football franchise. Not to mention, the Madden curse has made it increasingly hard to care about the game but whether the all-star on the cover will be effected. EA didn’t make the effort to adapt the game onto the Nintendo Switch, deciding that it would be too difficult to even make the attempt but it’s suffering now after FIFA 18‘s success. But the game’s problems do speak to the problem with playing video games over watching actual football in real life: it just doesn’t feel like the same thing. EA has been desperate to make it as realistic as possible, adding in poor referee calling, touchdown dances, the ability to play as any position, but it still hasn’t nailed down the formula.
This leaves FIFA 18 and NBA 2k18 to battle it out over game of the year with their recent releases. Online, the comparisons between the two are endless, with fans of both franchises coming to their game’s defense. The FIFA soccer franchise has arguably been the best sports investment for fans in the recent years, as the games have gotten more ambitious with every new release. It has an extensive create-a-player system that allows players to get truly creative when diving into the career mode, as well as the option to play as either a manager or someone of their creation. Of course, the massive amount of power required to run the game forced EA Games to cut some key options out of the Switch version but kept the graphics for the most part.
While FIFA 18 definitely has the prettiest looking game on the Switch, and an expansive game on the console, NBA 2k18 has done the remarkable by retaining the whole game on their cross over to the new Nintendo console. Yes, the graphics were cut make it far less visually pleasing, but it still managed to a feat that most developers, including EA Games, considered to be near impossible. Of course, the 2k games also put focus on story-based playing, with a career mode added where you are in control of a player’s life since high school. It started off clunky, with a weird Spike Lee written story that wasn’t well-received, but now it’s turned into a fun way to create a narrative around a new NBA prospect. This is what players love in a sports game, creating a player who they connect with and then leading them to success throughout the game.
EA seems to have the same problems with all of their games: that they are beautifully made but lack certain gameplay to draw people in. With the impending return of NBA Live and the success of NBA 2k18, it seems like basketball games will take the throne away from the longtime favorite Madden franchise. It’s nice to see some healthy competition between sports video games as developers attempt to get their finished product as close to playing real sports as possible and hopefully this re-invigoration to produce better games will only improve the current selection.