PC sports games

What’s the current state of this genre on PC? I haven’t played a sports game since Hardball III, other than an indie tennis game called Dream Match Tennis. I’ve got an itch to play one now.

Right now I’m looking for an action game rather than a management sim. I see the hockey and football franchises no longer exist on PC, but baseball, futbol, and basketball are still around.

Do I need to know the intricacies of the sport to enjoy them, or do they transcend that as good games in general? I ask because I think I’d rather play something I don’t follow closely. I don’t want to get hooked watching basketball and football again. So I’m looking at baseball, soccer, hockey, tennis, etc.

One last thing. Are there any old classics worth playing? I’d like to play at least one new release for the snazy graphics and updated gameplay. But if there’s a charming, definitive old sports game on PC, I’d like to play that too.

Unless you’re into management sims or soccer, the state of the genre is dead-dead-dead.

The state of the art in sports games that are action simulations are on consoles–Sony’s MLB The Show and EA’s NHL series are both absolutely fantastic games.

If you’re looking at the PC, you’ve got a very mediocre baseball offering from Visual Concepts/SEGA that came out last year, Major League Baseball 2011. It plays baseball, I guess…but compared to The Show…well, not even in the same league. For American football it’s even bleaker. 2007 was the last Madden that hit for the PC and it didn’t do so hot, either.

I guess the two sports best represented on PC right now for action/simulation gaming are EA’s FIFA series and NBA 2k11.

Thanks, that was my impression. Since I don’t want to get sucked into basketball again, I think FIFA is my best option. The question remains: is it interesting enough to play even if I don’t follow the sport? And is there enough depth to the simulation that if I dug into the fundamentals and strategy, it would help me appreciate the game even more?

I’m thinking of flight sims where I had no real world interest until I got hooked on a few recent games. As I learn more about flying it reinforces my enjoyment of them.

FIFA looked intriguing enough when I watched gameplay videos on YouTube. Just making sure.

Best bet is to get AIAB and grab SWOS94.

Since EA has all but bailed the pc, I just bought a PS3 for the sports titles and exclusives like MGS4 and Heavy Rain.

PC (sports) gaming is indeed domed.

NBA2K12 apparently is still good, with crappy multiplayer. The latest Virtua Tennis from SEGA was yet another lazy, broken PC port.

Apparently FIFA 12 graphically is up to snuff with its console equivalents again.

Hold on there a minute…are you saying that FIFA and NBA from EA are no longer available for PC?

No, that isn’t what anyone was saying.

EA hasn’t produced an NBA offering in like 2 years aside from NBA Jam.

If you want a baseball game 2K actually ported their baseball franchise to PC last year I think, but considering how terrible it was on 360 I can’t imagine the PC version being good at all.

The last version of EA’s MVP series (04? 05? I forget) had a really active and committed modding crew and the game was a better simulation with more features than Sony’s big budget The Show franchise 2 or 3 years ago (probably not so much any more, but it was crazy that a modded baseball game provided a superior experience to a fully developed franchise).

I don’t think EA has offered Madden for PC since jumping to 360 and there aren’t any real viable opportunities out there unfortunately.

There’s also Pro Evolution Soccer and Football Manager on the PC.

PES is generally worse than FIFA with the exception of the career mode. PES’ Become a Legend where you control a single footballer is a lot better than FIFA’s version.

Looks like the last MVP game was 2005. It goes for $45 on Amazon and eBay. I think I’ll skip baseball for now.

If you like Rugby, the game Rugby Challenge should be released soon for PC

And on that note, it turns out to be a pretty decent egg chasing game.

Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge, (Steam). The challenge being getting him to run nine yards without his arthritic knees snapping in two.

It’s from a Kiwi game developer and has excruciatingly bad commentary, featuring that lovely pause as the sound engineer pastes in a pre-recorded word, so that you get lots of

“That was a great move for… England… they are really stepping up the pressure.”
“Yes. There’s only one favourite for this game and that is… … … England.”

The “colour” commentator is especially bad and sounds like all of his words have been read individually and then taped back together - he literally has no inflection.

The game itself though is pretty handy and is comfortably the best facsimile of the silly sport - the passing can be a bit stilted, but works well with the likelihood of a pass going astray increasing depending on how close you are to being tackled… kicking comes in all appropriate varieties, from the long punt to the up and under to the little grub kick and drop goals are available. One excellent touch is that the game goes into super-slow-mo bullet time when you press a kick button so that you can position your crosshair to where you want the ball to go, which is excellent for little rolling kicks when you’re about to be tackled - the players are still moving though, so you still can’t afford to take too long.

Scrums are a function of the ability of the pack and then a timing game - like the classic swing-meter in golf games, two lines start from the outside of a semi circle and move toward the middle and you need to stop both in a certain area to gain push. If you continually stop the two lines in slightly different areas then the scrum will twist and you can give away a penalty.

The ruck is nicely done, giving you a choice to add heavy or light bind players to win the ball, but the more players you commit to the ruck, the fewer passing options you’ll have when the ball comes free. Heavy binds provide more push, but they also release off the ruck more slowly than light binders.

If you commit a ton of players to the ruck and the opposition still wins the ball, then they have very sudden overloads and multiple passing options.

Running with the ball features the expected sidesteps, feints, dummy passes and power options, but the AI does a very good job of determining what’s likely. If you throw a dummy pass when you’ve no one in support then the AI isn’t going to buy it. Similarly, if you try a Barry Sanders-style spin with a Prop, then everyone points at you and laughs.

If you try to get into a loose maul with a Hooker then [your punchline goes here].

The game does do a good job of portraying a grinding style, which I didn’t expect - I played out a rough 12-6 win over France last night by keeping the ball in among the props and locks and smashing ahead and winning rucks. Eventually enough French would be committed to the ruck that I could fling the ball outside and belt down the wings.

On the 70 minute mark there was one prodigious French stand where we mashed away at them under their posts five or six times without managing to crack the try line, which was a lot of fun. We pounded into their line trying both rucks and little last-second outlet passes and shuffled play all the way from left to right and back again without getting in, before giving away a penalty for knock on in something like our seventh phase. The French then punted the penalty out of play to get out of their 22 and then won the lineout, played the ball off the top and then bounced a kick out, showing the AI understands legal kicking.

In an earlier game against Romania I sauntered across the try line, but then got tackled and held up so I couldn’t get the ball down for a try. Later, a Romanian came in with a wrestling-style flying clothesline of a high tackle and got sin binned.

Weather also affects the game, with handling worse in the rain, meaning you need to modify your style to the conditions a bit.

The game doesn’t have a license for anything other than the All Blacks, I think, so the players are fictional, but that’s unimportant to someone like me who isn’t a huge rugby fan. The pack look suitably tubby, the props look like well fed basketball players and England even feature a stocky fly half with stupid TinTin hair who looks like he’s crapping himself in his kicking runup.

On easy mode the game could be played by a Skinner-box Pigeon randomly pecking the buttons, but Normal represents a noticeable shift, as scrums become properly awkward, especially if you didn’t get the put in, lineouts are easily lost if you don’t get it right and AI breakaways become very dangerous if you don’t tackle properly.

I played four games into a world cup as England last night on normal - beat Romania 33-0, lost 19-7 to Wales, lost 12-5 to Ireland and beat Uruguay 19-3. Up next… New Zealand. I’ll just put it back on easy for that.

For my own part, I liked the demo of FIFA12 well enough. I wonder if it’ll ever go on sale at EA Origin.

FIFA 11 is fine enough - sure it’s a port of the console version of FIFA 10, but it still looks reasonably pretty and the only new feature in 12 is the addition of their collision engine which makes people do ridiculous things like hop about on one foot with their other leg clearly shattered, pointing backwards over their own shoulder.

If you’re interested in online play then 11 probably isn’t going to do it for you, as I think EA close down the servers nine minutes after they bring out a new version, but otherwise you can probably use 11 to get your fix. I paid $9 for it on Amazon.

I remember seeing Fifa 12 PC on sale on Origin during the holidays for like $15 for a day or two.

I got Fifa 12 on the 360 for Christmas so have been spending more time with that, but also had Fifa 11 on the PC and it was pretty good, and there are a lot of mods for it. For a cheap fix it would probably do the trick nicely.

Okay I must have missed it, or maybe I hadn’t played the demo by then. There’s no rush.

Maybe I’ll check out the mod scene for now.

I picked up NBA 2k12 from Amazon for $10 during one of the sales. Its pretty good aside from the fact that online doesn’t seem to work at all. I found a forum with some decent roster updates and a fix for some weird texture issues with rookie players.

If you’re a basketball fan it seems like a good offering on PC.

Shouldn’t bad sports games basically not exist at this point? I mean shouldn’t all the major design questions have been solved by now, if by nothing else than by trial and error over the years, leaving nothing for developers to do but simply port the same algorithms to a different platform, update roster data, and replace the n-poly player models with n+1 poly player models?

I mean, I get that making a successful sports game would still be problematic, but I just figured that most of the problems would center around negotiating player/team names and likeness rights and choosing the right marketing campaign etc. rather than figuring out how to model throwing a ball effectively, or code an AI to play the game properly.

I can think of two main reasons why this is not so. There are usually at most 2-3 companies making a legitimate(not arcade) sports game in any sport at any one time, instead of the dozens making action games or whatever, which is a lot fewer teams trying things to figure out what works and what doesn’t. They’re also on a perpetual cast-in-stone 12 month development cycles, so they really can’t really risk implementing a lot of changes to things that don’t work that well, so long as they work at all.

They also have to serve an broad audience, from people who want a simulation of the sport to people exclusively interested in arcade-style multiplayer. In practice this usually ends up with simulation people getting the shaft, which is why I mostly stick to sports management games these days