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Posted on Jul 27th 2016 at 12:00:00 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PC, Sports

Summer is a great time to get outside and play some sports. It's also a good time to stay inside and play some sports video games instead. For the past two years, I've taken the Summer as a queue to take a look at the landscape of sports games available on PC. In fact, I'm now going to call it a tradition around here. As a note, these outlines are not meant to be a thorough list of all sports games released in the year, but rather more of a guide to let you know about the best current options you can play for each sport. I've also intentionally left out the management sims like Out Of The Park Baseball, as those are really their own sort of sub-sub-genre. The 2016 edition of our survey actually has some pretty interesting entries that weren't around last year. But don't get your hopes up... there's still no Madden, and hockey and volleyball games are still nowhere to be found.

RBI Baseball 16

Last year, PC gamers were treated to RBI Baseball 15 - the first new major baseball game to grace computers since Major League Baseball 2K12. Though reviews were decidedly mixed, the publishers at MLB have gone ahead and released another iteration this year - presumably to show the fanbase that they are serious about making this a full fledged franchise that will continue to see annual revisions like the more established titles out there (namely, the PlayStation exclusive: MLB The Show). While the reviews on this one have continued to be middling, most of the complaints tend to be thrown at lack of features. Mainly, there is no career mode here, but that seems to be intentional. Though the graphics are far more realistic than they would have been twenty years ago, this is a throwback to the playstyle of the early RBI games. Think of it as an arcade style baseball game that's limited to a single season and playoff series. If you're looking for a serious baseball sim, then this would come off as feeling shallow, since it lacks the ability to draft and trade players. But, if you just want a pick up and play a baseball game, then this should be a solid option.

NBA 2K16

2K has been a strong supporter of PC gaming with their basketball series for years. True story: I picked up a copy of NBA 2K9 a few months ago that came without an activation code. I emailed the customer support at 2K and they actually walked me through activating the game within the hour. And this was on a Saturday! But that's neither here nor there. The most recent entry in the series, NBA 2K16 is actually a very interesting and unique game. Having a "My Player" mode, where you guide a single player from being an unknown to being a superstar, is nothing new, but in this year's game, that mode has been usurped by an all new story mode that has been written and directed by filmmaker Spike Lee. Here the between-game story is meant to be far more engrossing by combining a sports game with a pseudo-adventure game. This new mode is reason enough to want to check out this particular entry, never mind the fact that 2K has long been pumping out the best basketball games on the market.

Football: Axis Football 2015

The Madden series came into this world as computer games, but sadly, after the release of Madden 08, EA decided that they would stop releasing ports of the games on PC. Of course, enterprising players would continue to mod 08 for years to come, updating the roster each year. Finally, a little developer called Axis has recognized the glaring need for a new original football game on PC. Axis Football 2015 offers a season mode, multiplayer and mod support (which means they make it really easy for you to turn the unlicensed teams into a real NFL roster). The feedback on this game has been mostly positive, and the developers have remained very open to communicating with fans about what should and shouldn't go into Axis Football 2016 to make it even better. It seems like perhaps the void is being filled and that this will go on to be an annual series.

Jack Nicklaus Perfect Golf

Jack Nicklaus was THEE video game golf guy of the 90's until Tiger Woods stole his thunder. But Jack has been biding his time, waiting for Tiger's downfall. And now it's time for Jack to rise from the ashes and bring his brand of golf back to PC gamers. Perfect Golf features some well detailed environments, online multiplayer, and of course - achievements. Of course golf games have always been sort of ubiquitous with PC gaming, so it's not exactly surprising to see new ones popping up. But, it is nice that The Golf Club will have some competition - meaning there's motivation for each of these franchises to continue to improve upon their respective formulas.

FIFA 16 & Pro Evolution Soccer 2016

EA's long-running FIFA series is still cranking out entries every year on PC. Strange to me in a sense, because it seems to me that hockey and football are more popular sports in the US. I mean, at least it seems that way to me anecdotally. Maybe I'm wrong. It's surprising to me that EA feels like there's money to be made with their FIFA games on PC, but not with their NHL or Madden games. At any rate, I can't speak personally about the FIFA releases, but obviously they are selling. FIFA 17 is already in the works as you read this. Likewise, Konami - who I thought had kind of faded away in recent years - is still cranking out their own Pro Evolution Soccer series with the release of PES 2016.

Tennis Elbow 2013

The confusingly titled Tennis Elbow 2013 came out in 2015 and seems to still be your best bet for a recent tennis game. The reviews have been rather positive and the game boasts plenty of features, including a career mode that lasts 38 in-game years! One of the nice things about this one is that it is quite mod-friendly, so new courts and players are being introduced to help add even more replayability. And who knows, maybe we'll see a sequel this year... which I guess would be Tennis Elbow 2014?

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Perfect Golf looks amazing. Easily my favorite genre of sports video games.
I guess I'm shocked that you're shocked that FIFA is such a big commodity. Obviously, it's the most popular sport in almost every country outside the U.S., but I know a lot of people who you'd never think would play FIFA that play it.  My brother is in his mid-20's and all of his friends buy the new editions as loyally as they do Madden (and this is in a very rural small town where the high school doesn't even have a soccer team). The FIFA franchise really found a way to go beyond the preconceived notions of how a soccer game might be boring, with excellent gameplay and maneuverability.  They were able to get those who might be uninterested in soccer, interested through video games.  If any of you listened to our E3 episode (if not, do it now), you may remember I was impressed with EA's presentation and it's clever story mode, which sounds similar to what you describe in NBA 2K16.  Seems like a great RPG-ish direction for the franchise.

Anyway, another great article sir.  Though I don't play a lot of sports games myself, it's always nice to hear about the current state of these games annually. Wink
Thanks for reminding me how far the PC sports-gaming scene has come along since I played Hardball III on my 486 over 20 years ago. I can still hear those Al Michaels play-by-play voice clips in my sleep from time to time...

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