2010 Sports Game Of The Year Awards

by Matt Bertz on Dec 23, 2010 at 04:00 AM

In a subgenre governed by eight-month development cycles and yearly releases, there isn’t a lot of changeover from year to year. Not 2010. With high-profile cancellations like NBA Elite, bold new challengers like Backbreaker, and the return of classic franchises like NBA Jam (awesome reboot) and Tecmo Bowl (less awesome), this year sports games almost generated as much news and controversy as the moribund 2010 Minnesota Vikings. While not every title rose to the occasion and many kept running in place, several titles elevated their game with long-requested new features, jaw-dropping graphics, and even web integration. Read on to see which games earned our year-end sports awards.

Best Franchise Mode: NBA 2K11

With many of the finer details already in place, this year Visual Concepts’ Association mode received a subtle makeover in several areas. The new trade finder helps find willing suitors to unload a troubled player or unwanted contract. The draft day features more trade activity than ever before. The AI-controlled teams are more aware of when they should be starting a fire sale, collecting young players for rebuilding, or grabbing a veteran player to make a title run. Add the dynamic commentary that’s smart enough to call out player and team streaks, slumps, and trades, and you have a fantastic mode for basketball aficionados.

Best Career Mode: MLB 10: The Show

No career mode does a better job of mimicking the career path of a professional athlete than MLB’s Road to the Show. From your Double A debut to your last at-bat in the majors, the game keeps you hooked with an addictive experience system. Since the game lets you skip to your next mound visit or plate appearance, you can burn through seasons and reach the end of your career without playing thousands of nine-inning games. Though many of the defining characteristics for this mode remain in place from earlier iterations, new improvements this year include the ability to call a game as a catcher, the inclusion of All-Star festivities like the Home Run Derby, and a new career stat-tracking system that keeps tabs on your performances against every team.

Up next, the multiplayer game of the year, and accolades for the best presentation.

Best Multiplayer: NCAA Football 11

NHL 11’s superb EASHL deserves an honorable mention, but while EA Canada simply complemented its already deep mode with a new practice arena and improved interface, NCAA Football received an cortisone-sized boost to its Online Dynasty functionality. With a new web-based interface, gamers can recruit while away from their consoles, adjust rosters on the fly, and even chronicle their team’s exploits by uploading photos, videos, and news stories with the impressive blog interface.

Best Presentation: MLB 10: The Show

Of all the sports games that Game Informer reviewed in 2010, none made other editors stop and gaze in wonder more than MLB 10. From the spot-on player mannerisms to the television-style camera perspectives and commentary, the game looks so realistic that many believed Reiner was skimping on his work duties to take in a spring training matinee.

Read on to see which game earned our best new feature and best post-release support awards.

Best Post-Release Support: Madden NFL 11

Many sports franchises improved their support this year, but no one was more dedicated than EA Tiburon was for Madden 11. With a steady stream of Ultimate Team player packs, weekly roster updates, and five performance patches the team stayed busy all year 'round. It’s clear that the devs like Josh Looman and Donny Moore live, eat, and breathe football, and hardcore fans couldn’t ask for a more responsive support system.

Best New Feature: The Jordan Challenge, NBA 2K11

The rich histories of America’s most popular sports are rarely tapped for video games, which is a *** shame. Who wouldn’t want to line up under center of the 1987 San Francisco 49ers, drop the gloves with the Broad Street Bullies, or go to bat with the legend-filled Yankees lineup of the ‘30s? In signing Michael Jordan to be its cover athlete, Visual Concepts went for broke in recreating the most memorable moments of his legendary career. Sparing no expense, the development built historically accurate rosters, recreated the hilarious short-shorts uniforms of his early days, and even recorded commentary that fits with each scenario. As a result, gamers who never have seen him play have an opportunity to understand just how dominant His Airness was.

Coming next, the sports game of the year.

Sports Game of the Year: MLB 10: The Show

The best-looking sports simulation of 2010 is also our favorite sports game of year. With fluid pitching animations, sound batting mechanics, accurate ball physics, and lifelike fielding, the refined action on the diamond stands up to hours of play. The presentation is second to none thanks to Sony's impressive attention to detail, and earns extra credit for perks like the ability to record your own crowd jeers. An addictive career mode, realistic opposing team AI, and competent franchise mode round out the title.