2012 Sports Game of the Year Awards

by Matt Bertz on Dec 27, 2012 at 04:00 AM


As we close out this console generation, most sequels are humming comfortably along by making minor adjustments to their base gameplay. Not sports games. While some of the best performing games got by with minor improvements, both Madden and NHL made wholesale changes to their franchise modes to varying results. Who rose to the top of our list this year? Read on to find out.


Best Career Mode: NBA 2K13

Bottom line: This is the best single-player experience available to sports fans. By allowing users to gain Virtual Currency in any game mode, Visual Concepts made it much easier to create an impactful player out of the gate. Whether you set up in the post to dominate down low or hang around the three point line looking for an opportunity to strike from afar, the AI is finally smart enough to use you properly when you’re off the ball. Off the court, however, is where this mode rises head and shoulders above the competition. Whether you are boosting your ego in a post-game press conference, sitting down with the GM to air your gripes about teammates, managing endorsement deals, or tracking your followers on Twitter, MyCareer gives you a taste of what it feels like to be a franchise player.


Best Franchise Mode: FIFA 13

To be the best, you have to beat the best. FIFA 13 achieved this by going the extra mile, creating immersive storylines that make you feel like your franchise is a living breathing entity. Unhappy players gripe publicly when they don’t get the playing time they think they deserve and even demand transfers. The press notices when you make inquiries on the waiver wire, which can upset your current player in that particular position. Broadcasters are finally aware of the magnitude of big games and comment when you add new players to your roster. Best of all, FIFA 13 allows you to couple your professional managerial duties with an international assignment, which gives you two rosters to tinker with. 


Best Multiplayer: FIFA 13

Many sports games took strides forward in multiplayer in 2012, but FIFA maintained its position at the top with subtle improvements. This year’s installment brings the popular Seasons format to Ultimate Team and Pro Clubs. Per fan requests, the Pro Clubs are split into Online Pro and Career Pro to prevent boosting, and the new accomplishments give you more ways to improve your player stats. Best of all, the network is stable.


Best Presentation: NBA 2K13

Though FIFA is catching up to Visual Concepts by adopting the contextual commentary that takes into account when in the season the game is taking place, player performance trends, and roster shake-ups, NBA 2K13 is still the best in the business. The broadcast team of Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellogg, and Steve Kerr has a fantastic rapport, and Visual Concepts designs the running commentary so the trio can begin a discussion about a player, interrupt it when something notable happens on the court, and return to the subject. The broadcast-quality stat infographics and replay camera angles are also unrivaled.

Best New Feature: Connected Careers – Madden NFL 13

Not everything about Madden’s new franchise mode is perfect – EA Tiburon still has a ways to go when it comes to player scouting, managing personnel groupings, and the free agency bonanza, but Madden 13 created a solid foundation to build on in the future. The experience is the same whether you’re playing in an offline or online franchise, which is major step forward for the series. The RPG-style player/coach progression system is a great addition, and we love the Twitter feed that surface news about your virtual league and the prospect storylines that give personalities to otherwise faceless fictional draftees.


Best Gameplay: Pro Evolution Soccer 2013

There would seem to be little that Pro Evo could add to its controls that it hasn’t already, but this year’s additions – particularly in quick and effective movements after your first touch – continue to grow an already impressive moveset. More importantly, even with these new controls, the game continues to feel fluid and rewards the creative play of placing a good ball into space.


Biggest Disappointment: GM Connected – NHL 13

When EA Canada shared its lofty goals for reworking the Be A GM mode in NHL 13, we had high expectations. The final product, however, dropped this franchise mode to the bottom of the sports pack. Where to start with our litany of disappointments? Teams let highly rated prospects pass through waivers, and don’t give them enough playing time in the minors to the ones they keep. Over the hill players make outrageous salary demands and sit out seasons rather than take realistic deals. AI-controlled teams don’t realize when they have a positional surplus and scold you when you try to make that kind of trade. Slow, ugly menus undermine the online franchise experience. This disappointing experience stings even more in the face of the ongoing NHL lockout, because NHL 13 may be the only place we get to see someone hoist the cup in 2013.


Sports Game of the Year: FIFA 13

With great on-pitch performance, a deep and addicting franchise mode, and the best suite of online options, FIFA takes the crown as the best sports game for the second straight year. On the pitch, the improved player AI brings more pace to building attacks, the complete dribbling control lets you move in tight spaces, and the skill-based first touch variation brings some much needed unpredictability to proceedings. 


Which was your sports game of the year? Disucss is the comments section below.