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The Big Question Each Sports Game Must Answer

by Matthew Kato on Jul 03, 2015 at 08:00 AM

The main thrust of the yearly video game sports season is about to begin, and even as this year's roster of games pile on the new features, fixes, and other eye candy, each one has at least one big question mark looming over it.

Almost all of the remaining sports games for the year were at E3 (NBA 2K16 was the exception), and we played what we could of the games. While it's still early in some of these titles' development, some of the features are known and we're starting to formulate our expectations. While we can point to aspects of each game we're excited and hopeful about, we also have at least one question for each title (above and beyond the normal bug fixes) that we hope is resolved so the titles can fulfill their promises and become worthy experiences.

Madden NFL 16's Passing Game – The interface between receivers and defensive backs is one of this year's big pushes. Ostensibly you'll see more animations, different outcomes, and more realism in the interactions, as well as be able to control what kinds of catches are initiated via a button press.

We saw some of this when we played the game at the convention, but we also saw the other side – times when a throw to a fullback, no less, would trigger an Odell Beckham Jr.-type spectacular catch (he's the cover star, BTW) that was wildly out of place.

Madden NFL 16 needs to nail the receiver/DB animations and outcomes not only to properly execute the new feature, but to make sure that they don't break the passing game altogether. Up to this point the passing game hasn't been perfect, but it's improving. This year's new feature could represent a big step forward, or if weird animations are triggered and what you're seeing isn't accurate, it could force developer EA Tiburon back to the drawing board for a big part of the offense.

Plant The Flag for PES – The PES franchise spent last year acclimating to the new-gen systems. It was a decent effort, and developer PES Productions believes it has settled in with PES 2016; additions have been made across the board.

Gameplay has always been the series' calling card, and in my time with the game at E3, it felt solid – good enough for pick-and-play while still allowing vets to easily access the manual control features, for example. Whether it's planting a flag for the ubiquitousness of its controls or attracting fans with its developing career mode (with a new transfer system) and promising myClub online mode, the series needs to boldly set itself apart from rival FIFA. While gameplay is always king, I think the myClub mode could be it. This year features a visual overhaul as well as a new player upgrade system, so we'll see how much it captures players' imaginations.

Will NBA 2K16 Solve Its Online Woes? – Developer Visual Concepts hasn't spilled all the beans about this year's entry for the series, and although we love the fact that Spike Lee is trying to add some more weight to the already interesting MyCareer mode, NBA 2K16 has to slay the demon that is the franchise's continuing online problems. This ranges from simply being able to play the game online to de-coupling players' offline career progression from the online cloud. Appropriately, online-related fixes were at the top of Bertz's recent NBA 2K16 wishlist.

NHL 16 Needs To Put In Some Solid Shifts – The series needs a raft of positive changes from the train wreck that was NHL 15, so it's hard to pick just one thing that this year's title needs to do. Therefore, all we ask is that the gameplay is solid. We realize how deceptively simple that sounds, but there are specific things the game can do on this front such as closing down the money goals and your A.I. teammates putting themselves in the right places to support you. Gameplay certainly isn't the only area the title needs to work on, but fixing these issues is the place to start.

Does Rory Have Enough Courses? – EA Sports' golf series took a year off to acclimate itself to the new systems, and we hope that the franchise doesn't take long to ramp up to full speed. Up until this point EA has mainly talked about how much more open the load-free courses are, but out-of-the-box the game only has eight real-life courses. EA says that more will be added for free after launch and there will be fantasy courses, but we're curious how the course selection feels when we're going through a tour in the Tour Pro career mode.

Regardless of the actual number of real courses the game does or does not have, the loss of Augusta and the Masters due to licensing is a particularly big blow because the Masters was a nice focus for the game's career mode. Rory PGA Tour has XP, attributes, customization, and all those nice career mode things, but if the tour itself becomes a repetitive slog through the same courses, the whole mode is going to grind to a halt.

Sustaining The Golf Club – HB Studios isn't putting out a new iteration of The Golf Club per se, but its goal is to keep building on to the existing game via free and paid updates. We were glad that a career mode was added, and we'd like to see more piled on to this mode to fill it out. While the progressive tour tiers are cool, since the game doesn't have golfer attributes, we'd like to see more winnable outfits, course objects, etc. to make us feel special as we play the career mode.

NBA Live 16 Has A Lot Of Work To Do – This franchise has a long way to go to not only threaten NBA 2K, but to even be a good sports title in general. So while this article is about the one thing that each franchise needs to nail in order for this year's entry to be successful, in the case of NBA Live 16, developer EA Tiburon has its work cut out for it in multiple areas. Tightening the controls and animations, better A.I. for your opponents and teammates, and game modes worth visiting all need to be addressed. It's still early days for the ongoing reboot of the franchise and there's a lot of work to be done, but now that the series isn't perpetually being delayed hopefully the developers can start chipping away at Live's laundry list.

FIFA 16's Free Ball – The FIFA franchise is the best all-around sports series going, and we're naturally excited for this year's title for a variety of reasons, from the addition of the women's national teams to the new off-the-ball control initiated by holding the left bumper. On that point, the series has been getting better about how the players act both when they have the ball and when it's in space, and FIFA 16 needs to continue this trajectory.

In our playing time with the game at E3, we both saw the usefulness and effective implementation of the new off the ball control, as well as some odd moments where the ball took some weird deflections and shots that didn't seem appropriate in relation to the power gauge. Overall, the gameplay felt a little looser – something that could be good as it means the player and ball truly are separate entities, or could further muddy the game's animations and player collision system. FIFA 16 doesn't come out until September 22, so there should be enough time to make it all come together in the end.


What's the one thing you want to see these games address for this year's iteration? Please add your opinions below in the comments section!