In short, Madden 23 has progressed on the field this year in terms of providing improved presentation and gameplay (when judged as a whole) but still can't get out of its own way in terms of certain legacy-defining issues that have been with the series for years now.
The hope is that more people continue to find the game in the near future to increase the player base and help open up the possibility of adding new playlists that will keep things fresh when looking ahead to the long-term relevance of the game.
Those who did not play last year's game should not be deterred from giving Tour de France 2022 a shot. Though the graphics and animations may be a little outdated, the mechanics and how to best employ them on the course do an admirable job of recreating the strategy of cycling. The races may be long if you insist on experiencing every second of them, but the option to fast forward through sections helps immensely when the course starts to feel redundant and interminable. Anyone who did spend some playing Tour de France 2021 though is likely to be disappointed by how light this game is on new content, unless they happen to be a huge cycling fan who absolutely needs to be able to play the real route of this year's upcoming tour.
The downside is that there's a sacrifice in the visuals, where the on-court back-and-forth lags behind other titles graphically, though this is to be anticipated in a way since the game almost expects you to fast-forward through portions of matches anyway to get through the grueling calendar of events more quickly. The ability to create your own player is marred considerably by the lack of a proper creation suite and has all of the players and managers you create looking way too similar to each other. The cycle of training and entering tournaments alongside toggling between the array of menu screens will likely become tedious and redundant more quickly to those who only casually enjoy tennis.
Though the execution of Bush Hockey League doesn't ultimately live up to the novelty of its concept, the artwork throughout and its story mode deserve credit for evoking the rough-and-tumble life of minor league hockey in the '70s just as it was depicted in Slap Shot. Ultimately, it sails wide of its target though by sticking too closely to and yet still trailing behind the NHL series when it comes to the controls and not being innovative enough in the gameplay department. It does make an attempt to implement some mechanics that lean into the more violent tendencies of the sport, but they aren't nearly as rewarding or enjoyable as you would hope.
There are some weaknesses to the game though, and the biggest one that hopefully get some updates relates to how the visuals are lagging behind other releases. There is no question Tennis Elbow 4 right now lacks in detail and fluid animations. Online play is hampered by an absence of decent menus and matchmaking, making it necessary to become an active member of the Tennis Elbow 4 community if you ever want to find a match most of the time.
Mario Golf: Super Rush is pretty much everything I could want out of a Mario Golf title. Its brand of simple but rewarding golf serves as a sturdy foundation that allows the game to build on it with all sorts of ways to play against and have you interact with your opponents. The Golf Adventure single-player mode is a helpful and entertaining way to learn the lay of the land and refine the skills of your Mii before pitting your skills against other opponents online. Unfortunately, the online play could have been improved with the implementation of some intelligent matchmaking.
It's easy to imagine Tour de France 2021 satisfying fans of cycling who are seeking a video game experience that mirrors the sport they love as closely as possible, but the fact is that the game will likely be a tricky one to pick up for any neophytes like myself. Although the tutorials do what they can to walk you through the basics, the learning curve is as steep as some of the hills you'll be forced to ascend during races, and that might be enough to keep you from playing the game all that much. But for those willing to put in the time and effort, there's certainly some enjoyment and satisfaction to be had from learning how to navigate all the curves of the road and become leader of the pack. The game might not be ready to claim any yellow jerseys just yet, but its not all that far off the winning pace either.
MLB The Show 21 is still sure to satisfy most baseball fans in at least one way, and I still believe it's enjoyable enough to to win over some new fans at a time when baseball could definitely use them. But when you're the "can't miss" prospect, expectations are always high, and The Show does not always live up to those expectations this year.
Full Ace Tennis Simulator definitely deserves to be in the conversation for the best tennis game you can currently play by excelling in the most important metric of all: being quite fun to play. When you get right down to it, none of the other bells and whistles matter all that much if a match doesn't have any excitement or difficulty, and Full Ace offers plenty of both. It may be lacking in some features elsewhere, but on the court Full Ace Tennis Simulator brings to life all of the strategy and intuition that are required to succeed in tennis.
Regardless, when you're engaged in long rallies against opponents online and trying to outfox them with the variety of shots at your disposal, it all begins to feel like real tennis in a way that was sorely lacking the first time around, particularly online.
Just as those young guns on the PGA Tour are all chasing the legacy of Tiger, every golf video game has to come to terms with the fact that they are trying to run down the legend of the Tiger Woods titles of the past. With PGA Tour 2K21, we look to finally have a real contender.