All sports video games are educational in some way; even MLB The Show will teach me new things about hitting every year. But the video game that both educates me and develops me as a fan of the sport is really doing its job, regardless of the visuals and gameplay fidelity (which are still take-it-for-granted impeccable in F1 2019).
And, while the story-based campaign and leveling system provide plenty of thrills, it takes about 50 hours to actually get to the real shit. The endgame is where I can now choose between playing as a sniper, a bomber, or a non-specific character who can do a bit of everything, and join up with other super-achievers to take down a tougher gang called the Black Tusk.
Even with simplified grappling and submission controls carried over from the last edition, EA Sports UFC 3 is probably the least pick-up-and-play game in the sports genre. It takes real dedication, and understanding of one's fighter, to draw out the game's virtues. But they can be found in the anticlimax of a career bout that ends in a fraction of the time spent training for it. For those who can take a staggering punch and remain focused on their game plan, EA Sports UFC 3 is as close as it comes to professional fighting, without the bruises and welts.
Need For Speed Payback doesn't do many favors for itself. It's a fun racing game whose flashy story would be fine if I felt like I was building a blinged-out career worthy of it. Instead, I felt driven toward pure stats upgrades, heedless of what the car was or what it looked like.
FIFA 18 is still seductively deep and delivers excitement. It gave me the feeling that there is still so much to learn about what appears to be a rather straightforward sport, and that the game would gladly help me understand. This is always the time of year when I ask myself why I don't just spend all of my time playing FIFA, and FIFA 18 poses the question more forcefully than ever.
The no-frills quality of NASCAR Heat Evolution meant NASCAR Heat 2 had to show a little more than just great racing this year, and it does in spots. There's a lot of variety in NASCAR Heat 2, it's just more immediately seen in things like the one-off races or online multiplayer.
F1 2017 is a game that's as much fun to think about as it is to play, and as intriguing to plan out and strategize as it is to race. And it is a lot of fun to race, because so much of F1 2017's enjoyment comes from things built up over time, not the year-to-year bullet-point features of video gaming.