The twilight of a video game generation tends to produce the most well-regarded and fondly-remembered editions of sports games. While it does not appear "Madden NFL 20" will stand among those past greats, a more defined attempt at providing gameplay authenticity bodes well for the future of the series.
'PES 2019' feels as though it continues to tread water for the series. The gameplay experience is brilliant and that alone makes it worthwhile for any soccer fan, but the lackluster feature set and missing licenses complicate its approachability.
"NBA 2K19" is as complete a sports video game as any ever made, and only its aggressive monetization tactics hold it back from being considered one of the greatest. With four different Franchise Mode variants, an enjoyable Story Mode, a rich suite of online features and continued celebration of the history of the league, "NBA 2K19" offers something for everyone.
"NBA Live 19" seeks to carve out a niche in the sports game genre through its well-designed Career Mode and its accompanying online cooperative and competitive modes that involve the player's created character. That direction will resonate with some but alienate those seeking a more traditional NBA experience, which is severely lacking.
"Madden NFL 19" feels like an adequate edition in the series, but not a special one. Additions to Franchise Mode and the RPM animation system have proven worthwhile, but the second year of the story mode comes up short of expectations. The changes this year might not be exciting on the surface, but the longevity of the game could benefit greatly from what they provide — more strategy in building teams and more control of players on the field.
Inviting to newcomers yet challenging for experienced players the "Super Mega Baseball" series has rounded into form with the sequel's more complete feature set. Despite not having MLB behind it "Super Mega Baseball 2" could be considered the best baseball game of 2018.
"MLB The Show 18" is still a great game for those passionate about baseball, but the consistency the series has displayed over the past decade has been at least somewhat broken with this new edition. For many, the fantastic gameplay will offset the loss of modes, the lack of advancement in others, and the lingering server struggles. Ultimately, though, it's becoming more clear now than ever that the series is begining to have trouble meeting the heightened expectations now present within the genre.
Perhaps it's fitting that "Mutant Football League" is a little rough around the edges and has some punishing characteristics. The game is brash, self-aware, and best suited for an older audience. The carnage inflicted is thoroughly entertaining and strategically the game gets better as its nuances become better understood. With "Mutant Football League," the dirtiest trick of all was making fans of the original wait 24 years for the sequel.
All the pieces are there with "Pro Evolution Soccer 2018" but it feels as though many fall a little short of their full potential. "PES" is still a champion on the pitch where it matters most, but the series continues to fight an uphill battle in terms of licensing and feature set.
It's a testament to the the compelling nature of "NBA 2K18" that there's any such concern over time being wasted, time that could instead be spent playing more of such an exceptional game in any number of satisfying ways. "NBA 2K18" shines in the areas that matter most to basketball fanatics, through excellent gameplay and presentation, a variety of modes all with considerable depth and its celebration of the league's history.
It may be surprising that it would take an "arcade" mode to round out a simulation-based product, but NHL Threes does just that for "NHL 18." While the series is still lacking in some aspects of gameplay and presentation this year, "NHL" achieved something important, by becoming the most appealing edition of the series for an audience that extends beyond just the fanatics of the sport in a very long time.
"NBA Live 18" is closer to being a really good game than many would have anticipated, even after a year off for the series. It offers refreshingly simplified and genuinely fun gameplay with an excellent career mode. Deficiencies in other areas of the game hamper its appeal as a total package, making it difficult to recommend as more than an alternative to its competition, but it's still important to recognize this may finally be the turnaround year that "NBA Live" has been seeking since the current console generation began.
Were it not for "Longshot" and MUT Squads, many veterans of the "Madden" franchise might have had a difficult time discerning last year's edition from this one. Thankfully, those two new modes pay off, making all the effort devoted to them worthwhile. They're joined by subtle but valuable improvements to gameplay that become apparent the more "Madden NFL 18" is played.
It's difficult to reconcile how great the core gameplay is in "MLB The Show 17" with how it can literally waste your time by not recording the results. Should the servers stabilize and become reliable, there isn't a better pure gameplay experience in the genre, and there's also a lot of content and value to be found in the traditional modes as well as its live services. Like the real baseball season, it may be a long grind to get there but the payoff will almost certainly be worth it.
Whether it's laying out big hits or scoring satisfying goals there's some fun to be had with "Old Time Hockey." It just takes too long to get to a place of enjoyment, and even then doesn't negate the underlying issues and otherwise lack of content despite a reasonable $12 price point.
"Disc Jam" has the right formula to become the next big breakout indie game and possibly even succeed as an eSport. The matchmaking will need to improve and new content delivered regularly to prevent it from becoming just a passing fad, but with a high fun factor and strategic nature, despite simplicity and accessibility, "Disc Jam" delivers.