It's Time For Next-Gen Sports Video Games To Evolve

Posted: Dec 27 2013, 10:46am CST | by , in News

It's Time For Next-Gen Sports Video Games To Evolve
Photo Credit: Forbes

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I’ve been playing EA Sports’ next-gen releases—NBA Live14, Madden NFL 25 and FIFA 14—on the PS4 and Xbox One lately, and while each is actually quite a lot of fun in its own right, I can’t help but think it’s time for some evolution.

These games simply haven’t progressed much from the days of the PS2.

Sure, the production is bigger and glitzier and the announcers have more lines and the graphics are better (though, I recall the PS2 graphics as being just fine back in their day.) But something is still missing.

EA reminds us when we load Madden NFL 25 that “it’s in the game” but I still don’t feel “in the game” really. The sidelines are still too barren. The crowd still feels too artificial. There’s room to bring out all the sweat and noise and liveliness of a sports arena, especially now that we have more powerful consoles, but we haven’t seen that yet. All these small details that make you feel like you’re at, or at least watching, a real, live sport are nowhere to be found. The graphics have improved, but realism is still missing.

(Having sideline activity react in real-time—rather than as cut-scenes—to events in the game would be a step forward as well. Abandon animated cut-scenes altogether and have cameras follow the action as it happens “live.” Each game would be different and there’d be lots of ways to make players feel like they were at a real game.)

Graphics are a big part of the problem. You see screenshots for these games, and they just never quite line up with the actual product. On some level this is because the screens are almost always of close-ups while the game itself is played zoomed out. But other problems persist as well. Animations, in particular, can be woefully stilted.

Sound could really be improved also. I think of sitting at a basketball game, and just the echo of the ball on the court, or the sudden squeak of a shoe. These little, random noises are as much a part of the experience as the game itself.

Meanwhile, there have been few improvements in AI since the PS2. It’s not that any of these titles have lousy AI (often it’s pretty good as far as video games go) it’s just that there is no noticeable improvement year over year.

Maybe what I’m driving at is that sports games need to find a way to immerse us more than ever before. Part of that’s realism—I’m not often a huge advocate of realism, but when it comes to sports, the more the better. Part of it is also gameplay, AI, and so forth.

And maybe a part of the answer to these conundrums is simply better, more robust competition in the industry itself, to help drive innovation.

One way or another, it’s going to be interesting to see if there are any major leaps forward in 2014, after developers have had some more time with the PS4 and Xbox One.

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Source: Forbes

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