This past year wasn't a year of revolution for many sports games but rather evolution. While there were some interesting new features introduced to our favorite games, from the Coaching Carousel in NCAA Football 12 to the Impact Physics Engine of FIFA -- it seemed to always be a two horse race between NBA's Greatest Mode in NBA 2K12 and Champion Mode from Fight Night Champion for the OS Staff Writers.
The voting in this category was closer than any other category for the staff here at OS, but Champion Mode ended up taking the win in this category.
Champion Mode was the collision of Hollywood style storytelling with classic sports gaming, and it was quite a unique treat. For the first time in what seemed like forever, you could actually 'beat' a sports game as you worked your way through a story that was so gritty it resulted in EA Sports giving their first ever game an 'M' rating for Mature Audiences only. The execution of the mode, while not completely perfect, was still good enough to make it quite interesting.
Personally, one of my favorite aspects of the 2011 Sports Gaming Season was Champion Mode, as it really did stand out amongst the pack as a unique and innovative idea that I hope makes it way into other sports games, especially individual based ones. Admittedly, the idea of working through a scenario or story has some appeal in terms of a franchise mode spin-off or something like it as well in team-based games.
Champion mode was overlooked by many, but the writers at OS seemed to really dig it. For that reason (and for all the above stated reasons) we gave it our 'Most Innovative Feature of 2011' award.
Other Staff Opinions
Jayson Young - Accurate collisions and believable player interactions are the next big step for making sports gaming more realistic.
It's ironic that a "non-contact" sport like soccer made the most strides in improving its player physics this year, but the FIFA franchise continues to make its claim for having the most realistic animations and player movement in a major sports franchise.
The "Impact Engine's" debut was far from perfect, but with developers like EA Tiburon choosing to ignore Madden's and NCAA's outdated collisions systems, you have to reward EA Canada's first try at realistic physics, despite its many imperfections.
Winner: NBA's Greatest Mode (33.75%)
Others: FIFA 12's Impact Physics Engine (19.85%), NCAA 12's Coaching Carousel (19.60%), WWE 12's New Universe Mode (12.16%)