News Post

There were a couple of very interesting stories out of Kotaku this weekend, and one of them was a column asking the question "Are Sports Games Worth Reviewing Any More?"

"Earlier this week I got several versions of a small talk question I always field this time of year: "I haven't played Madden in X years. Should I buy it this year?"

To me, that's no longer even a relevant question for this or for any sports video game. The real question, and its answer, make me wonder if they are worth reviewing any more."

My answer is yes to this question. There are a variety of reasons why we should keep reviewing sports video games, but you have to keep a very specific criteria for these 'simulation' games. What is coming out of these same questions here at OS is a type of criteria we are developing to determine what a perfect sports game looks like, then scoring from 10 based off of those attributes.

First and foremost is realism and then also how the game plays. A game which plays with few or no flaws while also being 85-90% realistic is a game with perfect gameplay in our genre. A game with a presentation that looks and sounds like a real TV Broadcast (or like an actual game as if you were there) would be close to a perfect presentation. A game with modes which don't contain numerous experience killing bugs would be close to a perfectly designed game.

In a shorter form: Yes, sports games are still worth reviewing -- but you can't review them like any other genre of games.

"I've written before that Madden probably suffers in these subjective appraisals more because there's nothing to compare it against. A lack of a better competitor may mean it gets an 80 instead of a 75. It also means the game really has no shot at a 90 unless it reinvents itself. And after what happened with NBA Elite I doubt anyone at EA Sports has much stomach for trying to reinvent another title, much less one of Madden's importance.

But the issue isn't really peculiar to Madden either. As I said above, NHL, MLB: The Show and FIFA's most recent editions were all very well regarded. NHL is also the only licensed simulation in its sport. MLB: The Show, is a de facto exclusive product on the PS3 thanks to MLB 2K's repeated disappointments. FIFA likewise towers over Pro Evolution Soccer. In the few instances where there are direct competitors, the gulf is so wide that the reviews of the dominant product make no comparisons to the runner-up."

Owen has a great point here in the sense of what do you compare these games to? Even in the criteria above -- we don't exactly have something concrete to compare reviewed games to. But that's largely the result of market forces coming to bear moreso than evil companies stealing everyone else's opportunities to develop licensed sports games.

What do you think?

Member Comments
# 1 rudeworld @ 09/05/11 01:30 PM
Depending on the site... so yes, if different sites says the same thing about a game, it can't be false can it?... also there are things that I learn about a game that's in the review that is NOT on the back of the box and in this day in age where sports games are released every year to the tune of $60+ dollars not everyone is willing to pony up that kind of cash for a few minor improvements and a roster update..... So again my answer is YES!!! and definitively needed from Operationsports, keep up the great work guys.
# 2 squadron supreme @ 09/05/11 01:41 PM
Are sports games worth reviewing anymore? Yes. The real question is are sports games worth reviewing on their initial realease knowing that a patch or tuner update can drastically change gameplay sometimes for the good and sometimes for the worse. I think an initial review is good but after that patch or tuner update drops a short article about what it corrected or broke just as an update is fine. In a sense you would be judging the game against itself and not last years version or another sports game of a different genre.
# 3 SwagDoc101 @ 09/05/11 02:16 PM
sports games are definitely worth reviewing...the question should be is the actually game worthy enough for a review. Im sure no one would care if the game that was being reviewed was trash, but in most cases they're not. the reviews are vital for pre promotion and marketing puropses. When the game is actually worth playing the reviews build the hype. Maybe the reason that the question about reviews are coming up because the games are not as exciting as they once were (nba 2k and FIFA excluded of course). Reviews only are praised when the product thats being reviewed are worth it. When the product is trash no one cares. Just to change topic for a moment, I personally believe madden needs to change the gameplay camera angle to a horizontal left to right tv broadcast view. The horizontal view is how we watch football at home and at games 90 percent of the time. i believe the vertical view which is probably best right this moment because it is better view from the quarteback position takes away from the overal natural feeling of watching an actual NFL game. when they finally get that right the game will feel more natural and fresh
# 4 GaryT531 @ 09/05/11 03:33 PM
probably worth two reviews. the first one at release, then a follow up once a patch(s) comes out.
# 5 MMChrisS @ 09/05/11 06:32 PM
You guys are right about patch reviews. I definitely think we're going to do them in some form or fashion. They won't be full reviews -- but I can't imagine us not doing them at this point.
# 6 RUFFNREADY @ 09/05/11 11:21 PM
I dont think there is going to be a need for reviews anymore!
Here's why; The amount of marketing companies are willing to spend on a game sometimes tells you the whole story of a game. ie. Remember watching trailers for a summer blockbuster movie, and the basically showed you the whole movie in a 1:30 clip; well that's how games (big or small releases) are doing it up now. The amount of "hype" and info thrown out in social media nowadays is ridiculous, ie. Twitter, YouTube ... To have a designated gaming site thrown out some numbers on a game, doesnt matter to the masses anymore, because there is soo much disparity amongst the sites as it is. Too many classes to decide on how to break down the game(s), and way too many different formats for judging. ie. All sites should at least have a format of Presentation; Gameplay, Graphics. as it goes you will come across sites adding: Replay Value and other things to there voting format. While this is happening, the casted numbers all become different, and in my opinion become obsolete; and now the War beginnings with different sites and their numbers. Who do you TRUST or Believe?
The Hardcore gamers will want to try the game out first, and make their own decision; the young kids, will trust the site(s) that their friends swear on has the best ratings. Once again there is a rift in the casted votes. who's site is more reliabile, credible?
The ultimate choice is you the consumer.
IMO, Demos dont do games justice anymore, as we know companies try to dumb down their product(s) and hit you with the WOW, the final product is way better than the Demo gimmick; and it's working on the youth of our civilization. Reviews hold no Clot anymore unless its a die hard site you truly believe in.
Ask yourself this: when have you ever heard or seen a parent surfing the net for Review scores on a game that there child wants? Me...NEVER; all they want to know is if it is rated "M", "A", or "E".
This world we live in still operates on word of mouth; or better yet; some handheld device!
Twit away my people.

# 7 dakshjuneja @ 10/04/11 06:48 AM
i still love reviewing games,...... its fun!!
# 8 fistofrage @ 10/04/11 02:21 PM
Yes/No....Instead of reviewing the gameplay.....The "Review" should simply state it plays exactly like last years except blah blah blah and you will also find that in its current unpatched state it contains the following issues that may be considered game killers to some.

Additionally, please note that this "Review" is subject to change or be completely voided based on the impending patch that may fix the aforementioned game killers or possibly break items that are currently working, thus increasing the list of gamekillers.

In short, just tell what what is broken and I will decide from there if its a game killer or not.

Additionally, you should probably just review the game 5 months after release. This way you are actually reviewing a completed product. No one in there right mind should buy a certain company's game at launch.
# 9 pietasterp @ 11/02/11 02:43 PM
Sadly...no. But not because of the desire/quality or dedication of the players and reviewers, but because the way things are going, there is increasingly only 1 option for each sport...therefore if you want said sport in videogame form, you have only that game to go choose. It sort of obviates the need for a review, because even if the game is a mess (NCAA, Madden, MLB2k), if you want that sport, you have 1 option only, so even if the review is mediocre/poor, you're honestly probably still gonna buy it.

I hate to say it, but my love for sports games has really dwindled the last few years...and it all goes back to 2005. At any rate, I'm glad OS still does real sports games analysis, and if there is any place for sports game reviews, it is entirely the domain of dedicated sports gaming sites like this one. The other mainstream media sites might as well not bother, frankly...
# 10 tsp120 @ 11/03/11 06:33 AM
For me, reviews of sports games are almost pointless.

Every sports "simulation" game has about a hundred different audiences. I'll discuss Madden to make my points. I love football, I love the NFL and I want a video game that let's me simulate the sports as close as possible. Reading reviews I always see that the game did quite well. But I don't think I've gotten my hands on a Madden game since the early 2000's that I actually thought played well. NFL2K5 is still the best football game ever made in my opinion, and it's 6 years old.

But there is an audience that loves Madden. It's the guys who want to sit on the couch and play a game against their friend. They want to drop back 20 yards, through a pin-point accurate strike to their receiver in triple coverage 50 yards down the field, and then jump off the couch and brag to their friend that he just owned him. Those people flock to this game and buy it every year if for no other reason than the updated roster.

What no Madden review ever touches on is the horrible franchise mode simulation stats, or the fact that no matter what I do to the sliders I can't have a game where certain stats will feel right, such as passing yards or turnovers. I remember and NCAA game a few years ago where even with the interception slider set to 0 I was intercepting the ball 4 or 5 times a game consistently, even on a relatively difficult level. Reviews don't mention that, and while you're playing the game it drives you insane.

Personally, I'm glad I don't work on sports video games. Technology has them in a very tight spot in terms of pleasing someone like me. It's amazing how far games have come visually, but in terms of AI it's just not increasing at the same rate. Back in the Genesis and Super Ninteno days, the newest Madden always seemed "realistic". I mean, we all knew it wasn't, but we didn't have expectations of realism with the 16-bit characters. But back then, being able to call audibles and play multiple seasons was like, wow! But now that the games look so good, I think we all expect it to play as good too and I don't think the man-power exists to do this.

So in terms of reviews, I think they're pointless. What is not pointless is the impression and bug threads on this site. That is how I get my reviews of games. Sometimes I see people complain about things that seem ridiculous to me. That's fine, they're a different audience and I ignore those complaints. But other times people complain about things and I realize that would bother me too. I know no game is going to be perfect but the impression threads let me weigh whether or not the issues the game has are something I can ignore and/or deal with.
# 11 mjbird123 @ 11/06/11 12:52 PM
I would say....yes. Sports games are mostly the only video games I play other games don't have as much interest to me. I just love sports. I make lots of things I do about sports.
# 12 hamton88 @ 11/07/11 02:12 AM
Reviews only are praised when the product thats being reviewed are worth it. When the product is trash no one cares. Just to change topic for a moment, I personally believe madden needs to change the gameplay camera angle to a horizontal left to right tv broadcast view. The horizontal view is how we watch football at home and at games 90 percent of the time.
# 13 CMH @ 11/07/11 05:55 AM
I personally believe it's a farce to suggest that sports video games, even the dominant or exclusive licensed products, have no comparison.

They do. It's the real life game we watch every day.

Now, before people jump on this and start talking about how it's a fantasy to hope that a simulation video game could mirror real life, everyone should step back and realize that while it is a pipe dream, it is the ultimate dream.

Because we watch and play these sports everyday of our lives, we expect (rightly or wrongly) the video games to give us a similar experience without the sweat and pain. To allow us mediocre players to experience what it is to be a superstar athlete performing the tasks we are unable to accomplish in our daily sports lives.

A review is written to decipher the gameplay's ability to do just that. We want the broadcast feel along with the real-life feel. We want the emotion, atmosphere and experience. When those things are taken from us, we become disappointed. When the crowd isn't loud enough, the players don't move smoothly or there are bugs, those things are taken from us.

There are many of us that don't know what it is to go into war. Some of us enjoy Call of Duty. The others enjoy Battlefield. Ignoring the differences in what they hope to achieve, those games while being reviewed against the other, are also being reviewed against the real-life experience of war. We expect to see the games mirror the experience. Some of us want the more arcade-feel, and others want the more realistic feel. Either way, we want that feel to come from a realistic basis.

Sports video games have their comparisons. Perhaps it is impossible to ever please the gamers completely. However, when a solid foundation is built and content is added, gamers will appreciate what they have. There are titles out right now in the sports genre that have done a wonderful job meeting expectations in gameplay. If gamers have jumped from gameplay to atmosphere, so be it. The expectations are that all aspects of the game mirror real life. Sports video games will always have a comparison.
# 14 steviephresh319 @ 11/28/11 07:38 PM
I think it's still worth reviewing a game. Although the features may be minor, it's still something new being brought to the table and if someone is curious about this "new feature", a review is the best place to go and see what it's all about!

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