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Men like sports. There is no real exception to this rule. Whether you like the bone-crushing action of football and hockey, thunderous hits in baseball, or that nasty slam-dunk in your face, sports are naturally great as video games!
Though all sports games evolved from simple 2D predecessors, the modern sports game features realistic player models, fully 3D arenas and fields, full pro league licenses (with all teams and up to date rosters), and cinematic cut-scenes reminiscent of what you’re used to on television.
Perhaps the only real downside to sports games is that they are addictive and require a new purchase EVERY year. Unless you own them on PC (but I’d argue that they’re not as fun without a controller), you won’t be able to patch the rosters to reflect trades, signings, and hot new rookies. Each year, major developers like EA Sports and ESPN sports release the next season’s version of the game. For instance, Madden 2005 will come out in mid-2004. Usually there are incentives to keep purchasing these games year after year. At this point in time, however, graphics and performance have topped out, so developers are increasingly turning to extra game modes, hidden features that must be unlocked, and ’dynasty’ modes where you can play a team for multiple seasons. In general, all sports games are cross-platform.
EA Sports is the premiere developer of sports titles. Their major franchises have just received their 2005 treatments with the release of: NHL 2005, NBA Live 2005, Madden NFL 2005, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005, FIFA 2005, NCAA March Madness 2005, and NCAA Football 2005. As you can see, there’s no shortage of games for the sports fanatic, and it can be a rather costly endeavor to play the new version of every game each year!
ESPN has added some competition to the market with its own line of sports franchises. In order to differentiate from EA, they use different names and a different year-naming system. Instead of 2005, ESPN uses 2K5, for instance. The ESPN library is not as diverse, though their series often have better team AI and a distinct feel. Current titles include: NFL 2K5, NHL 2K5, NBA 2K5, and College Hoops 2K5.
Aside from these major league ports, there are tons of bargain-bin style sports games that you can purchase. The most famous of these is the Deer Hunter series of games. The game is exactly as the title suggests, and though the game is relatively cheap in price and production, it’s been a big favorite for the economically minded.
In addition to team sports games, there is an entirely separate category of racing games. While racing is not always considered a sport, it is definitely a competitive arena filled with many dazzling games.
Originally based on simple 2D arcade games like Outrun and Test Drive, the racing genre has received a turbo boost (bad pun) with the latest in graphics and sound technology. These days, a racing game isn’t complete without full customization of your car.
It’s not surprising that EA once again dominates this category with key titles like NASCAR 2005, Need for Speed Underground 2, and Burnout. They all feature white-knuckle thrills, glorious crashes (Burnout 3 is king of the crash sequence!), and the ability to change every component of your car.
Despite EA’s dominance in the racing market, a small independent publisher (Polyphony Digital) rules the roads with the Gran Turismo series. Considered by many as a total driving simulation, you even have to pass difficult license tests in order to proceed through the game. The great thing about Gran Turismo is its sheer scope. Hundreds of cars are available from that basic Honda Civic all the way up to custom jobs like the Saleen S7. Working your way up from driving a crappy car to a great one can take days of gameplay. Along the way, you can customize EVERYTHING about the car including the paint job, add-ons (like spoilers), engine settings, transmissions settings… you name it, Gran Turismo’s got it! You can check out the latest installment of the series, Gran Turismo 4, in stores December 2004.