A few weeks back I was lucky enough to attend EA Sports' Season Preview event in New York City. Both NCAA 11 and Madden 11 were on hand at the event, but it was a couple of the other games in EA’s 2010 sports lineup that caught my eye. Most of these games had already been demoed to OS a few months back in San Francisco, so below are my updated impressions of these games.
Simply put, NBA Jam was the belle of the ball at this event. While playing the game, I was also able to get some time on the Wii remote with Jam developer Trey Smith.
Using the same formula that made the Jam games so popular in the early 90s, the updated Wii version is more of a tribute to the originals as opposed to an entirely new game. You control your players via the analog stick on the Nunchuk, pass with the A button and use the Wii remote to control shooting via a flick of the wrist. The controls take some time to get used to, but once mastered, you will be rattling the rim with a boomshakalaka dunk in no time. And fear not motion-controller rookies, you can always switch back to the classic Jam pad control scheme at any time by tilting the Wii remote on its side.
Graphically, the game looks amazing. The graphics are so sharp on an HD display that it is hard to believe you are playing on the Wii. Players are well animated and have signature style shots and dunks -- something that adds a whole new dimension to Jam. The courts are beautiful, and even the crowds and mascots look great. On the sound side, the original Jam announcer returns -- I was greeted by chills of nostalgia the first time I heard "he’s on fire."
As of right now the game is a Wii-only release. When pressed on the issue, Trey would not deny that the game was coming to other consoles, but said, "today we want to just focus on the product we are showing on the Wii."
In terms of additional features, look for unlockable characters (although Trey would not confirm if Bill Clinton was one of these characters), different game modes and a few other surprises thrown into the mix. Online support was one area where Trey would not go into much detail. His message was that Jam on the Wii is meant to bring back the social-gaming aspect that was once shared with friends before the advent of online gaming. While this is disappointing, there definitely is something to be said about reliving the glory days of party gaming with friends over a few choice beverages and snacks.
NBA Jam will be released this fall on the Wii, and I for one am extremely excited to get my hands on the final version. For more on NBA Jam, check out our hands-on impressions from the San Francisco preview event in March.
Touting a new wireless heartbeat monitor and vitality sensor that can be wrapped around the hip, EA Active 2 is trying to become the definitive workout game on the Wii. However, the element that could really put the game over the top is its online integration. Workout junkies will now be able to post results online, track routines and even interact with others using the game (think of it like your own personal Biggest Loser team).
The first Active was praised for its ability to seamlessly integrate true fitness and video games, and Active 2 looks to continue that tradition. In the interactive demo, I experienced the new wireless sensors that allow for a complete range of motion. In other words, no longer will you be tethered to your Wii remote/Nunchuk when working through the game's various fitness routines.
Simply put, Active 2 seems like a must-have for anyone who enjoys working out and playing video games.
Last year's Tiger Woods title was released along with the revolutionary MotionPlus accessory. Utilizing additional motion sensors and gyroscopes in the MotionPlus, the game was able to accurately track a user's golf swing down to pretty much every nuance. Tiger 10 was more than a golf game because MotionPlus had been transformed it into a virtual golf simulator.
In Tiger 11 the development team looks to take the golf sim one step further by adding what is known as the True View camera angle. True View is essentially first-person golf, but with the MotionPlus integration, you now have the closest thing I have ever seen to a virtual reality golf experience in your own home.
I was able to play through four holes using this new vantage point, and I must say that I am completely hooked. To be quite honest, it will be difficult to ever play another golf game from the third-person perspective again. True View gives you complete control over where you make contact with the ball, and the days of changing your contact angle and draw/fade are a thing of the past.
Understanding that not everyone who wants to use True View is a golf pro, the Tiger team has included several swing difficulty levels that are more lenient in terms of just how much user control is factored into making solid contact with the ball. Personally, as a veteran of the series, I found the lower difficulties to be too easy because I was able to make solid contact on every swing. If you want the true Tiger 11 True View experience, I highly recommend bumping the swing difficulty to "Swing Plus." But just a heads up, I recommend hitting the actual golf range before teeing off because your in-game swing will come eerily close to duplicating your real swing issues. (I laughed out loud as my first few drives immediately sliced right, a mirror image of my real golf swing.)
Tiger 11 is also upping the ante this year by adding online disc golf and a dedicated mini-golf mode. All the online options from last year are included, most importantly the online tournaments, and the game includes the Ryder Cup.
Tiger Woods 11 is shaping up nicely, with the most impressive aspect being new player models, animations and graphics. I was blown away by the improved graphics when I first sat down with members of the development team to check out Tiger 11. In my first match, I watched as Ian Poulter's hair realistically waved in the breeze, mimicking the animations of the grass. Cloth physics have also been completely upgraded for this season, so Poulter's pants and polo shirt waved back in forth realistically in the wind as he eyed his approach. Aside from wind physics, golfers now have slimmer, more realistic player models, which is a big step up from the cartoon-like models of past games.
Aside from the graphical upgrades, Tiger 11 features online team golf. Much like EA’s NHL series, you are able to meet up with a group of 12 golfers and play six versus six real-time matches against one another using Ryder Cup scoring. I was able to see this mode in action, and it is extremely nice seeing teammate and opponent ball trails readily visible on your screen. One drawback of this mode is that there are no clubs, so you will not be able to create a team like in NBA Live or NHL’s EASHL. However, there were some rumblings of club support via EA Sports World online.
The Tiger franchise has been quite solid during the past few years on the 360/PS3, and this year looks to be no different. In addition to the above additions, I was told that new courses would be revealed soon, along with new golf gear and some surprise golfers that were not in previous additions.
Tiger Woods 11 will be released in early June for both the 360/PS3 and Wii. Both versions of the game are looking to offer something different, and it appears this may be a strong year for video game golf.
So what are your thoughts on EA’s upcoming sports releases? Leave your thoughts below. Also, feel free to let me know if you have any questions on these games either via the forums here, or on Twitter: Bumble14_OS.