Feature Article
Three Point Thursday - Annual Review

In this week's Three Point Thursday, Matt Blumenthal looks back on the last year of sports games.

Point #1: This is the best crop of baseball games we've seen in years.

Simply put, the "next generation" of baseball videogaming has arrived. Both MLB The Show and MLB 2K have made consistent strides in the last three years, and this year's iterations can only be described as a gargantuan leap for both games. MLB 08: The Show improves on last year's MLB 07: The Show, already one of the best sports games ever made, by overhauling the graphics and presentation.

MLB 2K8 introduces the new right analog stick pitching controls that I raved about in last week’s Three Point Thursday and tightens the gameplay. It's hard to believe how far this series has come in the two years since MLB 2K6, which required a patch to enable some users to actually complete a full game without a freeze. Both Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 gamers should find themselves satisfied that they have a good baseball game to play this year.

Point #2: We have two great choices in hockey games for the first time in ages.

The NHL 2K series has continued to publish solid hockey games year after year, while EA Sports’ hockey series’ resurgence culminated in the release of NHL 08. The Skill Stick redefines the way we play hockey games, and the other improvements in the gameplay and AI moved NHL 08 to the front of the pack. Meanwhile, NHL 2K8 continues its incremental progress and remains a viable option as a hockey game. Both games offer realistic depictions of the sport while also having contrasting enough styles to fulfill the desires of all hockey gamers.

Point #3: The basketball and football games hold their own too.

Even with EA Sports’ disappointing basketball products, 2K Sports picks up the slack with its NBA 2K8 and College Hoops 2K8 series. Neither of these games has undergone much more than tweaks in the last few years, but they have had a rock solid foundation. While I’d like to see a larger upgrade to NBA 2K9, you know what you’re getting with the NBA 2K series, and that’s an enjoyable game that provides an excellent representation of the sport. Remember that NBA 2K8 won the 2007 Sports Game of the Year Award in last year’s Operation Sports Year End Awards.

Unfortunately, the final buzzer seems to have sounded on the College Hoops 2K line, and its memorable run has ended just short of the Final Four. College Hoops 2K never got the chance to truly realize its potential. While it easily bested its competition in the college basketball genre, its dreams come to an unceremonious end with College Hoops 2K8.

The 2008 line of sports games saw the return of the 2K football franchise after a multi-year hiatus. It delivered an enjoyable football game, building on the gameplay of NFL 2K5 and adding NFL legends to the mix. However, the absence of the NFL license left the game lacking personality and some semblance of a franchise mode. It surely leaves gamers wanting more, but it nevertheless serves as a welcome addition to the football genre plagued by decent but disappointing NFL and NCAA football games from EA Sports. But while NCAA Football 08 and Madden NFL 08 have failed to meet expectations on this generation of consoles, both games have improved noticeably each year, so we have reason to hope that this trend continues.

Extra Point: Let’s not forget about the other sports games.

In the 2007 Operation Sports Year End Awards, we crowned skate as the winner of the awards for both Sleeper Game of the Year and Other Sports Game of the Year. It bested Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground, an excellent game in its own right, for the latter. Also keep in mind Forza Motorsport 2, the overwhelming winner of the 2007 Racing Game of the Year Award. These games provided a breath of fresh air to a sports gaming scene dominated by the other four sports.

The Point: The 2008 line of games has been the best in sports gaming history.

Never before have we seen so many quality games sweeping every possible corner of the sports gaming landscape. The baseball and hockey games have reached the peak of their genres, while the basketball and football games trail only slightly in terms of excellence. Other sports games such as skate and Forza Motorsport 2 contribute even more value to the scene. The brilliance of these games allow the 2008 series to claim its rightful place at the top of the list in the annals of sports gaming history.

Member Comments
# 1 totsata @ 03/07/08 12:07 AM
"last year of sports games" so you don't consider soccer to be a sport. Oh btw just a little fact worth noting, soccer (football) is the most famous sport in the world!
It is not even mentioned once in the article, are you kidding me? What a shame seriously!!!
# 2 Cletus @ 03/07/08 12:21 AM
he also didn't mention rugby, cricket, fishing, or table tennis. I'm sure the author didn't feel like spending a month breaking down every single sports game made, if that offends you then I'm sorry.
# 3 gdfella99 @ 03/07/08 10:47 AM
cletus totsata has a point

Soccer is one of if not the most famous sports in the world. I might argue that the NBA is starting to creep up but in Europe soccer is number 1.
# 4 Acid @ 03/07/08 11:12 AM
While soccer is easily the biggest sport in the world, it's nowhere near the biggest in this country. So demographics-wise, it makes sense for it to not be on the list.

I'm hoping with the new site and the growing popularity, OS will have more soccer-related articles because it definitely seems like the sport is growing here in the US and more people are starting to follow it.

Nice article, Matt.

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