Rocket League®

Sports games come in many shapes and sizes. Football Manager and Rocket League have almost nothing in common, but they’re both undeniably sports games. Meanwhile Fifa has added a story driven campaign, and Pyre is a fantasy RPG that plays like a sport.

To try and help, I’ve broken this list down into four broad categories. Sports Simulations, which attempt to realistically depict a sport, Sports Management games (self explanatory), Arcade Sports, which depict a stylised version of a real sport, and Fantasy Sports, which are wholly invented.

There’s obviously a lot of crossover, since even Rocket League is loosely based on football, but hopefully this will help you tell your QWOPs from your Fifas. 

SPORTS SIMS

Fifa 2018

Developer: EA SportsRelease Date: Sep 2017Link: Official site

EA's annual football series is on a high right now, with the addition of a surprisingly compelling single player story mode. Unlike PES, Fifa's strength is in a Xavi-esque short, quick passing game. If you’re looking to play online, Fifa will be your football sim of choice, as a strong and healthy online community ensures it's always easy to find a game. 

PES 2018

Developer: KonamiRelease Date: Sep 2017Link: Official site   

While Fifa will draw in those interested in the single player story or online multiplayer, PES is my preference for local multiplayer, or when I want to sink into the signature Master League. The two games also play slightly differently, with PES leaning more towards long passes and lofted through balls for a faster paced, more frenetic game.

NBA 2K18

Developer: Visual ConceptsRelease Date: Sep 2017Link: Steam

Basketball is one of the few annual sports franchises not dominated by EA, and 2K's NBA series is one of the few that releases on PC. 2018's installment confused people by adding a strange MMO-esque hub called The Neighbourhood, but what really matters is that the slamming and jamming is as strong as ever. 

MANAGEMENT GAMES

Football Manager 2018

Developer: Sports InteractiveRelease Date: Nov 2017Link: Official site

It’s hard to overrstate the enormity of Football Manager. It is consistently one of the most popular games on Steam, its scouting network rivals real life clubs and once a player received an international call up from the wrong country because of it. It's also incredibly absorbing and fun, even more so since they added the streamlined variant Football Manager Touch. Play it with care: it is all-consuming.

Out of the Park Baseball 18 

Developer: Out of the Park DevelopmentsRelease Date: Mar 2017Link: Official site 

It's strange how few other sports have a Football Manager equivalent, but understandable that the highly stat-driven baseball is one of those that does. Out of the Park Baseball doesn't seem to change that much from year to year, but the underlying game remains an engrossing way to live out your Moneyball fantasies.

Motorsport Manager

Developer: Playsport GamesRelease Date: Nov 2016Link: Official site

Another sensible sport to adapt into a management game, Motorsport Manager is half about the strategy, half about the cars. Between races you’ll spend time improving and upgrading your vehicle, then make strategic calls like what tires to use and when to make a pit stop, but all without having to bother getting your hands dirty actually steering the thing. 

ARCADE SPORTS

Sensible World of Soccer

Developer: Sensible SoftwareRelease Date: Jan 1996Link: GOG

"I don’t like football but I did enjoy Sensible Soccer" is a thing I’ve been told by more 40-year-old game journalists than I care to count. By stripping the sport down to its essentials, SWOS finds a purity in the tick tock of precision passes. GOG only stocks Sensible World of Soccer 96/97, so expect to be stuck in the days of David Seaman and Ian Wright. 

Super Arcade Football

Developer: Out of the BitRelease Date: Early AccessLink: Official site

Super Arcade Football is built on the classic top down approach of Sensible Soccer but with some more modern touches, the most impressive being a physics defying slow motion aftertouch shot. Unlike SWOS it also works online, making it much easier to get a game against a human. 

QWOP

Developer: Bennett Foddy Release Date: Nov 2008 Link: Official site

QWOP is, in many ways, the anti-sports game. Most sports games are about using easy, accessible controls to allow anyone to simulate being a peak athlete. QWOP on the other hand uses an overly complicated control scheme to make the relatively simple act of running a 110m hurdles (yes there are hurdles, most people don’t make it far enough to realise that) astonishingly difficult and hilarious. It’s the Eddie the Eagle of sports games.

Fire Pro Wrestler

Developer: Spike ChunsoftRelease Date: Early AccessLink: Steam

Is wrestling a sport? According to Vince McMahon it’s 'sports entertainment', which is close enough for this list. Unlike the awful official WWE games, Fire Pro Wrestling World leans into the fact that wrestling is a performance, subtly pushing players to put on an entertaining match, rather than just trying to win. That, coupled with its astonishing Steam Workshop-supported character creation makes it unique among wrestling games. 

OlliOlli

Developer: Roll7Release Date: Jul 2014Link: Steam

OlliOlli's great success is in taking all the fun of older skating games like Tony Hawk and distilling them down to two dimensions. The simplicity of OlliOlli's side on approach makes it easier to learn a track while constantly embellishing your performance with tricks and flourishes.

Desert Golfing

Developer: Captain GamesRelease Date: Aug 2014Link: Official site 

I was actually surprised to find viral mobile hit Desert Golfing is available on PC, but it is, via the Windows Store (remember that?). It's a strange, minimalist game that can lulls you into an almost zen mindset. Each hole achieves a lot with a simple geometric layout. Crucially, there is no going back, so every wasted stroke is there forever.

Tennes

Developer: Jan Willem NijmanRelease Date: Nov 2012Link: Official site

Originally a bonus game for people who backed the SportsFriends Kickstarter, Tennnes is a simplified tennis game with a flexible approach to rules. The game does not mind if, for example, you jump over the net and play on the other side of the court. If you liked SportsFriends, you'll like this.

FANTASY SPORTS

Rocket League

Developer: PsyonixRelease Date: Jul 2015Link: Official site

I've had Rocket League installed on my PC for nearly two years now, and I still find myself jumping in for a quick 15 minute game every couple of weeks. The premise is simple: it’s football with rocket powered cars. What makes it work is the strange physics: the ball seems to be moving almost in slow motion, resulting in great slapstick comedy and much rage on the part of PC Gamer editor Sam Roberts. 

SportsFriends

Developer: De Gute FabrikRelease Date: Dec 2014Link: Official site

SportsFriends is a bundle of local multiplayer indie games loosely themed around sports. Hokra is a very fast, minimalist ice hockey game, BariBariBall is a blend of Super Smash Bros and volleyball, Super Pole Riders is a strange pole vaulter jousting game and Johan Sebastian Joust is a kind of full contact musical chairs played with motion controllers. What they have in common is that they’re all a amazing fun with a group of friends.

Bloodbowl 2

Developer: Cyanide ReleaseDate: Sep 2015Link: Official site

The Blood Bowl board game is as old as I am, which is testament to its enduring appeal. It is simultaneously one of the most frustrating and entertaining games I've ever played. Dice rolls are required for everything, meaning sometimes players fall over and die because they ran too fast. The digital port is solid enough, but the real charm lies in the time tested rules.

Frozen Cortex

Developer: Mode7Release Date: Feb 2015Link: Official site

Frozen Synapse's trademark interpretation of turn-based combat, where both sides plan their moves and execute them simultaneously, turns out to translate really well into sports. A paired down version of American Football featuring big stompy robots on a small pitch, Frozen Cortex excels at replicating the execution of a single play, but lacks the back and forth of larger, more fluid sports. 

Pyre

Developer: Supergiant GamesRelease Date: Jul 2017Link: Official site

Pyre is essentially an RPG with a sport instead of random battles. The story and atmosphere are the kind of strong stuff you'd expect from SuperGiant (who also made Bastion and Transistor). The sport itself can end up a little one dimensional, as attacking players can’t move without the ball, there's little point in the passing game. Still, the way in which the fiction and the sport combine is a unique delight. 

PRO EVOLUTION SOCCER 2018

In his Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 review last month, Tom Hatfield said this: "There was a time when FIFA was noticeably the better-looking of the duelling football games, but that isn’t true any more, with only PES’s telltale licensing restrictions making the difference apparent." 

Konami has now struck up an official partnership with Arsenal which sees the London team and its stadium more accurately recreated in-game. 

And when the Fox Engine is used to recreate players with their real life likeness in mind, boy does it look pretty. Here's a still of Héctor Bellerín, Mesut Özil and Alexandre Lacazette as they now appear:

As is the case with Liverpool, Konami uses its "cutting edge 3D scanning systems" in order to capture facial animations and idiosyncratic movesets. In essence, the system is designed to portray the unique quirks and movements each player demonstrates in real life in-game. The partnership also of course means Arsenal gets its real name and not, say, London Red, as well as fully-licensed kits and the Emirates Stadium.  

There's an argument to be made that this year's PES offering is finally a football sim worthy of the PC—can you imagine how it'd fare against its fiercest rival if every team was treated to this level of care and attention?  

"We are determined to work with the very best clubs football has to offer and are delighted to partner with Arsenal,” says Konami's senior director of brand and business development Jonas Lygaard in a statement. "The relationship we formed last year has gone from strength to strength, most notably when Emirates Stadium played host to the PES LEAGUE World Final. As such, we were keen to work even closer with such a highly regarded club and the new agreement will allow us to perfectly recreate and feature Emirates Stadium, and the club’s many stars, within PES 2018."

PES 2018 is out now, read Tom Hatfield's review in full over here.

PRO EVOLUTION SOCCER 2018 - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

proevosoccer2018pc

“PES 2018 should not suck on PC this year,” Alice wrote back in May. She was referring to FIFA’s great rival finally running with current-gen console graphics on our platform of choice, rather than using the previous-gen engine as has been the case for FAR TOO LONG. Well, all the fancy bells, whistles and advertising hoardings are in place, and you can see all of those glorious multi-million dollar haircuts in glorious detail.

That’s not to say everything is shiny though because there seem to be serious problems with the online portion of Pro Evo 2018 [official site]. I haven’t been able to test it myself, bit hopefully it’ll be fixed soon given that the game has been out for a day now.

(more…)

PRO EVOLUTION SOCCER 2018 - Valve
PRO EVOLUTION SOCCER 2018 is Now Available on Steam!

'Where Legends Are Made' encapsulates the return of PES, with an unparalleled gameplay experience.
PRO EVOLUTION SOCCER 2018

Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 "is finally a football sim worthy of the PC," we said in our June hands-on preview. "[It] easily matches its PS4 and Xbox One counterparts, and may yet surpass them once the modding community sets to work." That's awfully high praise, but come August 30 you won't have to take our word for it—you'll be able to just play the demo instead. 

The PES 2018 demo will feature two stadiums—Camp Nou and Signal Iduna Park—and clubs including Liverpool, Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Corinthians, Flamengo, Boca Juniors, River Plate, and Colo-Colo. National teams from Brazil, Argentina, and Germany will also be playable. The demo will be offline-only but will support exhibition and co-op modes, and while the announcement and the image above both refer only to consoles, Konami confirmed that it's coming to the PC as well.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 is available for pre-purchase on Steam for $60/£55/€60, and will be out on September 12. Dive into the new Gamescom trailer down below, and find out more about the game at konami.com.   

PRO EVOLUTION SOCCER 2018

Konami has earned abundant—and much-merited—praise over the last 24 months for its attempts to reinvent Pro Evolution Soccer. It truly is a revolution that’s been televised; and that, in very literal terms, is the issue for PC players. Rather than receive the Fox Engine-powered version that’s delighted current-gen console owners, they—they, being you—have had to endure lackluster PS3 and Xbox 360 ports throughout that time frame. Finally, for PES 2018, this oversight is corrected. Steam receives a version of Pro Evo that easily matches its PS4 and Xbox One counterparts, and may yet surpass them once the modding community sets to work.

That’s a big deal from a visual perspective, inevitably. I got the chance to play with four club teams (Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool) on a machine running an Inter Core i7-6700 and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, and in 4K everything looks Champions League quality. Player faces, Barca’s especially, impressively match their real-life counterparts, crowds look like a collection of individuals as opposed to a swampy mess, and—most importantly—the on-pitch action unfolds in a manner which accurately represents the real thing. Sometimes too closely, given the Rottweiler-esque vigour with which Luis Suarez celebrates every goal.

Yet PC already has one cosmetically pleasing football game in FIFA, so it’s the feel of new PES which makes this long overdue upgrade so critical, and which will define its ongoing success. Konami’s focus in recent years has been on fundamentals over back-of-box gimmicks, and sure enough it’s the almost-natural feel of passing, shooting and dribbling here which make it—at least for these first few hours—unputdownable. Variation is plentiful and there’s no magical path to goal; even with a passing side such as Liverpool, I’m able to work chances and score goals with angled passes behind a full back, and/or direct crosses into the penalty area. 

Midfield play—for the longest time a congested, if just-about-manageable, mess in both big-name football games—is especially transformative. Here the pitch is noticeably bigger than in last year's PS4 and Xbox One versions; the players slightly smaller; and the dribbling system tighter. Receive the ball in the centre circle and precious split-seconds can be spent assessing options before picking out a team-mate or carrying possession forward, while chains of passes can be strung together without the need for Olympian reaction times and Russell Grant powers of foresight.

That one design decision alone moves human matches from basketball-style, I-attack-then-you-attack sprint-fests towards footballing chess, in which possession is pivotal and final ball placement (and timing) critical. Whether that filters down to cruder sides at, say, French Ligue 2 level is another question entirely, but for now PES’s ability to offer genuine tactical variety among AI teams on the recent console editions earns Konami the benefit of the doubt. 

I’m already convinced that this will be proclaimed the purists’ football game out on the pitch, but in the annual face-off with FIFA that’s only part of the equation. Licensing remains an area where Konami openly admits it can’t match EA’s cash reserves, so it’s taking unconventional routes to players’ hearts. One is offering champion sprinter Usain Bolt as a pre-order incentive, for use in MyClub, the PES answer to Ultimate Team. Brand manager Adam Bhatti tells me Bolt will be the fastest player in the game, and with pace deadlier than ever this year—Liverpool’s Sadio Mane is a joy to steer down the right flank—few will complain about a lack of realism once Bolt is charging past opposition defenders on their behalf.

Additional MyClub information isn’t readily available, but ‘unconventional’ is a term that’s always gone hand-in-glove with Master League, PES’ other long-term mode. This is one area I don’t get to experience during my hands-on, but Bhatti enthuses about it with confidence and zeal, promising a new transfer system—including the ability to buy any player by triggering their ‘release fee’, as occasionally happens with elite stars in real life—pre-season matches, and changing-room cut-scenes in the hope of providing a more involved world. 

While I have his ear, however, I can’t resist launching a studs-up challenge on the elephant in the room. Why did it take this long to bring the PC version of PES up to scratch? To Bhatti’s credit, it’s not a question he looks to duck.

“This was always something we wanted to do,” he says. “But being honest, the resource management internally wasn’t there. People imagine our team to be hundreds of people, and think upgrading to another format is simple, but [that’s incorrect]. Using Fox Engine on a football game took 2-3 years to get right on PS4 and Xbox One, which are our biggest markets. PC is super important to us, but until this year we didn’t have the resource. Now, we’ve learned from the Metal Gear team in terms of using Fox Engine on PC. It’s the same quality as the console version, and then some.”

And the modding community mentioned at the outset of this piece? An absolutely vital element of PES’s potential PC success, says the man in charge: “We’re not going to give them free rein… but they always find a way. In-game editing features are the same as on console, but they have been for the last 20 years on PC, and the community still manages to do some great stuff. And I don’t mean in terms of licensing: we’re talking weather settings, players faces, and so on. It’s great to see, and inspires us.”

Football fans are known to be overly positive during the summer months, as an unblemished fixture list and influx of new players deliver false hope ahead of a new campaign. With that in mind, it would be dangerous to proclaim this the title favourite prior to next season without having yet tested its online capabilities—something of an Achilles heel even through its recent successes.

But there is plenty to encourage, ahead of the fresh season. Not least Bhatti’s final thought on being properly optimised for PC: “It’s the best version, and we’re so happy."

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Maybe, just maybe, 2017 will be the year Pro Evolution Soccer is good on PC too. After several years of mugging us off with PC releases similar to the last-gen console versions, Konami have announced PES 2018 [official site] and declared this time it’ll be different. They’ve promised the PC version will have “substantial enhancements in graphics and content, meeting quality standards and ensuring parity across current game systems.” At last! PES is some good ballkicking but PC versions have been shoddy enough that resident ballboy Adam recommended you play on console if possible. The game’s due this September. For now, check out this wee trailer: … [visit site to read more]

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