Of the fends suffocated by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the sport has suffered at least as much as movies, if not more. Because sport depends on live performance in front of thousands of spectators, measures of social distancing and quarantine have decimated the sporting experience. And especially in the US, games are still played mostly in empty arenas and under artificial noise.
Whatever the disaster, it was also a unique opportunity to make video games that support these leagues shine. Last spring, everything was closed, and sports fans could nestle with their favorite games on their couches, along with cinephiles who get drunk on Netflix and players immersed in their open worlds.
This year, Summit Sarkar of Polygon and Owen Good have given up on nominating and determining the sports video game of the year, which will draw from mostly incremental updates of established titles in the final year of the console generation. Instead, we wrote essays on the four titles in which we spent most of our playing time – and the service these games provided to sports fans deprived of something that is understood in popular culture, if not ubiquitous: the human drama of athletic competition.
MLB The Show 20 i NHL 21
In early June, I wrote about a baseball hole in my life created by a coronavirus pandemic and how I tried to fill it. MLB Show 20. At that time, the question of the possibility of the existence of a real baseball season in 2020 was still open. Only later in June, the owners of MLB forced the players to a season of 60 games that will last from the end of July to the end of October.
I have to admit: I didn’t think all sports leagues would make it, but they did – albeit with some scattered COVID-19 epidemics and a few head moves. Despite all the unique conditions under which this season’s MLB matches were played, here’s the thing: I felt like a real baseball. I spent a lot of time watching my Yankees during the summer and until the fall, which meant that, lo and behold, I no longer needed MLB The Show as a coping mechanism.
That’s not a bad thing about one of my longtime favorite video game franchises, and of course, MLB Show games and MLB games aren’t mutually exclusive – I draw different kinds of joy out of them. But when you use a video game as a substitute for a real thing, unlike an escort, you realize that it doesn’t really last.
Interestingly, I picked it up MLB 20 again after the real-life baseball season is over. It turned out to be a great showcase for the PlayStation 4’s backward compatibility built into the PlayStation 5: The new console runs at a smooth 60 frames per second in native 4K resolution. MLB 20 was actually the first PS4 game I played on my PS5 – it’s never far from my heart.
I feel the same affection for the NHL franchise of EA Sports, which I have been playing since the mid-90s. Once my beloved Rangers were knocked out of the NHL playoff qualifiers in early August, I turned my attention to EA.
The most promising element NHL 21 it was a long-awaited refreshing career path, Be a professional, which is my favorite in almost every sports game. I jumped into Be a Pro a few days after the actual NHL draft, in which the Rangers selected Alexis Lafrenière by picking no. 1, and in the game I managed to be drawn by Rangers myself!
In the end, I was disappointed NHL 21Be a professional – you can read my full review for more details – but I will say that his playing gave me a new appreciation for what professional athletes went through, in terms of playing sports amid pandemic constraints.
This year, developer EA Vancouver has prepared the Be a Pro experience with recordings in which your created player communicates with his head coach, agent or teammates, as well as the media. In many of them, a teammate invites you on a group outing, such as going to the beach or watching a Broadway show. It was impossible to see these things NHL 21 – even as a mere choice of dialogs in text boxes – and no consider all the activities that the pandemic forced us to cancel.
The lives of professional athletes are quite limited, especially during the season, but they have a lot of opportunities to break free during the downtime. Isolated in “bubbles” in Edmonton, Alberta and Toronto, without the possibility to escape from the hotel, it must have been incredibly difficult for the players and their mental health. I’m not sure any approach to video games could alleviate all the monotony. –Sarkar Summit
F1 2020 i NBA 2K21
The reality of the global pandemic finally landed with me on March 12th. That day, the NBA interrupted the season, and Formula 1 announced the postponement of two more races, deleting the first four events from the 2020 calendar. When I read the news on the phone that the all-new Vietnam Grand Prix had been canceled, my first thought was, “The only place we will see that course is F1 2020. ”
This is still the case; nor is the race in Hanoi on the 2021 calendar. (The government’s official key to promoting the race was arrested for unrelated matters, and the Vietnamese government decided not to continue the project.) When F1 2020 launched on July 6, I spent as much time getting to know the Hanoi Street Circuit as the new way of playing in my career, which gives you the control of your own racing team, with all its wonderful bell and whistle details.
Hanoi has a 1.5km plane that connects the double-top roundabout at corners 8 and 9 with the turn pin 11. Even if you’re spoiled by a Ferrari engine for your new team, you’ll die halfway straight with the rear marker chassis and aerodynamics off the rack that you game begins. No setup has given me a steady speed to fend off McLaren or Renault, much less Racing Point. Everything I tried would go straight ahead of me as if I were working in low fuel mode.
I was surprised by Hanoi’s challenge. Even with the difficulties with AI set in the top 90s, my team finished in fifth place in the 2020 season, even taking the podium in Bahrain and Hungary. But our best race so far was 10th at the purely fictional GP Vietnam.
After beating me straight and lowering me to 14th place on my first set of tires, I opted for heavier, medium-thick tread layers with a first pit stop. This allowed me to stay outside longer than the guys who chose the softs, and gave me room to breathe even if I ran in 13th place. It also allowed me to get back on soft tires at the end of the race, when the rest would be in the media.
I lost five seconds from 10th place, has 11 laps to go, and in the last lap I also caught Sergio Perez and Danilo Kvyat (on heavier tires) by double passing around the outside of the Turn 11 hairpin. Maybe it will end the only time I ever be able to watch the Vietnam Grand Prix. But it was the biggest single point I’ve ever earned in a virtual racing career spanning four years and hundreds of hours.
F1 2020 it was one of the two best examples of the entry of video games with constant excitement when real leagues had to shut down. NBA 2K20 i 2K21 provided it is another. This year, we have not heard so much about what the pandemic has done to recreational athletics. But a lost basketball season also includes thousands of missing YMCAs, church leagues and street courts. Basketball fans migrated online because of that experience as did the NBA when the pandemic put an end to both.
I played more pickup basketball NBA 2K20 i 2K21 than ever before, in other video games or in real life. I’ve often complained that the NBA 2K Visual Concepts series is so complex and technically demanding that it requires working on your game, piece by piece, the way you would do it in real life. Well, with vacation thanks to fulfillment, I finally had time. Moreover, I turned into a great man again.
Recalling my own experience from the church league when, at the age of 12, I accelerated my growth before everyone else and discovered how much simpler the game is the closer you get to the edge, I created a true pivot man who returns to the basket – Paint Beast, NBA 2K . And then I started working on my low post game, in Rec and The Park, a cooperative / competitive gameplay. I developed a muscle memory to drive to the baseline; then drive to the lane; now fall. I’m still too panicked for a good post shim, but I get there.
It made sense to go big, instead of hanging out on the lap and picking up bricks. I don’t have the ball handling moves I could talk about; It’s more helpful for me to set up a pick (and then unwind) than to call a teammate and toss next to my man. Little by little, I synthesized a low-set game that was actually useful for all the Sharpshooting Playmakers and Playmaking Sharpshooters from NBA 2K20‘s Park (and now, City, in NBA 2K21 on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X).
Has it always been a success? No. I got a lot of C + teammate ratings, not only in the beginning, but also when I thought I figured it all out. “Yes, go back to MyCareer,” one teammate told me after a particularly disgusting, fulfilling match. But overall I found it NBA 2K20 i 2K21 embody the best of sports video games. Not because of their presentation, signature animations or NBA 2K21drops of next-generation sweat. That’s best because, like MLB Show 20, will reveal your real strengths as a player and then challenge and inspire you to make them even better. –Owen Good