Sports and racing video games set to be released in 2016

Sports game season is fast approaching.

From between the Aug. 23 release of “Madden NFL 17” through the debut of “FIFA 17” on Sept. 27, six sports or racing games will hit the market, many of which precede the beginning off their respective sport’s seasons. A few more will follow by the end of the 2016.

Here’s a look at the nine biggest sports or racing video games slated to release the rest of the year. (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 have been abbreviated below.)

‘Madden NFL 17’

Release date: Aug. 23

Playable on: PS4, XB1, PS3, X360

Developer: EA Tiburon

Publisher: EA Sports

Don’t expect sweeping changes to the popular football series, which has the basic formula down pat. But there’s always room to improve, and this year’s game touts a revamps to the running game and zone coverage on defense, plus tweaks to make the kicking game more of a challenge. Franchise mode will receive some additions, too.

‘NHL 17’

Release date: Sept. 13

Playable on: PS4, XB1

Developer: EA Canada

Publisher: EA Sports

The hockey franchise, which righted its ship with last year’s edition, adds new modes including Draft Champions and World Cup of Hockey, plus Be a GM is now the more detailed Franchise Mode. Arena creator and team editor up the level of customization throughout the experience.

‘NASCAR Heat Evolution’

Release date: Sept. 13

Playable on: PS4, XB1, PC

Developer: Monster Games

Publisher: Dusenberry Martin Racing

The stock car racing association shifts to the current-gen consoles for the first time. “Heat Evolution” boasts all 23 Sprint Cup Series tracks and 43 drivers from the current season. The gameplay engine was completely rebuilt, and a dynamic AI system will adjust to each player’s skill level.

‘NBA 2K17’

Release date: Sept. 20

Playable on: PS4, XB1, PS3, X360, PC

Developer: Visual Concepts

Publisher: 2K Sports

The well-regarded “NBA 2K” series has hoops to itself once again this year, with “NBA Live” on hiatus. Among the new features for this year’s entry is the ability to expand MyGM or MyLeague mode to as many as 36 franchises. Expansion drafts and detailed team creation flesh out the new addition.

‘FIFA 17’

Release date: Sept. 27

Playable on: PS4, XB1, PS3, X360, PC

Developer: EA Canada

Publisher: EA Sports

Like many games on this list, “FIFA” isn’t reinventing the wheel — EA Canada aims to perfect it. In doing so, the Ignite game engine has been left behind in favor of Frostbite — often used in “Battlefield” games, among others. Additionally, dead ball kicks offer more freedom this time.

‘Forza Horizon 3’

Release date: Sept. 27

Playable on: XB1, PC

Developer: Playground Games

Publisher: Microsoft

The Microsoft-exclusive, open world racer is back, this time set in Australia and with more than 350 cars in tow. New this year is a four-player online co-op campaign, adding to the social experience of the game that also allows for 12-player online free roam and multiplayer.

‘WWE 2K17’

Release date: Oct. 11

Playable on: PS4, XB1, PS3, X360, PC

Developer: Yuke’s/Visual Concepts

Publisher: 2K Sports

Pro wrestling isn’t a sport, but its games belong in the same family as “Madden” and “FIFA.” Last year’s effort was thoroughly impressive, and this year’s model offers backstage brawls and fighting in the crowd. Several signature modes, such as MyCareer and WWE Universe, will be beefed up, too.

‘Gran Turismo Sport’

Release date: Nov. 15

Playable on: PS4

Developer: Polyphony Digital

Publisher: Sony

The long-running, Sony-exclusive racing sim is making the leap into the esports scene, hosting competitions recognized by the same governing body that sanctions Formula One. But most gamers will settle for the realistic cars and physics. Additionally, “GT Sport” will work in conjunction with PlayStation VR, which releases in October.


Release date: December

Playable on: PS4, XB1, PC

Developer: Ubisoft Annecy

Publisher: Ubisoft

This intriguing new extreme sports franchise is slated to debut by the end of the year. Offering skiing, snowboarding, wingsuit flying and paragliding set in the Alps, gamers can play together in the open, shared world and pull off epic tricks or move on from crazy crashes — and sharing them with friends.

Hands on with ‘NHL 17’

I’m not the best “NHL” player out there, so a lopsided loss to “NHL 17” producer Sean Ramjagsingh doesn’t sting that bad. On the bright side, at least my hourlong demo of the game was enlightening.

Ramjagsingh detailed how goaltender reactions have been overhauled to keep up with the trend of big, tall netminders. Blocking-based saves using the shoulders and limbs have created new scoring scenarios for players.

“What’s interesting is we’re seeing lots of different rebound goals now because the puck is pure physics,” Ramjagsingh said.

Additionally, a new difficulty setting called Semi-Pro bridges the gap for players who aren’t quite ready for the upper AI tests but have progressed past Rookie level. It’s a welcome change, and perhaps one that will make me a better virtual hockey player.