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‘Madden’, ‘NBA 2K’ and racing games highlight fall sports games season

"NHL 18" adds arcade-style NHL Threes mode to the franchise. Photo Credit: EA Sports

The annual autumn deluge of sports video games is nearly here. Beginning with Friday’s marquee release of “Madden NFL 18,” — which amNewYork gave three out of four stars — more than a dozen sports and racing titles will be released for home consoles before the holidays.

Here’s a look at some of the most notable releases the rest of the year, grouped by sport. (Scheduled release date in parentheses)

Basketball

2K Games’ “NBA 2K18” (Sept. 19) will have some competition for the first time in awhile as EA Sports’ “NBA Live 18” (Sept. 15) hits the market. The “2K” series has reigned critically and commercially in the basketball sim space for years, while “Live” has released only three times since 2009.

“2K” promises improvements to its vaunted visuals, as well as shooting, passing and MyGM mode. “Live” adds solo mode The One, which focuses on both NBA and street league play, in addition to on-court upgrades and the introduction of WNBA players and teams.

Soccer

Both EA Sports’ “FIFA 18” (Sept. 29) and Konami’s “Pro Evolution Soccer 2018” (Sept. 12) are the latest editions to highly-praised franchises.

“FIFA” returns The Journey mode with a continuation of last year’s narrative. It also touts improvements to stadium lighting and player faces to improve on-pitch atmosphere, as well as team-specific tactics.

As for “PES,” new Master League puts players in the shoes of a manager. This game, too, boasts improved in-game visuals and tweaks throughout the experience.

The ongoing battle between the two franchises remains fierce, and it will be interesting to see which game comes out on top this fall.

Hockey

On-ice action lacks a competitive foil for EA Sports’ “NHL 18” (Sept. 15), but several changes and additions are coming to the major hockey franchise.

The new NHL Threes mode offers arcade-style action similar to the classic “NBA Jam,” albeit less over-the-top. The core game receives new offensive options intended to mimic what young stars such as cover athlete Connor McDavid can do with the puck.

Golf

A descendant of the “Hot Shots Golf” franchise, “Everybody’s Golf” (Aug. 29) from Sony isn’t a grounded sim like the aforementioned titles or EA Sports’ “PGA Tour” series. Its visuals are more cartoony, and it offers distractions such as course exploration using golf carts and even fishing.

Character creation and persistent online play would point to a more customized and interactive experience than what’s usually found in a golf video game.

Pro wrestling

WWE is not a competitive sports league but rather a source of entertainment. Still, wrestling games like 2K Games’ “WWE 2K18” (Oct. 17) always feel similar to sports titles.

New to the franchise is Road to Glory mode, which pits players’ custom MyPLAYER wrestlers against one other. As is often the case for new “WWE 2K” series entries, improved visuals and more wrestlers are promised in the package this year. The Creation Suite will be more robust with the addition of Create-a-Match.

Winter sports

“Steep,” last year’s release from Ubisoft, continues to receive support in the form of a digital expansion. “Steep: Road to the Olympics” (Dec. 5) comes out two months before the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

New to the experience are events such as super-G, skicross and slalom, plus Olympics visuals throughout on the athletes, and environments. This may be as close as console gamers get to an Olympics game this time around.

Racing

The racing subgenre has a bevy of options this fall, and fall into three classifications.

Codemasters’ “F1 2017” (Friday) and 704Games’ “NASCAR Heat 2” (Sept. 12) are based on real-world racing leagues. Fans of open-wheel racing can expect the return of classic Formula One cars as well as alternate track layouts. NASCAR faithful will find the additions of the lower-tier racing series to the marquee stock car circuit, plus local split-screen multiplayer.

In the hyper-real subclass, Sony’s “Gran Turismo Sport” (Oct. 17) and Microsoft’s “Forza Motorsport 7” (Oct. 3) are exclusive to competing consoles. “GT Sport,” which was delayed from last year, supports PlayStation VR and aims to break into the eSports circuit. “Forza” touts an incredible 700 cars and is poised to be a linchpin for the launch of the souped-up Xbox One X.

Need for Speed Payback” (Nov. 10) from Electronic Arts is more narrative-based, and gameplay footage points to a game less focused on checkered flags and more on Hollywood-style driving action.

Console availability

For the most part, every game mentioned is available only on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. There are exceptions, and in some cases alternate console versions vary from the core PS4/XB1 editions:

Exclusive to PS4: “Everybody’s Golf” and “Gran Turismo Sport”

Exclusive to XB1 and Windows PC: “Forza Motorsport 7”

Also on Windows PC: “F1 2017,” “Pro Evolution Soccer 2018,” “NASCAR Heat 2,” “NBA 2K18,” “FIFA 18,” “Forza Motorsport 7,” “Need for Speed Payback” and “Steep: Road to the Olympics”

Also on Nintendo Switch: “NBA 2K18,” “FIFA 18” and “WWE 2K18”

Also on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360: “Pro Evolution Soccer 2018,” “NBA 2K18” and“FIFA 18”

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