Review of FIFA ‘20 — Where the street is named VOLTA

The whistle has blown, and it’s once again time to lace up the cleats and jugar futbol.  EA Sports’ global juggernaut in FIFA has hit the pitch for the 27th time, and while it’s certainly not completely different from its predecessor, it does include a handful of obligatory refinements, not to mention a throwback to its spin-off series.  Do these new features make FIFA ’20 worth the $60 price of admission? Let’s dust off our vuvuzelas and find out.

You held the world in your arms

This iteration’s most hyped-up feature is a mode that replaces the Journey mode from the last three games.  Known as VOLTA Football, this mode is essentially a callback to the FIFA Street series.  The two teams have 3-5 players apiece, and you get to choose whether or not the match has goalies and walls.  The pitches are set in some of the world’s most famous cities, and they come with commentary spoken in the native languages.  If you prefer matches that emphasize showmanship over teamwork, this mode is tailor-made for you.

Don’t worry, the VOLTA mode isn’t the only addition to this year’s game.  The ball physics, penalty kicks, and free kicks have been given some tweaks, making the on-pitch action more fluid than ever.  The Mystery Ball and King of the Hill match types are now not only in single games, but in Ultimate Team as well.  The offline career mode has been updated quite heavily, featuring interactive press conferences and player convos, the ability to fully customize your created manager, and a very streamlined user interface.

I am just a copy of a…

Despite facing the usual tough competition from Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer, EA Sports’ globally-iconic FIFA series continues to nail its headers and volleys.  Whether you prefer team-based strategy or fancy footwork when it comes to how you play soccer games, this installment won’t disappoint you.

Review of NHL ’20 — Once again rockin’ the rink

Ever since lacing up the skates back in 1991, EA Sports has been dominating the NHL videogame market.  Despite facing tough competition in the past, the publishing powerhouse has buried many slapshots with its laundry list of modes, accessible controls, and hard-hitting gameplay.  With that being said, what does NHL ’20, the 29th game in EA’s iconic hockey series, bring to the table (Or to the rink, rather)? No highly-drastic changes per se, but it has indeed done a noticeable amount of juggling to the lines.

Is it October yet?

With the help of RPM Tech, the skating is even tighter, and the shooting has been revamped for the purpose of recreating the shots you see from big names like Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, P.K. Subban, etc. But even if your player is highly adept at shooting, scoring is more difficult thanks to the heavily-improved goalie intelligence.  In terms of additions to the existing game modes, Ultimate Team now has Squad Battles, and the Ones mode is set up as an 81-player bracketed tournament (Which is basically the NHL version of your typical battle-royale shooter).

The graphics haven’t changed much except for the retooled broadcast package, which includes new scoreboards and a heavily-tweaked highlight reel system.  We also get a new commentary team in James Cybulski and Ray Ferraro, who are occasionally joined by celebrities such as Drake.  Music-wise, this isn’t one of my favorite NHL game soundtracks, but it does have popular artists like Silversun Pickups and Motionless in White.

I AM a hockey player

I definitely wouldn’t consider NHL ’20 to be a completely different game from its predecessor, but the longtime hockey fan in me is more than satisfied with the refinements that the folks at EA Sports have implemented.  Whether you’re a newcomer to the series or you’ve been along for the ride since the Genesis days, this game won’t disappoint you.  Ready to rock-y? Let’s play some hockey!

Review of Madden NFL ’20 — Leather or laces?

For the kids, August means it’s time to go back to school.  But for fans of sports games, August means it’s time for another game of virtual pigskin.  The 30th iteration of EA Sports’ iconic Madden NFL franchise has stepped onto the gridiron, bringing with it some obligatory tweaks and things that might remind you of features from older titles.  So without further ado, let’s take the field and discuss where Madden ’20 completes its passes and where it loses a few yards.

Commander in Kansas City Chiefs

This year, the folks at EA heavily hyped up how much more important each of the teams’ star players are in terms of their stats and statistics, meaning that the difference between them and lesser-known players is bigger than ever.  That might sound like a weird thing to advertise regarding sports games, but it’s not something to sneeze at.  On the field, the controls for things like catching and blocking are tighter than they were last year.  As for game modes, one has been added/brought back and one has been sacked.  The “Longshot” mode has been replaced by “Face of the Franchise: QB1.” After the College Football Playoff, you enter the NFL Draft and it’s on from there.  This mode is basically supposed to bring back memories of the “Superstar” mode that has been absent since Madden 25.  Also, this mode includes ten officially-licensed NCAA teams, which might be foreshadowing a future return of the NCAA Football series (I ain’t gonna bank on that, though).  Unfortunately, existing modes like Franchise and Ultimate Team haven’t had any highly-noticeable upgrades, but at least they’re not broken or unrefined.

The Colts of personality

Not much has changed within the graphics engine, but the animations and physics look a lot smoother than they did last year.  What stood out to more than the graphics was the much-improved chatter from all the players on the field.  Another change with the audio is that the soundtrack only contains songs specifically composed for the game by a variety of well-known artists.  It’s mainly full of rap, which isn’t my favorite genre, but you’ll be satisfied if that’s your cup of tea.

Don’t get mad, get Madden

It may hit the uprights here and there, but Madden ’20 is still a fun game of football that manages to complete the passes that matter.  Whether you’re an adamant sports gamer or a member of a family of football diehards, this year’s installment is another well-produced dose of gridiron goodness for both newbies and veterans of what is probably the most influential franchise in all of sports games.

Review of EA Sports UFC 3 – The Octagon awaits

Like the NFL, the NFLPA, and FIFA, the Ultimate Fighting Championship only allows one company at a time to develop videogames with their licensing; And ever since THQ sold their ownership of said license as if they were preparing for their upcoming filing of bankruptcy, the world heavyweight champion of sports games in Electronic Arts has been sharpening what they started with 2010’s EA Sports MMA, releasing three games with the UFC branding on top of that.  EA’s first two UFC games may have lost by split-decision due to flaws with the replay value and the combat; But with years of  tweaks to the controls, animations, career mode, and overall depth of the package, EA Sports UFC 3 is a terrific combat-sports game that’s worthy of a title shot.

Kick! Punch! It’s all in the mind!

If you’re a fan of combat sports and/or fighting games but don’t really know what mixed martial arts (MMA) is, it’s a sport in which the combatants utilize fighting styles that they train in; Wrestling, kickboxing, judo, etc. UFC is the NFL of this sport, so it makes sense to have videogames with its logo on the boxes.  And what does UFC have in common with EA? They have a knack for buying out smaller companies.  But enough about business and money, let’s talk about the game itself.

UFC 3 isn’t a pick-up-and-play fighter like Super Smash Bros., but it’s not as complex as Street Fighter (Unless you consider stamina meters to be complex).  The face buttons are for strikes, the triggers are for blocking (The left is also used for body strikes), the bumpers are for signature and technical strikes, the right stick is used for moving your head, and there are takedowns and strike combos too numerous to name.  When clinching or fighting on the ground, the right stick lets you change your position.  And while on the ground, you can press the right bumper and move said stick to initiate a submission, which is once again contested with a love-it-or-hate-it stick-moving minigame.  It may seem like this fighting system has too much to learn, but experienced combatants will get used to it in a short time.  Not only does the game control very well, but the graphics and animations are very realistic-looking thanks to EA’s Real Player Motion Tech.

A dojo of depth

Being a sports game, UFC 3 comes with a career mode, and it’s a huge improvement over the career mode in the game’s predecessor.  Instead of participating in The Ultimate Fighter, your MMA journey starts off in the World Fighting Alliance, where you compete in several fights in an attempt to be offered a UFC contract.  However, this mode isn’t just a bunch of fights one after another; You schedule fights, select where to train, choose what your training exercises are, do favors for your gym, and you can even interact with fans and competitors in person and on social media.  The goal between each fight is not only to upgrade your skills and attract the attention of fans, but also to make sure you don’t work too hard or too little before you step into the Octagon.  The folks at EA have provided a hefty set of tools that really make you feel like you’re living the life of a professional mixed martial artist.

As for where the fights in the game take place, UFC 3 features a handful of licensed arenas from all over the world, from the Saitama Super Arena to Madison Square Garden.  But much larger than the number of arenas is the number of fighters.  Over 200 fighters make up the game’s roster, including big names like Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier, and CM Punk.  There’s also a very tight create-a-fighter mode, where you customize everything about your fighter from the moveset to the entrance music.

If you’ve got some fellow MMA fans in the room (And possibly some Digiorno pizza and Pepsi Cola), you’ll be very satisfied with the game’s multiplayer options.  Aside from standard fights, UFC 3 also has match types called Knockout Mode, Stand & Bang, and Submission Shootout.  You can even set up your own match cards and tournaments that can be played both solo and with additional players.

Not only does the game feel and look like UFC, but it certainly sounds like it too.  Jon Anik and Joe Rogan are at the microphone to provide reasonably good commentary, although you can listen to Snoop Dogg during Knockout Mode matches if you wish.  And of course, there are many voice lines to hear from the Octagon announcer Bruce Buffer and even the UFC referees that agreed to be in the game.  The music gets the job done as well, with the soundtrack featuring EA-composed songs, stock music, and a handful of record-label tracks ranging from A$AP Ferg to the Killers.

Being an EA Sports game, UFC 3 once again features an Ultimate Team mode as its primary online mode, where you create fighters and build up their skills by taking on your fellow players.  The  microtransactions will no doubt be a turn-off to certain gamers, but the mode itself is not broken by any means and can be well worth the money if you know what you’re doing and what to expect.  You can also invite an online friend into a private lobby and compete in a mini-series of fights, just like other EA Sports titles.

Into the main event

It’s not perfect, but this is another solid MMA game and a must-have for big fans of the sport.  It will even appeal to fans of fighting games in general thanks to the arcade-like multiplayer minigames that are featured.  If you want a reasonably realistic experience as to what being an MMA fighter is all about, you cannot go wrong with the deep and tight fighter that is EA Sports UFC 3.  The Octagon is calling your name.

Review of NASCAR Kart Racing – Mario Kart meets America’s premier motorsport

Have you ever had one of those times where you tried to make a combination of two good things just because they were good things? Like pizza with vanilla ice cream in place of cheese, or maybe a burger with whipped cream? No need to lie, I’m sure we’ve all done something like that.  I tried to combine two sodas a few times; Some called it tasty, some called it disgusting.  I know I’m reminiscing about something weird, and I know I’m doing it in a game review instead of a Tumblr blog, but I feel it is necessary to talk about the practice of combining good things for the sake of making another good thing, because NASCAR Kart Racing is exactly that.

Rubbin’ is…Well, you know

Released in February of 2009 exclusively for the Wii, NASCAR Kart Racing is, as you can probably already tell, a kid-friendly arcade racing game with drivers and tracks from the NASCAR motorsport.  It’s actually quite similar to Mario Kart because of its emphasis on using items to slow down or distract other drivers.  Aside from the usual turbo boosts, missiles, and oil slick, the game has a few weapons that make it unique.  The “Your Ad Here” item triggers a moving billboard that obscures your opponents’ vision.   There is also a yellow flag you can deploy to slow everyone else down.

One other thing that makes NASCAR Kart Racing stand out is the concept of having a teammate.  When driving near the teammate of your choosing, your boost meter begins filling up; You can then use boost to slingshot past your rivals.  You can also earn boost by grinding against an opposing driver; Boosting while doing so will send them spinning.

Right off the truck

In true arcade-racer fashion, the campaign mode is split up into 12 series, which consist of races and minigames.  Clearing a race is done by finishing 1st or finishing 2nd behind your teammate.  The minigames involve things like boosting and powersliding.  It’ll probably take about four hours to unlock every one of the 12 tracks and 24 drivers.

The game also features a challenge mode where you play minigames and try to earn trophies.  It could take even more hours and hundreds of tries to complete every objective, which is probably worth it if you have a humongous urge to 100% clear the game.

A garage of licensees

Being that this is a NASCAR game, fans will want to see some real drivers and tracks.  Along with 10 fictional drivers, there are 14 NASCAR drivers to choose from, ranging from rookie Joey Logano to legends like Richard Petty and Jeff Gordon.

The track list is kind of thin, but each track is unique and fun.  Four crazy remakes of Daytona, Bristol, Talladega, and Dover are included as well as eight fictional tracks that take place in junkyards, cities, canyons, and even on an aircraft carrier.  All 12 tracks feature some very high jumps as well as tight turns that require quick hands and great powersliding skills.

Checkers and wreckers

Even if you’re not a NASCAR fan, you can still have fun blasting through these wacky tracks and collecting every trophy.  And with four-player split-screen racing, the fun and lasting appeal are nearly endless.  The bottom line here is that if you like Mario Kart, you can’t go wrong with NASCAR Kart Racing.  Ladies, gentlemen, and gamers of all ages, start your engines.