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Gaming News

The Best Sports Video Game Of All Time

July 12, 2017 — by Kotaku.com0

The latest sports games are not always the best.

There’s an obsession with incremental changes and bullet-point features in the sports game scene, one which challenges fan’s ability to take a step back and assess each game as its own standalone title. It’s something I try and address in my own sports reviews on this site, and it’s something I’m taking to its logical conclusion here in this Quixotic attempt to pluck one game out of hundreds and call it the “best”.

Sports games by their nature don’t turn up for each new season as entirely fresh products. The economics of the industry have determined that they re-use the same engine and models for years at a time, which means the difference between them can often be limited to current uniforms, a few new features and some adjustments to ball physics. And those changes are usually influenced as much by fan feedback as they are by the development teams working on them.

So it’s tough looking at say Madden 17 as something entirely separate, since its creation was heavily influenced by the sales and reception of Madden 16, and it will in turn play a big part in how Madden 18 is designed. How do you pick one of those games and say, ok, THIS ONE is the best, when much of what made it great may have been inspired by—or come directly from—an entirely different video game?

Then you have to take into account the way sports games have changed their entire outlook over the last 20 years. In the 90s, series like FIFA and NBA Live were perfectly happy being fast, accessible, almost arcadey. Fast forward to today and advances in technology have turned blockbuster sports games into simulations, each one trying its hardest to replicate the on-field experience as best it can (or, if it can’t, then the broadcast experience instead). This makes direct comparisons between games in long-running series pretty damn hard!

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Making matters worse is that each sport is different, with its own set of fans, style of play and culture. What makes the #1 baseball game better than the #1 hockey game? Is football better than basketball?

……

I think I’ve found one way to compare all sports games, though, and as weird as it may sound at first, it’s through the one thing they all have in common. The one thing they’re more fixated upon than anything else, and which in many ways defines sports video games as their own distinct space in video games. And that’s content.

Every sports game is stingy. It’s possibly the most defining thing about the business, and is often the first thing that non-fans will mock. The genre’s business model is built entirely around balancing the need to make gamers happy with the game they just bought, but unhappy enough that they’ll turn around 12 months later and buy an incredibly similar product.

So after lingering over a short list of truly great sports games—Madden 2002, NBA 2K11, Pro Evolution 6, NBA Jam, NFL 2K5—I’ve settled the tie by going with one that wasn’t just a very good sports game in its own right, but one which decided to just say “fuck it” and give fans everything they could have wanted or needed for years to come, all in the one box.

That game is FIFA: Road to World Cup 98, as bizarre but beloved a major sports game as I think we’re ever going to see.

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At the time of its release in 1997, it was a damn fine football game. It had very flash polygonal visuals, audio commentary, all the things we’ve long associated as being hallmarks of the FIFA series. But it’s where the game went above and beyond what we expect of a sports game can include, whether at the time or today, that marks it as truly great.

INDOOR FOOTBALL – In addition to regular 11v11 football, FIFA 98 also included an entirely separate 5v5 indoor mode, with its own rules and conditions, like the fact the ball never went out of bounds. It was just as fun as the actual FIFA. Maybe more fun. And while it had actually been introduced in FIFA 97, the fact it stuck around in 98 when there was so much else in the box is one of the things that helped cement this game’s legacy.

AN ACTUAL WORLD CUP – The reason for the game’s longer title was the fact that the development team decided to include, alongside domestic leagues, the 1998 World Cup. Not just the finals in France, but the entire qualifying system as well. That meant over 170 nations and their squads made it into the game, an absolutely ridiculous number that literally represented every football-playing country on Earth at the time (modern FIFA games usually only include a few dozen). You could, if you wanted, play as one of the smallest nations on the planet, take them all the way through qualifying then win the tournament itself, a feat so monumental that after FIFA 98 it would only be seen again in standalone video games specifically made for World Cups.

The Cook Islands are not available in FIFA 17

CUSTOMISATION: Besides the 170+ national teams, there were almost 200 club sides included in the game as well. And you could customise the lot. Home kits, away kits, even a player’s appearance. I remember spending what must have been weeks tinkering with this, making sure that every major team’s kit matched its actual design, and that player haircuts had been accurately recreated. This wasn’t just useful in 1997, either; people were playing FIFA 98 for years to come because as 1998, then 1999 rolled around, you could just update the kit designs again.

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Here’s the most incredible thing about all this: FIFA 98 was so big it made another of EA’s own video games completely pointless. In addition to FIFA 98 (released in 1997), EA Sports had a game in development designed to cash in on the World Cup itself, due for release in early 1998. Simply called World Cup 1998, it had official branding throughout, from the tournament mascot to branded kits (a first for the series). But with only 40 teams, what was the point of buying it it when you could just fire up FIFA 98, edit some kits and enjoy much the same experience?

To get non-FIFA fans up to speed on just how crazy this was, it’s like NBA 2K18 shipping on four blu-rays, or the next MLB game deciding to include the entire Japanese and Korean pro leagues, just for one year, just for the hell of it.

This kind of thing just isn’t supposed to happen with sports games, because it gives fans everything they need to not buy your game the next year. Yet here we have, for one beautiful year, EA sports giving away the keys to the kingdom. Amongst the blur of year-to-year releases, FIFA 98’s largesse looms large like no other sports game’s inclusions ever have.

But it’s not just the excess content that’s helped FIFA 98 endure. Quantity would be nothing without quality, and the game includes several other series favourites, from the humble free kick arrow (still somehow superior to anything EA comes up with these days) to the ability to slide tackle a goalkeeper and get instantly sent off, which despite its punishment ranks as one of the most cathartic moves in all of video games.

Then there’s the matter of the game’s soundtrack, beginning with its intro, perhaps the most iconic in sports game history:

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Don’t let Blur’s cameo overshadow the game’s real musical hook, though, which is the fact much of the menu music was provided by The Crystal Method:

Sports games using popular music is nothing new today, but in 1997 it was a coup for FIFA (for reference, check out FIFA 97’s tragic attempts at hip-hop and rock). Indeed, you could trace the series’ current place on the pop culture landscape back to FIFA 98 and its soundtrack, which dared to suggest that, hey, maybe these sports video games can be cool.

In a world where sports games are and always have been seen as disposable, FIFA 98 stands apart. By including so many teams across such a breadth of competition, and allowing for such a degree of customisation, people were able to dig in and play it not just throughout 1997, but well into the next few years as well.

Even today, when the FIFA series is known as much for its licensing as it is its football and has over 20 years of experience under its belt, you’ll find fans still talking about FIFA 98 in reverent tones. Amazing what some decent music, tiny teams and the ability to let try and murder a goalkeeper will do to a fanbase…


The Bests are Kotaku’s picks for the best things on (or off) the internet.

Gaming News

The Best Prime Day Deals That Are Already Available

July 10, 2017 — by Kotaku.com0

Amazon Prime Day 2018 starts at 3PM ET on July 16, but as per usual, Amazon has already started rolling out a few select deals that Prime members can take advantage of right now.

Be sure to bookmark this page for updates throughout the big day and its leadup, and follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates on the sales that just can’t wait. You can also subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on Facebook, and join their community driven Facebook deal-finding group for the web’s best deal coverage all year ‘round.

Early Access Deals

Love to read but don’t have the time to sit down and actually read a book? Sign up for Amazon’s audiobook service, Audible for 66% less than usual during their Prime Day promotion.

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For a limited time, Prime members can get three months of the service for $5 each, down from the usual $15. That entitles you to a new book of your choice each month, and everything you buy is yours to keep, even if you cancel after the three month promotional period ends. The offer is available to new subscribers only.


At $8 per month for Prime members, Amazon Music Unlimited was already more affordable than Spotify Premium or Apple Music, but Amazon’s sweetening the pot for new members by offering four months for just $1, for a limited time.

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This is by far the best deal they’ve ever offered on the service, so if you’re a Prime member but haven’t signed up for Music Unlimited before, what’s $.25 per month to try it out?


Amazon’s pulling out all the stops to promote Prime Pantry in the lead up to Prime Day, so you should cancel your next trip to the grocery store and stack the digital discounts while you can.

There are a few things going on here:

Prime-Only Product Discounts

A number of Prime Pantry items have these types of banners on their pages. They’re a little tough to spot, and you won’t see the final price until checkout, but the savings are often significant. You can find a list of some of the discounts here, but I’m not sure it’s exhaustive.

$10 off $40 With Code PANTRY

To get this discount, you’ll need one of Amazon’s new Prime Pantry memberships, which gets you unlimited free shipping on $40 Pantry orders for $5 per month, rather than paying $8 per box. It does come with a 30 day free trial though, so you can sign up during this promotional period, and cancel before you’re charged. Just use promo code PANTRY at checkout to get the deal.

Buy 5, Save $6

This deal is always available on a rotating array of items through Prime Pantry, but it stacks with the deals above. Just buy any five items from this page, and you’ll get $6 off at checkout.

Free Honey Nut Cheerios

Just add this family-sized box of Honey Nut Cheerios to any $40 box, and you’ll get it for free at checkout.

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To test all of these deals, I signed up for a Pantry membership trial, and added the Honey Nut Cheerios and five packs of Brawny paper towels (which have a 30% Prime discount and count towards the $6 off promo) to my cart. That’s my checkout screen in the photo above. Look at all those damn discounts! The Amazon Move promo is only on there because I’m moving right now and it was attached to my account, but otherwise, these deals are available to everyone. Why would you schlep to the grocery store?


As part of their Prime Day early access deals, Amazon’s taking up to 20% off a bunch of AmazonBasics stuff right now for Prime members.

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The selection here is…eclectic, with options ranging from medicine balls, to kitchen shelves, to flatware, to luggage, to a shredder, to a headboard, and a whole lot more. With few exceptions, AmazonBasics stuff is well made an an excellent value, and that’s even more true than usual with this sale. Just note that you’ll only see the deal prices if you’re logged into an Amazon Prime account.


Wear your love of Twitch on your sleeve…or your leggings, onesies, tank tops, or romperjacks. In preparation of Prime Day, Prime members can clip a 50% coupon on a bunch of Twitch-themed merchandise for a limited time. Just pick your product, select your size, then clip the 50% coupon to get the discount at checkout.


Rack up 20% off a whole bunch of laundry essentials from this early Prime Day sale. The sale has everyone’s favorite Tide Pods in a few flavors scents, plus dryer sheets, fabric softeners, scent boosters, and more.

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Some items require you to hit the check box on the product page to redeem the coupon, while others will automatically take the 20% off. Just remember, you won’t see the discount until checkout. And as always, you can save a little more if you Subscribe & Save, and have the freedom to cancel your subscription at anytime after your first order ships.


If you missed the one-day Echo sales last week, Amazon’s once again taking $100 off the Echo Show today, bringing it $20 below its previous all-time low. You can read Gizmodo’s review if you want to learn more, but it turns out Alexa would have benefitted from a visual component all along


You might find some redecorating inspiration from Amazon’s big sale on its furniture and home decor brands, Rivet and Stone & Beam.

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Everything is up to 25% off, which is some serious savings on some of the more expensive furniture pieces and rugs. Jillian just bought a Rivet couch and loves it. I like these old school map prints, this teal rug, and this leather love seat. To start finding stuff for your house, head over to Amazon.


Kindle Unlimited is basically Netflix for ebooks and audiobooks, and Amazon’s offering a very rare discount on the service today. You’ll get your first three months for just $1, after which you’ll be automatically billed the regular $10 per month, unless you cancel. If you love to read, this is a great chance to sample the service without fully committing. The deal is exclusive to new Kindle Unlimited subscribers.


If you live in a city with Amazon’s same-day Prime Now delivery service, but haven’t gotten around to using it yet, they’re running a fantastic promotion for new members to celebrate the lead-up to Prime Day.

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For a limited time, you can save $10 on your first Prime Now order with promo code 20PRIMEDAY, and then automatically receive an additional $10 credit to use before the end of the month on another order. This deal requires you to spend at least $10.01 per order, so you can basically pay a penny (not including tip and taxes) to get snacks, ice cream, household essentials, and more delivered to front door. This year’s options are greater than ever, with the discount available on anything ordered from Amazon or Whole Foods Market (excluding alcohol, digital content, and any ordered placed using Alexa).

If the name doesn’t make it clear, you’ll need to be a Prime member to take advantage of Prime Now, but you can sign up for a 30 day free trial here.


Amazon’s really ramping up the deals this week in preparation for Prime Day. You can save on a whole bunch of Amazon’s own brands of food, beauty, coffee, vitamins, and more. If you’re looking for some suggestions, I’d check out these laundry detergent packs, and this wide selection of coffee. Most of these products are at all-time lows, so get to shopping.