As part of our ongoing preview of the BAFTA Video Game Awards, today we’ll be looking at the games nominated in the Sports category and once again we’ll offer our tip for the award as well as an honourable mention for a game which didn’t make the list.FIFA ’09 (EA Sports)Having played second fiddle to Konami’s Pro Evo for far too long, EA resolved to overhaul the FIFA franchise a couple of years ago. While FIFA ’08 made some cautious steps forward, the latest iteration of the game marks the high point of the series. Not only does FIFA ’09 offer the most realistic and in-depth game of football on the market, its new Be a Pro Seasons mode added a whole new RPG, stat-building dimension to the football sim. Oh, and you can play 10 v 10 online. Football Manager 2009 (Sega/Sports Interactive)The latest instalment in the FM series was the first to introduce a full 3D match engine into the equation. While we had grown to love the top-down action in previous FM games, watching the matches in full screen 3D is a much more engaging experience. Add this to SI’s obsessive attention to detail and you have the best management sim bar none. MotorStorm Pacific Rift (Sony/ Evolution Studios)Evolution certainly listened to MotorStorm fans when crafting the sequel and Pacific Rift was definitely an improvement. A wider range of tracks and the addition of a split-screen multiplayer mode were more than welcome but while the game’s premise is exciting (multiple vehicle classes in the same race), repetitive gameplay and infuriating difficulty spikes prevented it from being a real racing contender. Pure (Disney/ Black Rock Studios)When Black Rock pitched its idea for Pure, there must have been some furrowed brows in the room. You want to combine off-road racing with SSX Tricky? Well, Black Rock managed it and the result is a joy to play. Swiping the boost/trick mechanic from Tricky and adding it to a racer was an inspired idea and Pure was deservedly well-received all round.
Race Driver: GRID (Codemasters)
No stranger to the world of racing games, Codemasters brought its successful TOCA formula to the latest generation of consoles with GRID. Like its predecessors, GRID is a near-perfect balance of arcade and simulation and Codies even managed to eliminate the frustration of crashing out on the final lap with the new Flashback feature.
Wii Fit (Nintendo)
Who needs 1080p and anti-aliasing when you’ve got innovative gameplay and a fierce marketing team? Not Nintendo that’s for sure as Wii Fit has sat atop the UK charts for so long I’m not even sure why other publishers bother to release games. Wii Fit’s quirky balance board gameplay and healthy living connotations have secured its enduring popularity and the game is evidence of Nintendo’s startlingly clever new direction. But, is it enough of a game to take the award?IncGamers’ Winner
The nominations for the Sports Award contain less “eh?” moments than the Action/Adventure category but we’d still have to question the inclusion of MotorStorm and, possibly, Wii Fit. Anyone who’s read our best of 2008 feature will probably guess which way this is going, but we have to back FIFA ’09 for the sports award. Not only did EA rebuild its own franchise from the ground up, it also attempted to push the genre forward with some truly innovative ideas. And, what’s more, it succeeded. Now, who’d have thought we’d be saying that about EA a few years ago?
Now we’ve got Peter Moore onside we’d like to go one step further and nominate NHL ’09 for our honourable mention (I do accept PayPal, Peter). Like its football counterpart, EA’s latest hockey release followed the same innovative approach. With the amazing new Be a Pro career mode, overhauled checking engine and added right-stick-trickery, NHL ’09 is not only the best hockey game on the market, it’s one of the best sports games. However, we British aren’t as familiar with the sport as our American chums so we can just about forgive BAFTA for overlooking it. The British Academy Video Games Awards will take place on Tuesday 10 March at the London Hilton, Park Lane and will be hosted by Dara O’Briain.