There's often not much to choose between sports titles, such is the annual nature of the genre, but there were a few surprises in 2010 to be found. First of all, the fight between PES and FIFA proved to be much closer than that in 2008 and 2009, with Konami implementing some brilliant new features and EA reminding everyone that football is a contact sport. It's difficult to mention sports games in the past twelve months too without acknowledging motion control. Both PS Move and Kinect enjoyed popular sports collections upon release, putting a slightly new spin on things and creating new possibilities for the fitness game niche in the process.
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EA managed to capture the beauty and grace of the Beautiful Game, but its grazes and grit too with this effort. There were bugs and niggles here and there, but by and large FIFA 2011 impressed with its new-found physicality, new Career mode and typically outstanding presentation.
Even if you’d already got FM2010 you'd have done well investing in this year’s FM title. It had more depth than ever but proved itself to be by far the most approachable Football Manager to date. With its constant chatter, superb feedback and improved profiling, it was certainly the most ‘human’ game of the series to date and all the better for it.
Not many people beat EA in their own back yard, but NBA 2K11 actually managed to kill off the competition by being phenomenally good. Bolstered by a handy deal with Michael Jordan, NBA 2K11 built upon its predecessor's successes with little tweaks and improvements to offer a seminal basketball simulation experience. Ridiculously good.
Of course if sports simulation didn't float your boat, the return of a much loved classic ensured that there was an alternative. That EA managed to capture the essence and spirit of Midway's fantastically fun original was a towering feat. Stuffed with new modes and some brilliant extras, getting into the Jam was absolutely one of the highlights of the year. A triumphant return.
PES 2011 was a cause for celebration. After a couple of years in the wilderness, the Pro Evolution Soccer franchise returned with new vigour, new polish and - surprisingly - new gameplay elements. For the first time in a little while, the FIFA vs PES battle was a seriously close-run thing an there was still little to rival the twists and turns of the Master League.
The first essential title for Sony’s new PlayStation Move, Sports Champions' took full advantage of the new device's accuracy. Breathing new life into a genre of yearly increments, Sports Champions was a thrillingly well realised launch title for the PS Move, and boatloads of fun too.
Winner: Football Manager 2011
The FIFA/PES divide so split the office in two that a new winner arrived seemingly out of left-field, but Sports Interactive's exam/work/marriage-ruining series was once again on fine form this year. It's testament to their skill that every year the competition looks to best them with large overhauls and plentiful new additions - and, in fairness, its Championship Manager counterpart marked the highest point for the series since the great divide - but SI are always a step ahead. So addictive I literally had to wipe it from my hard drive and throw the case out of the window.