Competition is clearly lacking among NFL games, and with the once-mighty NBA Live on hold this year, you won't find dueling basketball titles on store shelves until 2012.
FIFA 12 (EA Sports)
The battle between EA's FIFA series and Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer has raged for the better part of a decade, and while it might not be quite as intense as the upcoming fight between blockbuster shooters Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3, it's still one that has high stakes. Both games are big moneymakers for their publishers (FIFA, in fact, is more profitable than Madden due to its global appeal and lower licensing costs) — and for the first time in their history, the new games hit U.S. stores the same day this year: Sept. 27.
But which is best for you?
If you follow the critics, it's FIFA. "After playing FIFA 12, going back to previous entries in the series seems almost unimaginable," says Eurogamer in a glowing review. "It's another step closer to reality, and this time it's a very welcome one." Most other reviewers agree, giving the game an impressing 92 rating on Metacritic.
However, GamePro argues that "no two matches -- even between the same teams -- ever feel quite the same, and it's that element of surprise that just might, at least offline, make Pro Evolution my go-to soccer game this season." Unfortunately, its solid 81 Metacritic rating doesn't quite light the goal posts on fire.
Looking beyond the numbers, it's clear that both games have done some heavy polishing this year. FIFA 12 ratchets up the realism, adding tactical defending, more precise dribbling and an update of the career mode, meaning players will be able to live out story lines from real-world events. Player morale and mood swings also play a role in the game, as they did in this year's Madden. FIFA has also added the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps to its already comprehensive team lineup.
Pro Evo focuses a bit more on under-the-hood fixes, boosting the artificial intelligence, game speed and character animations. It does offer one new feature that could excite fans: The Teammate Control system, which allows you to control a secondary player, letting him shake off defenders to find an optimal (and ideally wide-open) spot on the field before calling for the ball.
Graphically, the edge seems to go to FIFA once again. The game's online mode is also winning praise, but critics are pointing out that the game rarely calls fouls and there's not a lot of variety in goal scoring.
Pro Evo, meanwhile, once again suffers from its lack of licensing (EA holds exclusive rights to MLS and several second division leagues). That's a major stumbling block, as is the fact that the game isn't quite as smooth looking at FIFA. Pro Evo makes up for that with its artificial intelligence, though. Players defend smarter and react quickly to events around them.
If you're looking at sheer numbers, though, expect FIFA to top the charts, as it has historically. Life to date, EA's favorite franchise has sold over 100 million copies. Pro Evolution Soccer, meanwhile, has to settle for 70 million.