This year, March will come in like a lion and go out as an even bigger lion, an angry lion with gnashing teeth and slashing claws--claws full of great sports games. On the heels of the video game baseball rush, just in time for spring training in the real MLB, we've got yet another gaming-device launch ahead of us this month: the Sony PSP. Unlike the Nintendo DS, however, Sony's handheld will actually have a nice lineup of sports games right out of the launch-day box. In fact, the overwhelming majority of launch games for the all-in-one gaming device will be sports games, which means we have a very busy month of gaming ahead of us, especially toward the end of the month.
Of course, the start of March won't be too shabby either, with a certain pugilistic paradise set to hit store shelves, along with the third baseball game of the year. And rounding out this month's list, we'll see the return of wrestling in celebration of the biggest WWE Pay-Per-View event of the year, WrestleMania XXI. So shed those winter coats and scarves, get those thumbs warmed up, and get ready for a springtime monthlong dose of handheld mayhem, in our look at the sports games of March.
Week of 2/27/2005
Fight Night Round 2 (Xbox, PS2, GC)
Technically this one is shipping on the last day of February, but because it won't be available in stores until March 1, we're including it here. Certainly one of the most visually arresting sports games in recent memory, EA's Fight Night Round 2 has a lot of things going right in its corner, including a big lineup of boxing stars from all weight divisions, improved commentary from last year's game, and game mechanics that are easy to pick up and as flexible as your boxing imagination. And certainly there are few things cooler than watching blood spew out of the mouth of an opponent after rocking his grill with a southpaw haymaker. It just doesn't get much better than that.
MLB 2006 (PS2)
As of this writing, there's still some question over whether MLB 2006 will hit in March or be delayed until next month. With MVP Baseball 2005 and MLB 2K5 both out of the gates early in the race for hardball supremacy, the game already has some catching up to do. This isn't news for the plucky baseball series, which has been the diamond in the middling Sony developer's sports lineup for some time now. The big news for this season will be an improved pitching meter and a different take on the game's fielding mechanics, which will take into account fielding statistics and player skill to a much greater degree. Finally, big ups to the game for having Vlad the Impaler, the backbone of our fantasy baseball team for years now, on its cover.
Ford Racing 3 (Xbox, PS2)
You know that old Ford-vs.-Chevy debate that people in the 1950s and 1960s used to have? "You'll pry this Mustang's steering wheel out of my cold dead hands!" "Only commies drive Chevys!" No? Neither do we. But trust us, people used to get really fired up about things like that. It was practically the PS2-vs.-Xbox argument of that generation, like system wars for old people. Anyhow, Ford Racing 3 is a game devoted purely to enthusiasts of the blue oval brand, the crowd that finds no better pleasure than tearing around 14 tracks and three arenas in an F-150 or a Ford Focus. The game was recently picked up by Take-Two, which is busy snapping up sports titles left and right these days
Week of 3/06/2005
Rugby 2005 (Xbox, PS2)
Did you ever see that episode of Friends where Ross goes to play rugby with his English girlfriend's buddies and ends up a broken, squealing mess? "Red Ross!" We're sure the same thing would happen to us if we ever found ourselves tangled in a real rugby scrum. Our flabby American bodies and weak constitutions just wouldn't be able to cut it. Plus, we get nosebleeds when we run. Luckily Rugby 2005 will give us an alternative to real physical activity. The latest in EA's series will give fans of rucks and tries a thrill with a number of different tournament options and a create-a-player mode. Fans new to the game will appreciate the game's detailed introduction to rugby.
Week of 3/13/2005
FIFA Soccer (PSP)
February turned out to be a busy month for footy fans with games like Winning Eleven 8 International and EA Sports Big's FIFA Street tackling retail stores. EA will return to the more traditional side of the FIFA license in March with this soccer game for the Sony PSP. The good news is that the game will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played a console or PC FIFA game before, as the controls and gameplay mechanics are virtually identical. The bad news is that even on the PSP's generously sized screen, you'll probably have a hard time recognizing your favorite soccer stars.
Frankly we're not sure if this game even exists. The movie on which The Fast and the Furious is based came out in 2001. A sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, was made two years later. And while the mobile game 2 Fast 2 Furious came out in February, we haven't seen anything substantial on The Fast and The Furious since our last hands-on preview, which was run in mid-2003. Finally, neither EBgames.com nor Gamestop.com lists this product on their upcoming-games list. In the interest of optimism and our never-ending quest to provide you with up-to-the-minute information on the career of movie actor Paul Walker, we're hoping this game finds its way onto retail shelves in both a fast and a furious manner.
Pokémon Dash (DS)
Week of 3/20/2005
Sony's imaginatively titled basketball game should be one of the sports highlights of the PSP launch if only because, like Gretzky NHL and MLB, the game will be online-enabled right out of the box. That fact alone is enough to get our blood pumping, but, based on our time with the game, it looks like NBA will feature some solid game mechanics and a stylized look--especially during big dunks--that will give the game its own sense of flair.
Ridge Racer (PSP)
It wouldn't be a Sony launch without a Ridge Racer game, right? The stalwart arcade racing series will make its debut bolstering the PSP's racing lineup in much the same way it bolstered the Nintendo DS launch. Taking full advantage of the gaming system's wireless multiplayer feature, Ridge Racer will let up to eight players get their speed on while racing on any of the game's 20-plus tracks. It's also one of the better-looking PSP launch games of the bunch, combining delectable car models, dramatic lighting, and a tremendous sense of speed.
NFL Street 2 Unleashed (PSP)
No matter the sport, EA Sports Big's Street series is essentially about style; and not the Armani and Versace brands of style. Rather, the Street franchise, here making its NFL debut on the PSP, is about stylish moves, outlandish trick plays, and generally humiliating your opponent as much as possible. With only seven players on each side of the ball, the game promises to look and play pretty quick as well. Looking to play some pigskin with a friend or two? NFL Street 2 will let you take advantage of the wireless multiplayer features inherent in the PSP or pass the handheld around as you try to rack up the most points in the minigames.
Wipeout Pure (PSP)
There's a hardcore contingent of Wipeout fans out there who rejoiced at the announcement of a brand-new Wipeout game, this time for the PSP. After all, there's a lot to like about a series steeped in futuristic style and high-impact weaponry. While the handheld game looks to deliver the same sort of speedy thrills and action-packed gameplay that has made the series so popular, the PSP version of Wipeout will also feature downloadable content--the details of which have yet to be announced--after the game's release, as well as wireless multiplayer for up to eight players.
Twisted Metal: Head-On (PSP)
ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trails (PSP)
Gretzky NHL (PSP)
World Tour Soccer (PSP)
Tiger Woods PGA Tour (PSP)
Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix (PSP)
Need for Speed Underground Rivals (PSP)
Week of 3/27/2005
WWE WrestleMania XXI (Xbox)
Triple H vs. Batista. John Cena vs. JBL. Kurt Angle against...HBK perhaps? These are just a few of the already announced matches that will be among the highlights of this year's biggest Pay-Per-View wrestling event: WrestleMania XXI. Publisher THQ and developer Studio Gigante have teamed up to bring you a wrestling game of the same name, one that is attempting to be similar in size and scope to the WWE's annual centerpiece. The big game mechanic of note is the pro-reversal system. It will illuminate each opportunity for a reversal during a match and is designed to create matches that are a bit more substantive than chop-fests and suplex sequences.
Talk about your favorite welterweight, the awesome PSP sports lineup, who's going to win that Cena/JBL match, or anything else sports-gaming related in our Sports Gaming forum.