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The 2016 Sports Video Game Awards

It's been a good year for sports video games.

We've seen strong efforts from almost every signature franchise in 2016. The success and quality of the products have raised the anticipation for next year's crop of releases, and it's also caused the sports gaming community to become even more demanding.

While the thirst for sports gaming titles shows no sign of tailing off, the fire that burns in our guts for the best products available is still alive.

After spending countless hours with just about every sports game released in 2016, I've selected the standout games and modes in a variety of categories.

Here are my 2016 Sports Video Game Awards.

All three of these games delivered ultra-realistic renders, though the dynamics and structure of their sports create a diverse circumstance.

Most often, player faces aren't visible in an American football game, but EA Sports' Madden 17 had as many scanned-in head models as the series has ever had.

The various body types and equipment were also on point.

FIFA 17 and PES 2017 were a near stalemate when it comes to accurately rendered player faces and bodies, but EA Sports' ability to secure more footballers for scanning sessions gives it the slight edge.

So which game had the better player renders between, Madden 17 and FIFA 17?

And the winner is...FIFA 17

From the facial animations to spot-on player (men and women) and manager renders, no team sports game created more realistic people than FIFA 17.

Both of these games looked stunning. The combatants were each recreated with insane detail, but in my opinion, one game stands above the crowd as it pertains to accurate player models.

And the winner is...EA Sports UFC 2

No sports game has characters that look more lifelike. When you also consider the realistic the facial damage that accrues when the fighters take punches and kicks, it only cements the decision to make it No. 1 in this category.

This might be the closest race of all. The artists for both games did a great job meticulously recreating the vehicles, but one incorporated a little more stylish pizazz and that's what got it the win here.

And the winner is...Forza Horizon 3

Get used to seeing this game in this article. Turn 10 Studios and Playground Games hit on all cylinders with their latest open-world racing adventure.

EA Sports has done great work with their Living Worlds concept and the aforementioned Forza Horizon 3's vehicle recreations are boosted by an excellent use of light, dirt and precipitation, but neither game gets the crown in this category.

And the winner is: MLB The Show 16

San Diego Studios has been able to get away with using the same player models for the past three or more years because of their games' impeccable shading and lighting. No sports game transitions from day to night quite like MLB The Show 16.

It captures the beauty of an American ballpark in a way that exceeds any other sports video game environmental recreation.

Some sports gamers could care less about the commentary, but I believe it's still an important area where most games simply fail to deliver. Three games this year bucked that trend.

FIFA 17's commentary is perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of the game. The interpolation of real-life events in exhibition matches and sprinkles of career-mode specific details help add to the immersion.

NBA 2K has always had good commentary, but the latest version introduced a concept I've been asking for since 2013, and that's multiple commentary teams. Even with that innovation, 2K17 comes up short of the crown.

And the winner is: Madden 17

Multiple announce teams are great, but nothing beats new audio commentary added throughout the season. Add that element to what is already outstanding work by the new team of Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis, and you have the best commentary we've ever been given in a sports video game.

None of the four games is the complete package as it pertains to the overall presentation, but all of them deliver a standout performance. MLB The Show does a great job with camera angles and it's replay suite is solid, but it is a distant fourth when compared to the other three candidates–especially the top dog.

And the winner is...NBA 2K17

NBA 2K17 wins the presentation war with commentary that is second only to Madden 17, the best halftime show (though it's still not quite where it should be) and a plethora of camera angles and real-life visual elements,

This a two-horse race, and while both games' card-collecting modes have elements the other lacks, one is still a little stronger than the other.

And the winner is...Madden 17

I wish Madden Ultimate Team allowed you to customize the identity of your team the way NBA 2K17's MyTeam does, but I wish even more that 2K had a draft mode like Draft Champions and salary-cap-restrictive options like MUT.

It isn't going to get the nod here, but WWE 2K17's Universe Mode has come a long way since it first appeared. It has tons of depth and there's mounds of fun to be had with the mode whether you're playing or simulating matches.

If the Create-A-Story feature returned, we might have a different outcome.

And the winner is...NBA 2K17

Every time I think Erick Boenisch and his team at Visual Concepts can't make MyGM and MyLeague any better, they prove me wrong. This year's version brought us expansion teams, an awesome salary-cap system and more options than you could ever get to in a month.

It is the Michael Jordan of franchise modes.

For years, we'd just pencil in NBA 2K's MyCareer mode as the winner in this category, but not in 2016.

And the winner is...FIFA 17

Alex Hunter's Journey was the most fun I've had in a sports game's single-player campaign since Champion Mode in Fight Night Champion.

Let's face it, every sports video game has at least some element of online lag. There are too many variables to eliminate it all together. Long-term and excessive issues in that area would exclude a game from consideration in this category.

Otherwise, the evaluation criteria is based on options and entertainment. With those parameters, there was an easy winner.

And the winner is...NBA 2K17

It's staggering when you consider how many modes of play NBA 2K17 offers online. MyTeam, Play Now Online, MyPark, All-Star Team-Up, MyLeague and Pro-Am are all part of the game's online treasure chest of options.

Those modes offer co-op and head-to-head gameplay. FIFA and NHL have those dual options, but not with as much personality, presentation, and cohesiveness.

There was a time when games were sold as is with no patches or updates to fix errors, or to add content. No sports game is on the level of Destiny as it relates to extending the life of an original release, but one sports game still excels at adding post-release support and content.

And the winner is...EA Sports UFC 2

The only simulation combat sports game released for consoles in 2016 has already had seven content updates since its March release. Whether it's adding fighters to its roster, or tweaking gameplay for its hardcore online audience, the devs for UFC 2 never seem to take a break.

NBA 2K17 and PES 2017 have some nice editing options, but the winner here is clear.

And the winner is...WWE 2K17

If you could take the Superstar creation tool from WWE 2K17 and use it in every sports video game, the world would be a better place.

Customization is king and it's clear 2K Sports gets that concept. Which game offers the most in the way of customization?

And the winner is...Both

I could not pick a winner here. NBA 2K17 allows you to create an alternate universe with custom players, teams and arenas. Likewise, WWE 2K17 gives you freedom to create a new WWE universe with new wrestlers, pay-per-view events and more.

The replay value is almost immeasurable.

I really enjoyed the gameplay in several games this year–even some that didn't make the nominee list (Madden 17, Forza Horizon 3 and EA Sports UFC 2)–but the developers of the five nominated titles did the best job creating a simulation of the sport.

And the winner is...PES 2017

It came down to PES and MLB for me, but Konami's football title got the edge based on its excellent ball physics, pacing, and collision detection. If it had a little more personality, it would have been nominated in more categories.

If I divided this category into sub-sections, like the best driving game (Forza Horizon 3) or best sports fighting game (WWE 2K17) we'd have a lot more to talk about. However, if I ask myself: Which game delivered the most complete, fun and long-lasting experience, there's one clear answer.

And the winner is...NBA 2K17

2K Sports has yet again produced the deepest and diverse gaming experience under the sports video game umbrella. There is a mode for almost everyone here and while it doesn't grade out at the top in every category, NBA 2K17's consistency across the board makes it the best sports video game of the year.

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