Baseball is one of America’s oldest and most favorite pastimes. However, its translation to the videogame market has been anything but apple pies and ice cream. Sadly, capturing the essence and enormous details of baseball in a game has resulted in some decidedly weak efforts (take, for instance, Major League Baseball 2K9 – a game that was embarrassingly riddled with flaws). As such, Baseball fans have good reason to be a bit cautious with Take Two’s latest effort, MLB 2K10, but we can safely say it is a vast improvement from last year’s installment. Sure, it still has some noticeable flaws, but overall this latest entry offers a neatly packed gaming experience that nearly every baseball fan will enjoy – for everyone else, it’s more of a game you’ll want to rent, rather than own.
MLB 2K10’s obvious comparison is to Sony’s MLB10: The Show, which in the past has dethroned MLB 2K’s entries. With improved hitting and pitching mechanics, and new career modes, MLB 2K10, developed by Visual Concepts, has more than enough beef to keep the series alive. Both pitching and hitting have been revamped, and although the controls operate in a similar manner, both mechanics are much more fluid than in the past. Pitching is all in the thumbsticks. You’ll pick different pitches (all determined by what’s in your pitcher’s arsenal) then use the left stick to aim where you’ll pitch the ball. Through different combinations of thumbstick movements, you’ll execute fastballs, sliders, changeups, and other pitches. To throw a fastball, you pull back on the right stick, building up a power meter, but being careful not to overthrow, and then release the pitch by pushing the stick forward. There are plenty of thumbstick rolls to throw different pitches. If you mess up, the game offers a pitch analyser to help fix your problems. Pitching will take some getting used to, but it’s easily one of the highlights in MLB 2K10.
Batting is even easier – well, sort of. It’s easy to swing the bat, but not so easy to hit the ball. In true baseball form, batting can be quite difficult. It requires precise timing, attention to subtle changes, and grasp of the balls’ depth. This leads us to believe baseball games will do well with 3D support someday – but that’s another subject entirely. To bat, all you have to do is press the right analog stick forward, or you can pull it back then push it forward to swing harder. If you swing the bat to either side you’ll hit a foul, which essentially intimidates the pitcher into making a mistake. Like pitching, batting is really fun. It can be frustrating and will likely take some getting used to, but when you get it down, you’ll be able to place the ball just where you want it to score a base hit. Since the direction of your hits are directly affected by the placement and timing of your swing, it’s extremely important to carefully watch each pitch. In this sense, the game shines in true baseball fashion – a lot of details, a few moments of action, but by and large, it’s based on taking actions in critical situations.
Fielding is pretty cut and dry, but not without its problems. The buttons correspond with the bases – press O to throw to first, triangle to second, and so on – hold the buttons down longer to throw harder. But, fielding is where the game starts to fall apart. There seems to be little sense of urgency in the outfield. Also, on several occasions two of our outfielders ran to catch a fly ball and looked as if they were going to run into each other, but they never did, and neither caught the ball. This is likely more of a graphical glitch, but it still makes fielding pretty annoying and in general, far more tedious in comparison to batting and pitching. Other glitches we noticed include the catcher chasing after a batter who ran to first base instead of throwing the ball to first base for what would have been an easy out.
Now that you know the basics of the gameplay, you’ll be happy to know there are enough game modes to keep you busy for quite a while. There’s the usual franchise and online league modes, practice drills, and postseason tournaments. New this year is the My Player mode, which takes a user-created player from double-A to the majors. You’ll actually play in that player’s position – pitcher, catcher, centerfield, etc., so be careful what place you choose. Right field can be really boring, but perhaps more rewarding as you progress. The obvious favorite choice is pitcher. You can quickly run through the ranks and enter the big leagues in just a few games. During My Player mode, you’ll be given various tasks to complete – get a base hit, don’t strike out, get a player home, and more. This allows for you to gain skill points without actually scoring; all you need to do is complete the objectives and your character will advance. Online gameplay is a bit hit or miss (no pun intended). Sadly, our game sessions were plagued with lag, making it virtually unplayable. For instance, in a game that requires such precision and timing, being off by just a half second can ruin your batting average.
The graphics are fairly detailed, save for My Player mode, where the quality dips by a considerable margin. Elsewhere, the stadiums themselves feel pretty authentic, though little effort appears to have been made in detailing certain areas, with inherent aspects such as grass and dirt horribly lacking in appearance. Fortunately, with enhanced frame rates on hand, the animations are relatively fluent, though we again found several graphical and animation errors or bugs that severely detract from the overall experience. There isn’t a lot of texture to aspects like jerseys, facial expressions, the ground, sky – the list goes on.
On a high note, the commentary is extremely solid – some of the best we’ve heard in any sports game. The depth of knowledge in the commentators is incredible, their pacing is just about always dead on to the action, and they even offer advice through your mistakes. Baseball fans will love to hear all the stats they have to offer, and even casual fans of the sport will be impressed.
Major League Baseball 2K10 is a vast improvement over its predecessor, but it’s probably not enough to take business away from fans of The Show. The new My Player mode is a welcomed addition; however, if you choose a position other than pitcher, you are probably going to be pretty bored. With glaring graphic and animation glitches, there are enough distractions to make this game feel slow – and that’s saying a lot for a baseball game. If you are a diehard baseball and videogame fan, you’ll probably enjoy MLB 2K10, especially the vast knowledge of the commentators. Still, we recommend giving it a rent as opposed to forking out for a retail copy.
-The Final Word-
MLB 2K10 is a great improvement over its predecessor. Baseball fanatics are sure to enjoy progressing a character in My Player, the vast knowledge in the commentators, and the new batting and hitting mechanics.
|Platforms reviewed : PlayStation 3|