I had the opportunity to sit in on a conference call with Ben Brinkman, Producer of Major League Baseball 2K8. Ben was taking this time in order to give a deeper look into this year’s installment of their baseball franchise straight from the horse’s mouth. Now, while I understand the PlayStation 3 has almost been deemed MLB 08: The Show territory, I can also say with confidence that it probably wouldn’t hurt to take a look at MLB 2K8 as well. Here are the reasons as to why that may be a smart move on your part in order to find the best baseball experience available to you.
This had been Ben’s second year in development with the franchise and it happens to be part of his 3-year plan. For the second installment, 2K Sports has focused strongly on the developmental content of the PlayStation 3 console. Outside of revamping and updating all of the issues that came with MLB 2K8, they’ve dedicated themselves to also offering up a slew of new features that may interest the baseball enthusiast at heart.
One thing they realized going into this was that no matter how great the franchise mode was, or the trading card feature seemed to be, none of it would matter if the actual gameplay didn’t make those things worth doing. So that obviously played great reasoning as to why they decided to completely revamp the batting, base-running, fielding, and pitching A.I, to offer a much more realistic baseball feel. So if you were worried about a plethora of homeruns or a lack of them, you can be happy to know that Ben said there was going to be a happy-medium between the two.
Part of the batter intelligence is now the ability to actually simulate a similar hitting style to their real life counterpart. Now, by this, I do not mean the signature swing, instead I mean you can expect to see a lot more doubles and triples mixed in with those singles and homeruns that seemed way too frequent in last year’s release. On top of this, a ton of different hit variations have been added into the batting mechanics. You’ll no longer see the same style of at-bat over and over again. They’ve successfully added in squibblers, slow rollers, chipper hits, etc. With an ample supply of new hit possibilities it will bring the real life game to your television screen a lot more fluidly.
As for the pitching intelligence, you can expect to see a ton of new things, including the way you pitch as well. 2K Sports has taken a note out of EA’s book with the right-analog pitching. According to Ben, they saw how things worked in Tiger Woods and Fight Night and felt that would be a good match for their innovative pitching mechanic.
Apparently, depending on how you move the analog stick will not only dictate the accuracy of your pitch, but the pitch type as well. Poor timing will result in an inaccurate throw which could cause you to pay dearly. As for the actual intelligence of your CPU challenger, you’ll see an increase in intelligence from him as well. Pitchers will now dictate their style on which batter is at the plate , this will lead to a different pitching look with every upcoming player. On top of this, you’ll see a new variety of pitches, from balls in the dirt, to wild pitches at a much more accurate percentile.
Also, pitching towards the hot/cold zones is now going to play a huge factor. If you continually decide to try and hit the cold corner, every single time, the batter will eventually pick up on this and make you pay for it. So don’t think you’ll be able to walk your way to victory this way. Also, expect to see a lot more balls with the new pitching mechanic if you’re continually trying to hit corners.
One of the bigger issues in last year’s title was the gimmick pitches that were involved in online and offline play. El Duque was famous for this, when questioned, Ben said that he didn’t directly notice any gimmick pitches like last year’s title but not to hold him to that because he couldn’t confirm it directly 100%.
Fielding also seemed to be a huge concern of theirs considering the all too frequent wall climbs as well as the perfect throws and ability to run 50 yards across field to snag a pop fly. These were all toned down and alleviated for MLB 2K8. The fielding speed will no longer allow those 100 yard dash world records in order to catch a fly ball that should have landed for an easy double, you can also expect to see bounced throws within the infield, as well as wall climbs that happen to be off target as well.
And finally, the base-running A.I has been vastly improved. I’m sure last year you may have noticed that getting a guy in from second on a single was a lot more work than it should really be. That issue has been completely fixed. Your runner will now run with more fluidity instead of a designated, “lock” style where he just heads for the next base. The A.I will now pick up that the opportunity to score is there, and the runner will take the appropriate direction to make a run for the score. On top of this fix, they also made sure runners no longer ran into outs. Meaning, you will not see your guy just simply run into the shortstop. He’ll try his best to sway or run around him, making the simple double-play a bit more challenging. Finally, the biggest bug in this department was also removed. The 3rd base to home squeeze play has been squared away and fixed so it would no longer be automatic.
Now onto the franchise aspect of the title, four user-controlled teams will be made playable through this feature. On top of that, minor league teams will be playable as well. In regards to those minor league teams, 18 of them will have authentic stadiums while the rest will share 3 generic ones. 2K also did their best in including as many real minor league players that they possibly could. There are a total of 90 playable minor league franchises.
The franchise A.I has also been improved as you will now see the computer utilize more efficient line managing as well as off-season moves that will benefit their team a lot more. This will result in a lot more realistic seasons being played out.
Now onto my favorite aspect of the entire game, the trading card feature. Now, I’m sure everyone is familiar with Madden Cards, etc. Well, as useless as those cards are, these ones have an entire purpose that will bring an innovative element to this part of the game. They’ll also push you towards wanting to play with all the teams in the game in order to collect them all.
Each MLB team has roughly 12-15 cards per team. However, each card is only attainable through playing with those teams, this is how the game will push you into using even the lower talented organizations. Each player’s card has its own requirements to unlock. You may have to pitch 7 shutout inning with Johan Santana in order to collect it, where as you may have to have a 4-hit game to unlock Chase Utley. These aren’t exact requirements, however, they’ll give you an idea as to what to expect.
Once you have roughly 25 cards, this is where the entire idea gets interesting. Each card has a monetary value within it that will be used in the salary cap when creating your fielded card team. With three levels of cards, each more rare than the previous, you’ll find yourself trying to attain the more rare cards. The rarer the card, the cheaper the salary value for it, which means you can have more all-stars on a roster as long as you have more rare cards.
This created team will also have customizable uniforms, logo, team name, etc. So the team will have your own touch and feel to it. You can utilize this unit either online or offline which adds another dimension to online play as a whole. The ability to trade duplicates with friends is also an option to complete your collection.
The online portion of the game is set to have more than a handful of roster updates throughout the year. Ben has confirmed that there will be guaranteed updates near shipping, opening day, all-star break, trade deadline, post-season, and after the playoffs. However, there will be no 2K Share available in MLB 2K8.
Online matchmaking will be determined by a lot of factors such as win percentage, who you’ve been playing and overall rank as well.
Now onto the technical aspects of the title, MLB 2K8 will be brought to you in 1080i as the highest possible resolution. The game will be running at 60 FPS for the majority of the experience. During some instances, you may notice a slight drop but this will never occur during batting/pitching situations and it will never be a drastic change. Don’t ever expect the title to dip near 30 FPS, that will not happen. MLB 2K8 will also not support DualShock 3 rumble capabilities, sorry guys.
If all of this has you anticipating the title a bit more, I won’t blame you. Ben has said a demo is coming shortly, so you can expect to check it out then or pick it up on release. I’ll be bringing you a review of the title once we receive a copy of the game to review. I’ll make sure to follow up on all the details in this article in order to let you know how the words translated over to the gameplay experience. Stay tuned for it.