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MLB 2K10

 

MLB 2K10

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Sports
 
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Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports

Features

Players: 1-2
Online: 2 Players
HDTV: 720p, 1080p, 1080i
Custom Soundtracks

It’s hard to believe it has been 10-years since 2K Sports first launched its Major League Baseball franchise. Unfortunately, those years haven’t been so kind lately as Sony’s exclusive MLB - The Show has consistently been considered the cream of the crop over the past few years. Not to mention, 2K Sports arcadey baseball title, The Bigs, has also seen much less criticism than its more simulation oriented big brother. It is not that 2K’s MLB game is a bad one; it is just that it has a knack for falling a little short year after year. So once again, I was hopeful 2K Sports MLB series would make a triumphant return as this is its tenth year.

Graphics

Visually, MLB 2K10 is a good looking game and does a great job presenting America’s favorite pastime. That being said, it does have some issues. For starters, the players are somewhat hard to recognize as their faces do not look much like their real-life counterparts. Granted it does appear a little improved over last year’s game, but once again if it were not for the names on the back of the jersey’s and trademark swings, many of the players are unrecognizable. Not to mention, some players with glaring tattoos are nowhere to be found in the game. Case in point, Texas Rangers Josh Hamilton is littered with ink in real life, but in the game he has no tatties on display whatsoever. Bottomline, when compared to Sony’s MLB - The Show franchise, 2K’s game takes a backseat as The Show features players a little more life-like in the facial region.

Where MLB 2K10 has Sony’s game beat however is with 2K’s "Signature Style". This feature mimics what a player does in real life and it is a feature that the franchise has had for a few years now. If you are a fan of the game, some of these signature animations add a nice a touch and are quite well done. From Ryan Howard’s pre-swing swagger where he taps home-plate a few times to Manny Ramirez's signature batter stance where he holds the bat like a samurai sword at times, all the signature mannerisms that players have are found here and they are very effective and give you the feeling you are in or at an MLB game. I also noted that sometimes the players running the bases do not look natural; but overall the player’s animations at the plate are about as close to perfect as it gets.

As far as the stadiums are concerned, 2K10 delivers in this area as well. All of the stadiums are done to near perfection. In fact if anything it makes you want to see more of the stadium and surrounding areas. Even the fans look better this year as they seem to add more to the overall atmosphere of the stadiums. Heck, look at how the players leaning on the railing in the player’s dugout was rendered too, as it is very cool indeed. It is the little things and subtle additions to the details which gives 2K10 a more realistic feel this time around.

The lighting and shadow effects in MLB 2K10 is also worth mentioning. For instance, during the first part of a game against the Texas Rangers I could not see the ball that well each time I was up to bat. Much of this had to do with the time of day, the bright Texas sun, and the delivery of the pitcher; however, a couple of innings later when the sun had set and the stadium lights lit up the field I found myself able to see the ball somewhat easier and I was making much more contact with the pitches. Another example is each player’s baggy uniforms and how they have realistic looking creases creating some small subtle shadows. Again, it’s the small things which make MLB 2K10's visuals pop creating an authentic feel to the whole experience.

Sound

As far as the sound is concerned, MLB 2K10 is better this year. From the soundtrack to Gary Thorne’s commentating, 2K10 does a wonderful job at creating an authentic baseball atmosphere. The soundtrack is a bit better than advertised as it is nice to see artists such as Pearl Jam and Phoenix on the set list. So many developers rely on some no-names to fill up their track list but not this game. It may not be my all-time favourite 2K set list but it is very good nonetheless.

Gary Thorne, Steve Phillips and a new addition this year, John Kruk, do a fabulous job on the commentary. I still prefer the tandem of John Miller and Joe Morgan from previous 2K games; however I do enjoy listening to Gary’s voice. Sure, some of the comments are repetitive, but name me a sports game that doesn't have this problem. That being said, the commentary is much deeper this time around. Some of the comments about the players previous seasons stats and some of the historical baseball information from previous years was not only interesting but bang-on as well. It is arguably the best commentary we have seen from the franchise to date and it really helped make the experience feel like I was watching a baseball game on the tube.

Other in-game baseball sound effects are well done too. The crowd chatter is nice and the reaction from the fans when the home team makes a great play was very life-like. If you listen closely you even hear the odd heckler. It truly sounds and feels like a baseball game and to that end the audio presentation in MLB 2K10 is effective.

Gameplay

To say the last few years for the 2K MLB franchise has been rough would be an understatement. Granted last year’s product was certainly much more user-friendly compared to its previous installment; however, last year’s game was still riddled with issues and again fell short compared to Sony’s MLB game. This year the focus has clearly been placed on the pitcher and batter duel making for an experience which is certainly much more rewarding this time around. It was clear from the first few games I played that the game has taken some steps in the right direction. That said, some issues continue to hold this game back from being considered the must-own MLB game to have this spring.

First I will start out with what I really liked about the game – the controls. Over the past couple of years 2K has tinkered with the control in the MLB series leaving many frustrated and making the learning curve a little too steep. Fortunately, the controls this year are very user friendly and I found that they were quite easy to pick up. Granted a learning curve is prevalent and the pace of the game is considerably slower, but the controls themselves are very straightforward. For starters, the pitching mechanics have been improved, simplified, and strictly use the right analog stick. Just prior to launching your throw you have a selection of pitches to choose from on the left side of the screen. Once you select your pitch a transparent menu appears with directions on how to throw fastballs, curveballs, sliders, change-ups, etc. It makes for a far more enjoyable and less frustrating experience. Being able to place your pitch exactly where you want it is accomplished with much more ease this time around too.

Hitting is also more user friendly this time around in terms of the basic controls. A power swing is accomplished pulling the right analog stick down and moving it up as you make contact. Likewise, a contact swing is pulled off by moving the stick up and defensive swings are accomplished by moving the stick either to the left or right. Sounds straight forward right? Well it is, but do not kid yourself, hitting with some consistency is much more difficult this year around. You have to be patient at the plate. If you come out swinging at every pitch, you will end up frustrated and hitless. It makes for a much more realistic experience but also a far less forgiving one. On the ‘easy’ difficulty it is not too hard to hit and score some runs; however on 'pro' difficulty it seems far more difficult and the runs seem sparser. Perhaps MLB 2K veterans won’t have an issue with this; however for those who still consider themselves as virtual baseball newbies will have a tough time and the learning curve, as I suggested above, is a still a somewhat steep one that may affect how gamers may enjoy this title.

As I played I also noted that the defence is improved this year. The mysterious player slowdown from last year is gone and the fly-balls, which often turned into gong shows, are seemingly non-existent. Throwing the ball around the in-field is accomplished with ease and the outfielders all react as I wanted them to. I simply do not have any concerns with the game's defensive mechanics this time around and I am hopeful the developers will leave this area alone for future games.

While the base running controls have remained the same from previous versions for the most part, this year stealing bags and controlling more than one player on the base pads can get tricky. Often I wanted my player to advance to third while another held at first; however inevitably the runner on first would run towards second and the player heading towards third would start to return to second as I would try to prevent my player on first from advancing. It seemed that whenever I had two base runners on the pads I would run into some problems. Perhaps it is likely my inability to master the controls, however there has got to be an easier system than what is already in place. It should not be so difficult to have a runner hold-up at first while you advance a player from second to third, yet repeatedly I had issues of this nature. I hope this can be remedied for future versions as it would make this game even better.

One new addition that really impressed me with the game was the ‘MLB Today’ feature. Once you log into Xbox LIVE and fire up the game's main menu, you can pull up all the days actions including scores, news, stats, and more. It also allows you to play a game which is actually being played that day. We have seen variations of this in other sports games over the years but the timely commentary which reflects what is actually going on the majors that particular day is very slick. Not to mention seeing the updated rosters, with for instance Curtis Granderson on the Yankees and Matsui for the Angels, is very cool to say the least.

All your traditional gameplay modes are back again this year, so I won’t spend too much time re-hashing all them. I spent the majority of my time in franchise mode, where you pick a team and work your way through a full 162 game season, or an abbreviated one if you want. The mode is not as deep as Sony’s “Road to the Show” mode; however all the stats and features any die hard baseball gamer could ever want are present in the game. Far too often I find baseball games to be the deepest games on the market. MLB 2K10 manages to have a nice balance of stats and simplicity and should satisfy most of those stat freaks who pick up this game.

For those that enjoyed Sony’s 'Road to the Show' mode, 2K does have an equivalent one with the 'My Player' mode. Here you create a player in an effort to make the 'Big Show' (Major Leagues). You guide your player through spring training, spend some time in the minors, and eventually gain a spot on a major league team roster. This mode includes interactive training and also allows you to simulate through actual games only playing your at bats and times when you are called to make a defensive play. It would have been nice to have the ability to play through an entire game; however, no such option is available. The ‘My Player’ mode is intriguing, however it is noted that it takes awhile to level up your player. You start out with a crappy skill set, therefore hitting and getting on base is incredibly difficult at first. It takes a good couple of months worth of virtual games to start to get your player ranked up to the point where he is capable of putting up numbers which are worthy of the big leagues.

The multiplayer component of the game is once again decent. Admittedly I did not spend a lot of time online; however it is worth noting that the time I did play had some lag and it was sure a humbling experience indeed. There are many great players in the online realm of MLB 2K10 at this early stage. The online modes include your typical exhibition game, a Home Run Derby and team leagues. The leagues give the game some life and will be a huge draw for many true baseball fans looking to play in virtual leagues with friends.


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