You would think that after a decade of experience you would get something right. Obviously this is not the case with the latest edition of 2K sports MLB Baseball.
However this doesn’t mean that they haven’t been taking steps in the right direction. This edition contains a new pitcher vs. hitter system that really brings out the potential of the franchise’s future. There is nothing like the drama of a late inning pitching duel with a silver slugger winning batter. Now AI has a better “batters eye” that creates for more realistic situations and even helps those people with swing-timing issues.
A major leap in the right direction came with the addition of MLB today mode and living rosters. It adds a sense of realism when you are playing games that are on the schedule for that day, seeing the ticker fly by with real scores and stats and, even though it is frustrating when it happens to your team, seeing that star player go down with an injury and knowing that in-game his stats are altered and he won’t be playing.
The best addition by far is the career mode. For so long fans have been waiting to work their way up the ranks of minor league baseball and become that star player – now it’s finally a reality. Personally I played as a pitcher because I wanted the feat of being a star pitcher that strikes out 10 batters a game, wins Cy Young awards and breaks all the records. However this mode is just the first shot at it. Player creation is a little lacking in the creativity department and your opening stats are so low that working through AA to the majors turns into a full-time job. Pitching, thankfully, is simpler than the last two editions allowing unrealistic numbers of strikeouts, a minimal ERAand, even with low stamina ratings, the ability to go complete games without any major stamina effect.That last one is both good and bad.
Despite these advancements there are still major reasons that Sony’s MLB: The Show is still a top the baseball game rankings. This game has too many random bugs. Bats disappear, cut-off throws end up to the wrong person and animations lag. Also the controls are very sensitive especially in batting and base running. Reaction time is clearly the most crucial skill needed and even then balls tend to go directly to fielders. Personally, after a full season worth of playing my batting average was a miniscule .236 as compared to my MLB 2K6 batting average of .487. Home runs are not as easy to hit, in fact most games remain scoreless and go into extra innings, something that rarely happens in real play.
Base running also took a major hit. Graphic quality decreased this year to speed up frame rate. This is good for motion but it doesn’t help when the players don’t look nearly as realistic as in past editions. Base stealing has a steep learning curve to it now that it is controlled by the hold and release of the trigger instead of the simple tap of a button. However, slide control has turned out to be a beneficial addition, even though forgetting to slide is a common occurrence.
Franchise mode is something that always makes MLB games. This year’s franchise mode was a huge step back from previous. I know it is unrealistic; however most people want that super team that is unstoppable but this year it is practically impossible. Even using teams with giant budgets doesn’t help. The AI won’t allow for big name players to be traded.
Free agency changed by the addition of contract types that make you lose picks when you sign the big name free agent. But it didn’t even matter when out of the 10 years I played franchise mode only one player rated above a 90 was even available. Prospect stats are way down and the name generation is like opening a children’s story book. Seriously, who names their kid Mudcat? Prospect stats are so low yet their overalls match everyday MLB starters. Pitching prospects have the worst stats. Average starting pitchers usually have a pitching control of about 70. Even the best prospects have a high of 40. I don’t know about you but I want my pitchers to have control. Luckily the batting prospects have only slightly below contact and power ratings.
Basically, every team you make must be full of veterans because when they are gone you have a rotation of five Rick Vaughns and they always pitch just a bit outside. Simulations make for horrible seasons as well. Even the top ranked team can miss the playoffs because the simulation is so random. No batter hits more than 40 home runs in a season and the Cy Young winners usually have ERAs nearing 4 or even 5 at the lowest. Just for comparison, last year’s AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke had a 2.16 ERA. That is a two run differential. For clarification that simply means that an ERA of 4 is mediocre at best.
Everything about this game seems mediocre. However, it is still a step in the right direction. The 2K series will be the highest selling baseball simulation as long as The Show stays a PS3 exclusive. Even though the game has so many bugs it was still an enjoyable play for anyone who likes the good old national pastime. We can only raise our expectations for 2K11.