Publisher: 2K Sports
Available On: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, PlayStation 2, PSP, Nintendo DS, PC ($20-$60)
Rated: E for Everyone
Major League Baseball 2K10 has arrived with little anticipation and a bit of surprised enthusiasm. With a complete overhaul being employed in almost every aspect of the game, 2K10 is giving MLB 10: The Show a run for its money as the baseball simulation of choice. With a new My Player mode, new gameplay mechanics and a new menu interface that heavily incorporates the use of the PlayStation Network, there is a lot to be happy about with the game Take-Two Interactive has given us this year.
For starters, the gameplay in 2K10 has vastly improved. Gone are the constant glitches that were involved in MLB 2K9. It was hard to play a game where something as routine as a fly ball involved a glitch of some sort. Thankfully, 2K10 eliminates most of those unsightly errors. One that still seems to stand out, however, involves sliding. Pray that you don’t miss when sliding into home plate, because if the umpire hasn’t made a call yet, your baserunner will quickly flip into a different slide in an unrealistic manner to make contact with home and try to earn your team a run. Other animations work much more smoothly, though frame rate issues seem to persist if you try to run the game in full 1080p. Knocking your PS3’s resolution down to 1080i seems to remedy this issue, although it is a tiresome task to constantly have to switch the resolutions back and forth between games just to get a good picture for 2K10.
Pitching and batting gameplay both surpass MLB 10 this year. Pitching is as comprehensive as ever, involving the gesturing of the right analog to get the pitch you want across the plate. I always found it more rewarding than simply pressing buttons to start and stop a meter, as you do in The Show, to pitch. Also affecting pitching this year in a new way is your pitch count. If a player is fatigued or in a tough situation, you can call a mound visit to help boost his fatigue or boost his composure while at the same time readying a reliever in the bullpen. Batting is new in that not only can you control whether you hit for power or contact, but you can also intentionally hit foul balls by flicking the analog stick left or right. Pull an inside pitch into the stands or force an outside pitch out of play to stay alive in the at bat and force the pitcher to give you something better. This new gameplay dynamic really captures one of the great essences of live baseball: the pitcher-batter duel.
The batting gameplay has other improvements too, such as the Batter’s Eye. Similar to The Show’s Guess Pitch interface, the Batter’s Eye in 2K10 has become more than a dark, round bubble that you float around the strike zone hoping to find where the pitch is headed. The better your player’s Batter’s Eye is, the more likely it will be that he can guess the pitch that is coming to him. Upon guessing correctly, the strike zone lights up the zone where the pitch is headed in blue and indicates the pitch being thrown, a very interesting gameplay addition that helps truly separate elite players of the MLB who have a good “batter’s eye” from the less valuable players.
Also knew to 2K10 is the incorporation of an MLB.TV interface in the menu screen, reminiscent of MLB 2K4 which was powered by an ESPN license featured in all of the 2K Sports games released that year. The MLB.TV interface brings the schedule for all major league games being played on any given day to the main menu screen, even during spring training, provided you are connected to the internet. Right now it also features a ticker counting down to baseball’s opening day. In game modes like Season and Franchise, MLB.TV powers the statistics section of the menu, displaying team stats, individual stats, standings and award races.
In conjunction with powering MLB.TV, the online capabilities of MLB 2K10 seem apt. The game automatically checks for and downloads roster changes before even allowing you to access the main menu, which is much more than MLB 10 can say, only providing weekly roster updates released the Monday of each week. At the moment, however, ranked online games are incapable of being played effectively and the 2K servers are having issues with retaining stats from these games. A patch is in the works for the current problem, though this is disappointing regardless at the game’s launch.
Finally we come to the My Player mode, 2K Sports’ incarnation of The Show’s popular Road to the Show role playing game mode. Much like RTTS, My Player allows you to create your own rookie baseball player and start in the minor leagues on a Double A ballclub. Unlike MLB 10, you get to choose the team you wish to play for, a move that seems less realistic in the scheme of things, but also makes it easier to get into the majors (being that you can analyze the depth charts of all the major league teams and see which team is the most accommodating to the position of your created player). Once in the minors, you have to work your way into the big leagues by completing assigned goals along the way. Completing goals also earns you skill points to help you improve your players overall rating. One negative aspect about the My Player mode in 2K10 is the lack of punishment in conjunction with reward. In MLB 10, realism takes the form of demotion as poor actions on field mean bad news for your created player. In 2K10, poor baserunning and errors on the field won’t hurt you as much, if at all. This lack of realism takes away from what could be a role playing sports mode that can compete with The Show.
Also less realistic is the limited number of drills your player can perform on off days. In 2K10, there are only 5 practice drills to engage in to build up your skill points. In MLB 10, there are almost 20 drills in all to perform. Although 2K10 made an excellent effort to emulate the RTTS game mode, it’s not quite up to par, though it is an excellent starting point for future installments of the series.
Neat side features such as Home Run Derby and a Practice Mode are still available and are fun to participate in if you’re not in the mood to play a full 9-inning game. Overall, 2K10 is going to give The Show a good battle throughout this year’s baseball season, but like any franchise undergoing development, they don’t look like the team to beat. Look at this year’s incarnation of the baseball video game underdog as a stepping stone to what will be an excellent baseball sim from the 2K Sports camp in 2011.