Ok, let me start off by saying this will not be a total fan boy review because a lot of people out there live and die by MLB: The Show for ps2 and ps3. I too, lived by MLB The Show, ever since it came out for ps2 and loved every second of it, but when I jumped systems to Xbox 360(due to price at the time) I was no longer able to represent the game because it was only for the Sony product. Which this year leads me to buying MLB 2K8. I just recently purchased my 360 around Christmas time, so buying sports games from previous years hasn’t really ever been my thing, so I just decided to wait until March 3rd to get the newest release.
I am going to admit, ever since this buyout of sports rights contracts, I think it has been bad for the most part on the gaming community. I wish there were still multiple games from different companies because it forced other game producers to be innovative. If you play sports games you know I’m talking about the Baseball and Football franchises the most. Madden only brings in few options every year as well as MLB: The Show, which makes it difficult to swallow spending 60 bucks possibly more if your buying the special editions each year, but this isn’t about originality and innovation in games, I’m just venting because I would love to see far strides taken to make the best game possible instead of the same game with flashy new logo’s and older teams/jerseys.
Let’s move on to 2k8. I bought this game because I love baseball, I have been playing all my life and enjoy watching and learning all I can about the sport. I have been bored in the past with baseball games because it’s always been the same press the buttons to pitch, bat, and field. MLB 2k8 is the game that has tried to break those boundaries this year by installing the new flick stick pitching, flick stick batting controls, and flick stick fielding. I was highly surprised by reading how it worked and skeptical about how sensitive the controls would be. I started the game and decided to play a couple of exhibition games and decided to play as the Pirates(yes they suck, but there my team), and picked the Royals to play against.
Upon starting the game the loading scenes are nice and informative providing all the usual baseball information and so on and so on with commentary that provides insight to the last season, what needs to be done to win the game and who needs to come through during the game. During the loading screen time there were some drastic Frames Per Second drops that made animations and panning of the stadium seem choppy and slow. It was purely an aesthetic fault so it won’t hurt game play for now. However it does reoccur during games, and I’ll explain later.
I will start with the pitching aspect of this game as it has been improved upon from last years game, by introducing the right analog stick control system. Ian Snell(the Pirates supposed ace pitcher), was the starter and it all went downhill from there. Right away with the new controls, I threw three meatballs(thats what they call them when they are bad pitches with the new controls) and gave up three home runs. The new pitching system has a some what high learning curve if your not used to using the right analog stick. I had prior experience with the game EA Skate and it still took awhile to figure out how to do everything smoothly. After, going down by 5 runs in the first inning I managed to get out of it with a little bit of dignity and stop the bleeding. Pitching has been changed in such a great and challenging way that it makes the MLB 2k8 franchise a refreshing simulation of baseball. I really enjoyed that when the bases are loaded or its the bottom of the ninth and your up by one, depending on how well your pitcher’s composure is, the ball target will shake and it will be harder to place a pitch where you want. Your also able to control the game more by throwing how an actual pitcher is supposed to pitch, keep it low and hope for pop-ups and ground outs, and as your pitcher gets tired he is also highly likely to give up meatballs and home runs. My only gripe with this new system is that it is incredibly sensitive at times to target where you want the pitch the ball, because depending on how shaky your hand is on the right analog stick the ball moves with it on the slightest movement. I wish it was set so that if you moved the ball to a certain selection it would stay in that spot and you could then concentrate on winding up and releasing with the new controls. But that wouldn’t be any fun or add to realism, and I completely understand why they did it.
Fielding has also been improved a significant amount compared to other games I have played. Once the ball is hit it’s up to you to move to the ball spot as usual, the added twists are pretty nice. If its a ball where your supposed to dive, the player will dive on his on and either knock it down, or it will go through. I like this because it takes away from hitting extra buttons, it just makes it as simple as it is unique. Also, another new thing added is that when a ball is hit to the outfield, if your outfielder turns his back on the ball the ball drop locater either gets smaller or dissapears depending on the outfielders vision on the ball. That’s pretty cool, and throwing with the analog stick has been a nice addition to the game, as you just point in the direction and let the power bar load up and release and the ball is on its way. The load bar is less sensitive as well as throwing to bases and it makes it another pretty nice addition. A few gripes but nothing to dramatic is sometimes you end up running into other players because even if its hit into right field the center fielder will sprint right next to you and try to make the catch. You can call him off, but its not really realistic for a center fielder to try and make a catch in right field, unless its a shot up the gap. Also, I can’t stand how its pretty easy to catch pop-ups if your not near it or the computer isn’t near it. If it’s a shot up the gap I have had instances when outfielders have super human strength and catch the ball without having to break a sweat. It reminded me of the old Madden game play that no matter what if no one was around the receiver, the ball would still get intercepted because someone would sprint and make an insane catch. I hated that, and I hate it here, it just drops realism a little bit.
Batting also has been changed, the swing stick has been introduced and works nicely. To hit the ball you must pull back to lift the foot then push forward to swing. It’s a quirky, little control, but I think it needs a little more work. Often, at the start you get the hang of it right away, but then as you change sides for different batters, the vision of the plate moves to the side and instead of being right on with the pitcher your off and it’s difficult to adjust to see where the pitch is. Add that to stepping and swinging and it turns into luck hitting, because seeing whether its going to be a ball or strike is difficult at an angle. I like the new addition, but I just don’t think its there yet.
This is where MLB 2K8 runs into a lot of trouble. Every thing is fine while pitching, batting, and fielding per say. But the in between times with cut scenes, right after the ball was hit and it changes from batters box to infield, and when the fielders throw it, the FPS drop and chug and drastically drop the appeal visually of the game. Everything happens after the fact so really theres not much trouble, but it really is disheartening that 2K sports would release a game in this state. It has been addressed by 2K as something thats a major problem, and is being worked on for an upcoming patch. The bad news about that, if you don’t have an XBOX live Gold Membership, your not getting the patch. That’s a huge let down to spend money and have to pay more money to fix corrections. But all in all if you can live with slowdown you’ll be fine, as it doesn’t affect game play, only after the actions have been taken. Aside from the slow down, the game is beautiful and crisp, from the blades of grass to the players. Only thing thats still clunky are the fans. Were in next gen phase, do they still have to look like boxes put together?
Sound is decent, it’s crisp and clear again, they have everything down pat with how a baseball sounds with the exception of quiet umpires and player chatter. You can hear the vendors and fans, but I just miss hearing the umpire yell an over down YOUR OUT! or STRIKE THREE! I think that takes away from realism as much as the next thing. But, you can certainly live and enjoy it without all of that.
With all of the new stuff added it’s more of the same with modes, rosters, and the usual. Another major problem that has come up is that if your a Padre’s fan, get used to a buggy franchise because thats apparently the only team that has a problem. You can’t send players up/down from majors to minors, in franchise mode, also a problem that is getting patched so hold tight if you have Live. Help is on the way.
I enjoy this game, I own this game, and I am proud to say I like this game. I do not care for the slow down and anxiously awaiting the patch to correct this problem. I think the controls are new and innovative, as well as adding re playability to a game that was once sore and boring to me. If your an avid baseball fan and can’t live without up to date rosters, graphics, and all that jazz then pick it up. If your on the fence about trading in an older baseball game that you love, just keep it, and wait till next year, or until it’s patched. Once the game is patched, it’s an awesome simulation to baseball and will certainly give MLB: The Show a run for its money. The only thing that seriously worries me is that if EA buys 2K Sports, I hope they learn something from this game and advance it to where it should be. I don’t want another cheap knockoff every year with the same controls, graphics and everything. This game right now even in a buggy state, reigns supreme in my mind, and hope I EA takes care of things and advances the baseball genre and football genre further than before.