Over the past week, I have spent a lot (A LOT) of time playing 2KSports latest installment of their baseball franchise, “Major League Baseball 2K10,” on our XBox 360. According to my wife, I have missed our daughters first words, first steps, first day of school, first date and her wedding.

Mrs. Prof will never understand.

She did finally wrestle the remote away from me. Mysteriously, she all of the sudden knew how to switch from HDMI to Component inputs as if she has known all along and was just pretending to be technologically illiterate.

So until she goes to sleep, I will take this break from “MLB 2K10″ to let you guys know my thoughts about the game so far.

My Favorite Features

Gameplay Controls: Ultimately, once you get past the glitz and glammer, the most important aspect of the game is battle between the pitcher and the batter. And in “MLB 2K10,” a video game has finally got it right. From both the mound and the plate, the controls are intuitive and give you more of a sense that you are actually controlling the player’s arms as opposed to entering some special code and hoping for the appropriate response.

  • PITCHING: Throwing specific types of pitches requires a specific movement using the right analog stick. The movements are just tricky enough that you need a little bit of practice, but not so much that you feel lost. And the movements seem somewhat logical for the type of pitch being thrown. They are even reversed for left-handers, which is just the type of seemingly meaningless detail that actually adds to the realism. But maybe our favorite pitching feature is the stress factor. As the pitcher tires or the stressful situations arise (runners in scoring position, less than 2 outs) the target will shake and the controller will rumble making the process of aiming as difficult as you would expect in a real game.

  • HITTING: With hitting, the learning curve is a bit steeper as you need one analog stick to control trajectory of the batted ball (ground ball vs fly ball and pull vs opposite field) and the other to swing the bat. As in real life, don’t expect to be knocking home runs your first time in the box. Rather, you need to get reps to get the timing down. I loved the notification just as the pitch is released as to the type of pitch. It is on-screen for just a split-second, but for anybody that has ever faced live pitching, that is exactly when a batter first recognizes the spin of the pitch. And for once a game is very unforgiving towards those that are free-swingers. The more likely you are to swing at the first pitch, the less likely that pitch will be in the strike zone. So the keys are to learn the strike zone and learn it well. You are going to strike out a lot at first, but eventually, you will get the knack and the hits will start coming.

The “MLB Today” Feature: I admit, this feature seemed kinda corny to me at first, but it grew on me quickly. Basically, with “MLB Today” you can play any game that is scheduled that day in real life and play the game using the same lineups and rosters that are being used in real life. So if Carl Crawford is traded and Desmond Jennings is called up to make his big league debut against the Yankees in Replica Yankee Stadium, that is the roster you will get in “MLB Today.”

“My Player” Mode: Admit it. Ever since sports sims have allowed you to edit players, you have changed one of the players and gave him your name and given yourself Ruthian abilities. It’s OK. You are not alone. Well now you can do it the right way. Create a player and begin their career in double-A. The player will progress based on how you perform overall and how you perform during in-game challenges. I recommend that the first time you attempt the “My Player” feature you create a pitcher. During games you only participate in plays that your player is directly involved with. If you choose to be a fielder that means 4-5 plate appearances and a handful of plays in the field, most of which are very benign. And because of that, the progression of a fielder is much slower. As a pitcher, you will remain much more involved in each game as you learn the intricacies. Once you have mastered a pitcher, you will be looking for more of a challenge.

Commentary: On the surface, this seems like the least important aspect of a sports simulation. But think about it. How annoying is John Madden when he seems to have 10 stock phrases that you hear 50 times each in one game of “Madden”? And as annoying as that is, we never realized just how bad it was until we experienced a game with great commentary. And that is what “MLB 2K10″ provides. There is still some repetition but that is more than made up for with the details that are provided. Whether it is how a team ranked in a specific stat the year before or how a batter did in their previous at bat, I was left thinking that Gary Thorne, Steve Phillips and John Kruk were actually narrating my video game life.

Player Detail: The graphics are still not to the point where you are left speechless, but they seem much improved. And your control over the physical details of each player and the equipment they use seems endless. Seriously, how can you not love the ability to give David Wright a “Gazoo” helmet. Just like real life!

Evan Longoria: Did we mention that Dirtbag is on the cover and featured prominantly in the game’s ad campaign?

One Million Dollars: Think you can throw a perfect game? Well, if you do in accordance with the rules, 2K Sports will give you a million bones. And as Evan Longoria pointed out, that is more than he will make this year. We are really hoping that the feat doesn’t fly under the radar. Whoever gets the grand prize, here is hoping they get 15 minutes of blogdome fame.

The Soundtrack: Pearl Jam’s “The Fixer” is included. Game. Set. Match.

Other Features…

Online Gameplay: I rarely venture into the world of online gaming. The few times we have tried, we have been disappointed by the timing lag in games that have a faster pace. This seems like more of an internet problem than a programming problem. So until we have achieved warp speed on the internet, I stay away. Still, it is there for those of you that want to woop up on your out-of-town friends.

Some Cons

Stadium Details: I can’t put my finger on it, but the stadiums and crowds still aren’t “jaw dropping.” Don’t get me wrong, they are very good and they seem very close. They just seem to be lacking a little something. I love the use of minor league and spring training parks. But if 2K Sports wants to go the extra mile, they need to give us historical parks. I want to be able to take the Rays to the Polo grounds in Manhattan and see how Evan Longoria handles the short porches and how BJ Upton handles all that ground in center field.

Steve Phillips: Phillips is one of the color commentators. Obviously 2K Sports couldn’t have foreseen what would happen to Phillips outside of baseball. And obviously this has little bearing on the gameplay. But it was a tad awkward when we first heard his voice.

Spring Training Commentary: I’m nitpicking now, but I don’t need Steve Phillips criticizing my decision to pull David Price after 3 innings in a spring game even though he has yet to give up a run.

Joe Maddon: Ummm, JoeMa is not wearing glasses. How did that happen?

Summary…

If the actual gameplay is the most important aspect for you, then “MLB 2K10″ is your game. If the graphics are more important, you might still be left wanting more, but you will see that this game is very, very close to where it needs to be on the presentation side.

The battle between the hitter and the pitcher is as realistic as anything on the market today. There is a learning curve, but your mistakes are not overly punishing, and you will have a strong sense that you are getting better the more times you step on the mound or step in the batter’s box.

“MLB Today” turned out to be much more enjoyable than I expected. But in the end, I am still a sucker for the career modes. And quite frankly, both “My Player” and “Franchise” modes are both addicting enough that I haven’t decided which I want to stick with for a prolonged period.

If I can make a Rays analogy…If MLB 2K10 were a Rays player it would be BJ Upton if he hit .310-25-90 with 50 stolen bases and a gold glove this season. It is finally realizing its potential, but you can tell it hasn’t peaked. And you can’t wait to see what both will do in 2011.

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11 Comments

  1. Joel says:

    I wholeheartedly agree about the pitcher vs. hitter controls. I even had an albeit brief chance to try out MLB 10: The Show, which is universally considered better; the graphics of The Show are miles better, but I think MLB 2K10 wins the basic gameplay battle. I especially like that you can tell the difference between using Tim Lincecum and, say, Oliver Perez.

    Didn't you find most of the fielding kind of odd? At one point I was trying to turn a double play - Zobrist cocked his arm and threw an overhand laser to Bartlett, who was standing about 4 feet away. Needless to say, the play at 1st didn't happen. A lot of the fielding animation was very gamey.

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    • M says:

      I agree about the defense. I've been playing for about a week and I don't think I have turned a double-play yet. Tapping the button for a throw needs to be a quick release toss/throw. Also, on flyballs in the gaps are a struggle. The default outfielder you are controlling doesn't always seem like best option.

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  2. Steve says:

    Glad to hear they finally stepped up. This has always Bern the most frustrating thing about xbox, no decent baseball game.

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  3. Sublime says:

    I usually buy both games every year, and for a change, I'm really enjoying both this year.

    2K10 pitcher vs. batter interface is hands down the best!

    MLB Today (Taking the page from NBA Today) boost commentary to another level!

    2K needs to fix their transition animations for defense and they will have a certified threat on their hands!

    The Show is the Show, they'll probably become a victim of their own success. They really don't have much to improve, but the commentary. The game can be a tad bit on the boring side with their commentary.

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  4. Smokey Joe says:

    Finally

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  5. KillaTapes says:

    I'd just like to point out that there's no way Dirtbag is really making under a mill this year, what with endorsements and all (at least I would think that's the case).. Just sayin'

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  7. stunna says:

    I haven't had a chance to play it much, but I LOVE the pitching interface. Hitting is fun too, even though I haven't gotten used to it yet, so I'm still pretty bad. As far as some of the defensive issues (fielder rocket arm strength, no errors, etc) and a pretty big bug regarding pitcher stamina and the CPU manager AI, I'm hoping the next patch takes care of that stuff.

    Also disappointed that the financial system in franchise mode is broken. Teams are way under their budget (I think it has the Rays budget at almost $80 mil IIRC) and player contracts are wayyy less than their real-life counterparts. Teams can always afford to re-sign all their players as a result, so there is basically no free agency. This might not seem like a big deal to most, but for those of us who are pretty heavy into the franchise mode, it sucks.

    Overall though it's a great game, and finally a baseball game worth buying for 360 owners.

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