In this X-Play Review, we take a look at the latest multiplatform baseball sim from 2KSports and try and figure out what, if any, new features 'Major League Baseball 2K9' brings to the table.
- Presentation / Faster Loading Times
- Living Roster
- Trading Cards
- Collision Detection Issues
With all the A-Fraud media hysteria hovering over baseball and the Manny Ramirez saga reaching its end, we can ease our way back to the sport we love. The digital boys of summer are back and 2K Sports brings us an upgraded installment of their ultra successful baseball franchise. But how does MLB 2K9 stack up against its very impressive rival MLB 09: The Show?
Take Me out to the Ball Game
Like its predecessors, 2K9 brings its “A” game when it comes to presentation. The game’s graphics are amazing; from the realistic play models and gigantic stadiums filled with screaming fans, to the vendors walking up and down the aisles. It all looks gorgeous. The fans are rowdy as well, fighting over the ball when it’s hit out of the park. Believe it or not, they even fight for foul balls. There are even shootings over a Giants jersey worn at the left field pavilion in Dodgers Stadium! I am just kidding, the game isn’t that real…YET!
The graphics are not the only good thing about MLB 2K9’s presentation. The actual presentation itself is fantastic. The game delivers a broadcast television feel to it. The game captures every little detail from Zambrano throwing a fit, to players warming up, and to the bat boys running to home base to pick up the lumber. This game has an obscene amount of cutaways, bringing that real life baseball feel to the game. And not only does the game look great, it loads way quicker, especially when compared to last year’s version.
The audio received an overhaul as well. You can hear distinct differences in bat swings and even some fans chanting. The broadcast team has also been updated. Joining the commentating team this year is Gary Thorne and Steve Philips, providing insightful statistics and play by play calls. Without a single pause between their comments, the presentation these two provide is seamless. On occasion, however, they do provide some inaccurate quotes, which is somewhat of a downer. But overall, the commentating in the audio flows with what is going in the game and as the season progresses.
All the game modes have mostly been kept intact, but a few major ones have been added from NBA 2K series. MLB 2K9 has added the living roster feature. If a player’s stats fluctuate, it will be represented in the game automatically. Also, all trades, signings, and call ups will be updated on a daily basis. Injuries will be included, so expect Nomar to be gone most of the season this year. Sorry A’s fans! Look on the bright side; at least you guys got Holliday and Giambi this year.
Franchise mode returns with all the features you have come to expect and love. It details everything from Trades, Drafts, Salary Caps, managing your minor league teams, budges, developing your farm system, to statistics galore. The Franchise Mode also borrows another feature from its NBA counterpart. MLB.com headlines keep players up to date with rumors, unhappy players demanding trades, and team performances. This is a very neat feature that I truly enjoyed.
2K9 introduces the Postseason mode, so you can forget about playing through a franchise just to get to the World Series. There is also the good ‘ol fashion Home Run Derby, where players knock grapefruit pitches out of the park. That’s always fun, but not to the players who suffer fatigue during the second half of the season. This game delivers everything you would want in a sports online mode, including the fun Trading Card feature. The Trading Cards is a great idea, because on top of wanting to unlock achievements and trophies, now players would want to perform additional in-game tasks to unlock even more. It’s definitely a fun feature and a great idea, which the developers at 2K implemented last year.
Hitting for the Cycle!
The gameplay has received welcome tweaks. Pitching is now down to a two step motion instead of the much hated three. A lot of people had problems and complaints with the pitching because it was “complicated” or just “frustrating”, and it was nice for 2K to cater to the fans and modify the pitching mechanics. The batting has also received a slight modification. Batting is still done with the right analog. However, aiming is done with the left, thus simplifying things and giving players more direction. Speaking of hits, MLB 2K9 has a variety of them. Bloops, singles, and line drives – it’s always random.
Inside Edge also returns, giving very detailed statistical breakdowns for batter and pitchers - giving away their weaknesses, strengths, and tendencies. This is a very neat feature that adds to the realism in the game. During exhibition modes, this feature is unlocked, but in franchise mode, you must dish out some heavy cash in order to acquire this information.
Just like the dark cloud hovering over baseball, this game has its fair share of issues. I don’t particularly like the base running. It’s clumsy at times, especially when using the right analog stick. When you try to advance players, they don’t seem to listen to you, waiting till the final moment, and then running only to get caught. At times, stealing a base can be really easy or more often than not, extremely hard.
The game is a bit buggy as well. The game froze on me several times usually after finishing a game and as it goes into the loading screen. Other glitches, however, are apparent in the gameplay. The player field animations are pretty amazing and lifelike. But sometimes, they tend to be a bit wonky. When they toss the ball, the animation looks a bit off. Sometimes the fielder’s body and arm is looking at a certain direction and the ball travels to an intended base, which seems humanly impossible. The one that sticks out the most is one time my third baseman caught the ball for a double play. I powered up the meter and threw to the second baseman to start it, but for some reason he lobbed the ball. Both base runners obviously made it safely. And I am not going to talk about the collision detection, but you will notice a few players magically seep into each other as if it were an episode of Heroes.
Other noticeable glitches are players from time to time seem to over throw the ball for no apparent reason. For example, you would be sitting under a pop up, and for some reason your player decides to not catch ball even though he is on top of the cursor. Every time the ball is hit to the skies, the game decides to go slow motion like if it was John Morrison’s WWE ring entrance. Base runners seem to not listen to you, a la Matt Kemp. The major one I noticed is when a ball is hit to the outfield and it bounces off the wall; the outfielder has a hard time picking it up, even though it’s on the ground right in front of him.
2K being 2K
This game does a lot of things well. The developers listened to complaints and adjusted the pitching so that everybody can play the game now. The batting is more efficient now that both analogs are used in the controls. As always, the Living Rosters feature is a welcome addition so that people don’t have to manually update their rosters. The presentation is top notch from audio to the graphics. Franchise has been updated to include MLB.com and the online is always fun, especially with the fantasy-esque Trading Card mode.
The glitches I have encountered are the main issue with the game and takes away from a great experience. A patch has been promised and will allegedly fix some of these problems. The slow downs during pop ups shouldn’t be happening, especially with the faster loading time this year. But overall, it’s a great baseball experience. With the arcade style batting and pitching analog motions mixed with everything you expect from a baseball sim, Major League Baseball 2K9 delivers a solid lineup but fails to hit it out of the park.
Written By: Albert Iskander
Producer: Tim Jennings