MLB 2K10 Review

By Jake Gaskill - Posted Mar 03, 2010

Take Two has a lot riding on Major League Baseball 2K10, and with stiff competition from Sony's MLB 10: The Show, they really need this year's installment to be at the top of its game. While it definitely hits the sweet spot between arcade and simulation, it also suffers from some of the same issues that have plagued the series for a number of years.

The Pros
  • New batting/pitching controls work well
  • My Player mode is grueling and rewarding
  • Mode after mode of satisfying baseball
The Cons
  • Still buggy after all these years
  • Awkward animations return
  • Pitches tend to look the same

The developers of Major League Baseball 2K10 -- the latest iteration in Take Two’s popular baseball franchise --have said frequently that they listened intently to what gamers and critics had to say about last year’s offering when they started development of 2K10. The good news is that the improvements are definitely noticeable, and they are greatly appreciated. The bad news is the game still makes some of the same mistakes found in past installments, and that’s a shame.

MLB 2K10

Upping The Nasty

The most significant improvements made to this year’s title appear where it matters most: on the mound and at the plate. Pitching and hitting are much more fluid and organic thanks to the new total control design. For pitching, this means the left thumbstick controls every aspect of your pitches. For a fastball, simply pull down on the thumbstick, hold it until the onscreen dials match up and move the thumbstick forward. For a cut fastball, you push up and rotate to either 3 or 9 o’clock depending on which direction the ball cuts. It takes some getting used to, but, fortunately, if you screw up or have trouble getting the hang of the controls, the game provides you with a pitch analysis for every single ball you throw, complete with a thumbstick map that shows you exactly what your movement was. Say goodbye to the old days of cursing the game for being cheap or cheating. It’s all on you now, and that’s fantastic.

Batting adheres to a similar system, which uses the left thumbstick for your swing and the right thumbstick to posit your swing. Pushing down and up will increase your power, but decrease your chances of making contact. Pushing up for contact makes you more likely to snag a base hit. Pushing the thumbstick either left or right will cause you to foul off the pitch, which becomes essential when you fall behind in the count or you want to try and force the pitcher to make a mistake in a crucial situation. The hitting and pitching controls work well and feel smooth, and the fact that the direction of your hits now corresponds directly to the placement and timing of your bat (swing late and the ball will go to the opposite field, swing early and you’ll pull the ball, etc.) each hit looks authentic and makes getting a hit all the more satisfying. This has been done in other baseball games before, but it’s nice to see Visual Concepts finally getting around to implementing it in theirs.

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Game Within the Game Within the Game

Every type of game mode you could want in a baseball game is once again represented here: career, franchise, online leagues, practice drills, postseason-only play, and home run derby. The big new addition is the My Player mode, which 2K Sports introduced in NBA 2K10. Taking your character from first-round draft pick cutting his teeth in double-A ball to the big leagues is a rewarding and demanding experience. In addition to your character’s general goals that need to be reached before you get called up to the majors, each on-field scenario (at the plate and/or in the field) offers a unique game-specific goal as well -- don’t strike out, get an extra base hit, move the players over, etc. So even if you don’t get any hits or mis-play a ball at your position, you can still earn experience points, which you then put towards improving your player’s abilities. Overall, it’s a fantastic addition to the franchise, and one that will keep you saying, “Just one more game” well into October.

Another strong suit is the game’s commentary provided by Gary Thorne, John Kruk and Steve Phillips. Not only does it feel natural, but the depth of the analysis and stats they throw out for players is remarkable. While there were a few instances of the commentary track being utterly out of sync with the events transpiring in the game, they weren’t nearly frequent enough to do any real damage to the experience.

MLB 2K10

“He Has A Perfect Game Going” (Ball four!)

Sadly, there are several technical issues that keep the on field action from truly reaching that next level. For one, pitches are hard to differentiate. I don’t mean that in the “I’m really bad at the game, so I’m just going to complain” sense. I mean, the game doesn’t do that great of a job of representing the speed of pitches. A 96 mph fastball and an 80 mph changeup should look drastically different, but they don’t. In fact, fastballs rarely, if ever, follow the kind of trajectory that they would in real life. Instead of zipping long a fairly straight path, they all kind of arc, even at 100 percent power, like you’d expect to see from an off-speed pitch. Maybe this was a conscious decision on the developer’s part to make the hitting more challenging, but it just ends up making the game unnecessarily frustrating and, worse, unrealistic. In an age when sports games can push the animation envelope and devise more fluid-looking games that evoke real-world athleticism, it’s just unacceptable.

Also, for all the improvements made to address last year’s collision detection issues, clipping and general glitchiness, I still came across a number of technical bugs across multiple areas. Not only do the transitions between animations still take far too long (and there are still plenty of instances where your player will lunge awkwardly towards a ball or slow to a crawl for no reason), it’s also quite common to see balls magically move through a player’s hand onto some invisible plane before traveling to its intended target, players sliding directly through other players, or other such weirdness. The fact remains that after several installments, MLB 2K10, for all of its virtues, still has many of the same vices that have plagued it for years.

MLB 2K10

A Shot Down The Online

The MLB.com integration is back and keeps the game strictly in tune with what’s happening in the actual major leagues. Being able to upload your personal box scores to 2K’s website for other players to view and analyze is also a great addition.  Online play works well, and you have the option of playing either single games, full seasons or tournaments, each of which have a number of options that can tweaked to your liking. While I didn’t experience any lag while I was pitching or fielding, batting seemed to suffer just enough of a delay to make the hitting feel a tag sluggish compared to the offline play.

Good Game. Good Game.

MLB 2K10 is an all-around more satisfying and tight experience than perhaps any entry in the franchise to date. It looks great, the new batting/pitching controls add fluidity and accuracy to the on-field action, and the new My Player mode is deep and rewarding. Sadly, the game contains the same kinds of awkward animations and glitches that have long since been a staple of the series. It’s not as bad as previous years, but it’s still notable, and those are the problems that keep a good game from hitting greatness. If you are a baseball fan and you own a 360, you don’t really have a choice if you want to play a baseball game this year. If you own a PlayStation 3, you’ve got other options to exercise. Fortunately, the game brings enough to the plate to make for an above average season. Just don’t expect it to take the crown. Oh well. There’s always next year.