Take-Two and 2K Sports had a tough road ahead of them this past year with MLB 2K10. This is the year of the fan—the year when fan input is shaping what this year’s title has to offer. This is also the year that the series is supposed to take a big step forward. And with Sony putting out a heck of a game year after year with The Show series, it needs to take a few steps forward indeed. So what’s the verdict? Well, there certainly are a number of improvements that make this game worth playing, but some of the same faults still remain. Without a doubt, 2K10 is a step in the right direction.
2K decided really to concentrate on the pitcher-batter match-up this year. I’m happy to report that this effort paid off, as pitching and hitting both are smooth and enjoyable processes. Everything is built around the thumbstick, as it has been, but it is much improved. For pitching, each pitch has its own motion and feel to it. For example, a fastball requires you to hold down on the stick, and then push straight up when the meter fills. A curveball may require you to hold it up and to the right, and then rotate it around the axis to the left when the meter fills up. So, it involves two things—accuracy in placement and movement, and timing. Finish the movement early, and you’ll not get maximum speed or movement. Finish it too late, and you’ll overthrow, sacrificing control. After each pitch, you’re given an analysis of your movement and timing, which helps to learn the system. And the system works very well.
Batting is similarly updated, with the thumbstick being used for everything. Simply push up on the stick and you’ll attempt a contact swing, or pull down and then time the push forward for a power swing attempt. This gives you a tradeoff of power and contact, making for another layer of strategy. Timing is essential with hitting. When you just miss a fastball because you were a split-second late, you really get a feeling of wishing you could have that one over again, and this makes for a great system.
Of all the major sports around, baseball is the one with the most downtime. Each pitch is huge, but between those pitches, there is ample opportunity for conversation. Luckily, this game fills up this space in a good way, with John Kruk, Steve Phillips and Gary Thorne providing some of the best commentary we’ve seen in a baseball game. We all know how bad commentary can ruin a sports game, and thankfully, it manages to stay fresh and believable enough to make you appreciate it.
Along with that, the believable sounds, both environmental and sound effects, add up to an authentic sounding baseball experience. Visually, the game looks better than last year, but it still has some ground to make up in terms of animations, movements, and environments. I hate to make comparisons to Sony’s competitor, but The Show is the standard for visuals at this point.
The biggest attraction to MLB 2K10 is its wide array of game modes and ways to play. You’ve got exhibition, drills, playoffs, home run derby, career, franchise, and online play. The biggest addition is My Player mode, which lets you create a player and take him from the draft, to AA, all the way up to the big leagues. Along the way, you’ll have goals that need to be completed, both short-term and long-term, in order to progress your career and fame. Progression is based on experience points, which are earned for almost everything you do. My Player mode is rewarding and fun, although it does get tedious at times. But hey, that’s the grind of the 162 game season, right?
Back this year is the MLB.com connection, and it does a great job of keeping you connected to real world of baseball throughout the season. You can play the real world games, integrate stats with your games, and keep up with all the news and standings. Online play works relatively smoothly as well, although I did come across some hiccups in maybe 25% of my games. Normally, it didn’t ruin a game, but it was annoying. When you’re batting, the slightest bit of slowdown can ruin the experience.
Though there have been strides forward this year, some of the same issues that have plagued the series make a return. The movement of players, especially on defense, has a long way to go. Animations are smooth most of the time, but the transition between them is often slowed down or choppy. When you’re immersed in the game, these hiccups serve to pull you right out of the experience. It may not seem like a big deal, but when the fielding and movement is not smooth and believable, it really detracts from the game. Also, we still have some of the same issues such as players moving through each other, the ball being thrown from somewhere other than a hand, etc. Hopefully, these are issues that will be worked out in the near future.
MLB 2K10 is a good game of baseball. Not a great game, yet, but a good game. I will say that for the first time in recent memory, I get the sense playing this game that it does have the chance to be a great game in the next couple of years. The pitching-batting dynamic has been vastly improved, and is extremely rewarding. The online integration is a nice touch, and as it continues to get deeper, it will give players the opportunity to do more. My Player mode is a very nice start, and for the first time, players can take their created selves and move them through an entire career. If you’re a fan of the series, I do recommend picking this one up, as you’ll find a solid game of ball, though not without its hiccups. There’s no denying it—it’s not up to the level of Sony’s The Show, but 2K10 certainly makes strides toward leveling the playing field.