Major League Baseball 2K10

Major League Baseball 2K10
Major League Baseball 2K10 Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, DS, PSP, Wii
Genre Baseball comebacker of the year
Score 7  Clock score of 7
Buy from Amazon

Another year, another sports game.  Gamers hear this every few months when the newest Madden is coming out, or the next iteration in a 2K series, or even for the Tiger Woods series.  Sure, you updated the roster, but what did you really spend the last 12 months on?  That is the eternal question for series with annual updates, and it's always one someone is forced to answer.

For 2K Sports' MLB series, 2009 was a rough year.  The series was switching developers and reactions from the fanbase was generally bad.  With Sony's rival series, The Show, growing stronger and stronger with every iteration, it was not a good year to take two steps back.  2K and Visual Concepts desperately needed to show that they still worth the MLB license they paid for: 2K10 needed to be the Comeback Player of the Year.  If you believe Metacritic, they have definitely improved.  2K9 has a metascore of 64 with a user score of only 5.2, whereas 2K10 has a metascore of 76 but even more importantly, a user score of 8.0.  The MLB 2K series seems to be back on the right track.

But I never played a previous iteration of the series, let alone 2K9, so I'm coming into this season as a rookie.  I'm still expecting a lot though, my favorite baseball games are more arcadey, like Base Wars or the Ken Griffey Jr. series.  Those games were just pure fun and the gameplay was great not because it was great baseball, but because it was a great video game.  MLB 2K10, however, is realistic and trying to not let you realize that it is a video game.  Quite a bit different than what I'm used to.

So here's my full review of MLB 2K10, this was a review copy for the Xbox 360 provided to me by 2K Games.  You can see read my "first hour review" of the game that actually follows me through about the first 10 hours of the game.

What I loved

My Player mode, hands down one of the coolest features in sports games now.  Now, taking a single created player through the minors and into the Major Leagues isn't anything new, it's really well done in MLB 2K10.  After you create your character and define what position they'll play, you are immediately playing a "clutch moment," basically, you're tossed into the end of your first baseball game and you have to come through for your team.  My pitcher had to save a game in the bottom of the 9th with two outs and a man on base.  Get the out and we win, let him score and we lose.  There's nothing better than being tossed into the action like that.

After that, it's the long road to being called up. You're given a set of goals to achieve before you can reach the big leagues, and everything has to be checked off before you can proceed.  This can be a double-edged sword as you know exactly what you need to do, but the rules are so inflexible that it may take you a while to do it if you dig yourself into a hole.  I'll talk about this a bit later.

The three in-game announcers are very good and the variety of their comments is definitely worth noting.  Nothing can remind you quicker that you're playing a game than hearing the same lines repeated over and over, but the trio of Gary Thorne, Steve Phillips, and John Kruk never had that problem.  I like listening to these guys in real life though, so it felt very natural to hear them in-game like this.

Pitching in MLB 2K10 has also become as much of a science as it is in real life.  Brush batters back and you can nail the outside edge of the strikezone on the next pitch and not expect a swing.  Get cocky and throw right down the plate and you will pay.  I really felt the pitcher vs. batter battle with every at-bat.  The pitching motion is performed with a gesture of the thumbstick, and while it's not as simple as pressing the A button a few times, it's very rewarding when you nail a pitch perfectly.

What I liked

It's almost surreal playing a baseball video game and controlling just my baserunner on first base.  In My Player mode, you just control just your created character, and if you get on base, you only job is to be on base.  You watch the pitcher-batter matchup from afar for like the first time ever, and just hope he gets a hit to drive you in.  I found myself cheering on my computer controlled teammates against our computer controlled rivals.  Sad when they struck out, and over joyous when they got a big hit.  I never would have thought that just watching something like that could have actually been fun, but it is, in its own weird way.

Hitting is performed completely with the right thumbstick.  Press up to swing, left or right for a contact swing (generally produce fouls), and down and then up for a power swing.  It's great not to have to pick the right height of the bat and instead just concentrate on timing, but it almost felt too easy.  My pitcher was hitting over .250 and didn't have any decent amount of skill points in his hitting categories.  Contact swings in general seemed very easy to perform and I could routinely go deep into counts.

What I didn't like

Now that the developers have seemingly improved a lot of the gameplay aspects of the MLB 2K series, here are some things I'd like to see fixed for next year. The animations could use an overhaul, there was a lot of jerky baserunning and fielding, and whenever the camera zooms in on someone, it doesn't really look like they're playing baseball.  They're just kind of a 3D model on a field that looks like a particular player.  There's no interaction between players and whenever an inning ends, it always looked like my pitcher was on a collision course with the first base coach. These kind of things remind me I'm playing a video game.

Finally, while My Player mode is entertaining, a few things definitely need to be tweaked for next year.  Getting to the Major Leagues should be a challenge, but it shouldn't be teeth-grindingly frustrating.  I discussed this in my first hour review extensively, but the inflexibility of the goals almost made me give the game up.  I played with the difficulty for a bit and really forced myself to pick my pitches carefully, but then I started to have less fun.  As much as the game might not want you to remember, it still is a video game.

It would also be great to have a little more than just game after game and a practice here or there.  What if I could build a relationship with my catcher, or work with a trainer whenever I felt like I needed help?  Changes like these would help the game go a long way against The Show.

Conclusion - 7/10

MLB 2K10 is a great baseball simulator that can be frustrating at times.  The My Player mode is a great (and necessary) addition to the series, but needs some more development love to really make it shine.  If you're a baseball video game fan and are hurting from last year's game, I think you can give 2K10 a go and not regret it.  I can't compare 2K10 to The Show as I haven't played it, but it's an all around solid game that deserves your attention if you just can't wait for the season to start.