"It still lacks MVP-like numbers, but MLB 2K7 is able to offer up an All-Star season..."

Spring is nearly in the air, teams have already reported to camp, and opening day is right around the corner. Yes, baseball…real baseball…is back. That might suffice for many in this world, but what about those of us who desire to show our worth on the digital field of play?

When I learned that the team over at 2K Sports actually planned on shipping Major League Baseball 2K7 to stores a bit earlier than originally expected, I got even more excited about the title. Ever since EA Sports lost the rights to use the various MLB licenses in their baseball titles, I have been playing a modded version of MVP 2005 for the PC. Last year, the PS2 version of The Show did little more than leave me yearning for more MVP. I figured 2007 would be much the same, until I learned that Ben Brinkman, the man who once spearheaded the development of my beloved franchise, was coming to the rescue of the often critically panned 2K series.

Considering what you now know, keep in mind that this review is written from the perspective of a man who longs for the return of another series. I am highly critical of anything that is not MVP baseball. Also, I have no prior MLB 2K experience, so if I find any “ho-hum” aspects (to veterans) to be new and exciting, please forgive me.

Graphics

As console developers continue to the push envelope with the sheer power of their systems, graphics unfortunately continue to be over-emphasized, where-as quality game play is pushed to the backburner. Being pretty usually is never enough. You need to have that substance. Nonetheless, it is hard not to admit that the graphical presentation of this game immediately sucks right you in.

MLB 2K7 truly does hit…yes, you guessed it…a home run when it comes to its looks. But seriously, and though it is a cliche we have beaten to death with every new generation of consoles, it really is getting closer and closer to watching the real thing. Almost every, single small detail has been accounted for, ranging from wind-blown jerseys to snow-cone grabs. The baseball physics are accurate, and so many players actually look and even move exactly like their real-life counterparts. The extremely well designed and detailed stadiums often feel alive, despite the fact that many cutaways to the fans will show them clapping in super…slow…motion.

The now well-documented frame rate issues are certainly disappointing, considering the money we are now sinking into these machines and games. Fortunately, the problem is not so bad that it cripples your ability to play or creates any terribly disturbing visuals. The fact remains, though, that we'd like to see things like this ironed out next year. There really isn't any excuse for it.

Game Play

Players that are all style and have little substance rarely go far. That might have been the case with last year's offering last year, but I suppose some time in the minors helped clean up 2K's act.

At the plate, the player is offered three different approaches to batting, but the newest one, the SIXAXIS control, feels exactly like it does in most titles: gimmicky. Luckily, both the classic and analog stick controls are done correctly and should be enough to satisfy us all. The game's realism does make batting extremely difficulty, at least in the beginning, because everything is coming at you so fast. By the time you recognize the pitch type and location, the ball has already hit the catcher's glove. It really forces you to think like a real batter. You begin to look for a particular pitch in a particular location. Until you reach two strikes, you need to avoid defensive swings. Make the pitcher come to you.

Speaking of pitching, it is down right fun. Your catcher calls the entire game, and for the most part, he does a good job. When in doubt, you can always call him off and throw whatever you want. The nice touches here include variable pitch ratings dependent upon the accuracy of payoff pitches and rattled pitchers who lose their ability to throw strikes. As was the case with hitting, you've got to try playing it like the real thing. Calling off your catcher all the time and throwing nothing but strikes will eventually burn you.

Fielding is the one area that the developers desperately need to revamp next year. The switch from pitching to fielder needs a slight pause, and while outfield play has come a little bit easier, way too many easy grounders slip right past the infield. This is the one place where the previously discussed frame rate issues really come into effect. Many times, I have overrun easily caught balls, because the player jumps from one spot to another.

Game developers offer the user game play sliders in most sports titles, so that the difficulty level can be tailored to one's own ability and style of play. Trust me when I tell you that you'll be using them in MLB 2K7. No matter what generic difficulty level you choose, there are many normally rare happenings that become far too common. You'll hit too many home runs, the opposition will rob you of you too many home runs, terrible pitchers will always paint the corners, and the list goes on. I haven't had the opportunity to fully test out what can be alleviated with the sliders, but I'm sure that a majority of players will eventually be able to find a happy medium.

Sound

Like the visuals, MLB 2K7's sounds make you feel right at home. The crack of the bat, the pop of the glove, and the roll call at Yankee Stadium create an atmosphere that nearly duplicates, yes, the real thing. There are numerous tense moments when you expect the fans to get a little bit more excited about what is going on, but you'll probably be so wrapped in the game itself, you won't notice that they are a little too quiet.

As many of us discover to be the case with numerous sports game, the weakest part of MLB 2K7's audio presentation is the announcers. If you are a fan of the Miller/Morgan team, you will probably enjoy what they have to say. They really seem to a duo that is either loved or loathed. After a few games, many of you will likely find yourselves putting on music or talk radio or whatever it is you use to drown out the voices in your head.

The soundtrack to this game is amazing. It features some excellent titles from artists that span a number of rock sub-genres, eras, and levels of notoriety. Rather than just serving as mere advertising for the artists, the soundtrack actually feels like it fits the game. I have found myself just stopping and enjoying the music from time-to-time. Obviously, you will eventually get bored with the limited number of tracks, and I would have liked to see a custom tracks option, but I'll still give them a lot of credit for offering up some decent licensed music.

Features

There's not much new here. You'll find your standard modes, like exhibition and franchise. There are a number of different takes on the home run derby, which is always a fun party game. The initial rosters are out-of-date, and the first updated ones they issued have incorrect salary information. During the season, the CPU does odd things that simply cannot be explained. I'd still like to see a baseball title that offers a practice mode, affording newcomers the opportunity to polish their skills without having to play a whole game.

There are many unlockable extras, which range from silly game boosts to mini-games that may or may not kill a few minutes of your time. As always, it's nice to reach certain accomplishments and unlock the ability to bunt a home run in an exhibition game, but obviously such stuff doesn't exactly have legs.

Lag plagues this title's online mode, as it often did with MVP. Considering that baseball is almost always about timing, I doubt I will even bother playing anymore online games. It also doesn't help that there simply aren't many people out there that currently own this title or even a PS3.

Conclusion

I still feel that a “certain” game from 2005 holds up well against this titan of the seventh generation. Nonetheless, it would appear that Brinkman's role was definitely not just for show or as a mouthpiece. Though I am obviously a rookie to the series, I highly doubt this title is anything more than a distant cousin of the game that received average reviews but one year ago on the 360. The presentation is near perfect, and what gripes I have with the game play should be easily worked out once I am able to fool around more with the sliders. There are still some major issues that need to be resolved, which is near unacceptable when we are paying so much money.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/05/07


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