Review by Sephir0th56

Reviewed: 03/07/08

A different baseball experience that isn't without faults

Since EA is no longer in the MLB game-making business, it’s up to 2K Sports and SCEA to make games that accurately represent the game of baseball. 2K did a decent job with 2K7, but there were tons of little problems with the game. In 2K8, most of these things are resolved, but some other things come up that might annoy you.

Graphics – 7/10
For a PS3 game, the graphics are decent, but not amazing. The graphics don’t seem to be much better than 2K7, and they seem a bit more “squished” than in 2K7. In fact, some parts, like the dirt, seem to look better in 2K7. Visuals of the crowd are much improved, though. They react to the game better than previous games, and they seem to be a little more lifelike than before, though that isn’t saying much. The issues with the graphics vary. Many of the characters have decent models, although (as usual) there are a few people whose face you won’t be able to stand. Many people on the 360 boards have complained of framerate issues that are completely unnerving them, but I don’t have much of a problem with the framerate in my experiences. There are occasional slowdowns, but the slowdowns happen very occasionally to me. This may be a difference between the games on the two systems, but I’m not completely sure.

Sound – 8/10
To start off, the soundtrack in the game is pretty good. It’s similar to last year’s game in the sense that a lot of it is indie music, but I like it. Famous bands like The Strokes and The Cure are in the soundtrack, as well as lesser known (but good) bands such as Kasabian. It’s also possible to incorporate your own music into the game, which can solve all your issues with the soundtrack. However, the commentary is a whole different story. In the interview with Ben Brinkman, he claimed that there is a lot of new commentary. There isn’t. It is plenty similar to 2K7, and other things about it annoy me, such as the little pre-game conversation between Jeanne and Steve. I’ve played quite a few times, and they say just about the same thing about the pitchers every single time, and it’s something along the lines of, “these pitchers can match each other pitch for pitch. They have similar ERAs and win-loss records.” I don’t see how an ERA of 1.29 and 3.44 is similar, but whatever floats their boat. Overall, the commentary is still rather typical and not much improved. The sound of the bat hitting the ball, on the other hand, is nice. Sound effects are good in this game, though some will make you scratch your head wondering what’s wrong with your TV. For example, you may hear a foghorn from a passing ship, or maybe an airplane flying by. I thought my TV was broken when I heard the first foghorn, before realizing I was playing in the Bay Area.

Gameplay – 8/10
You can play quick games, simple exhibitions, or do Franchise mode. The method of playing the game can also vary; you can simulate, manage, or play the game. This review will mainly cover the playing aspect of the game, though I’ll say a few things about managing.

The graphics are ok, the sound is fine, but the gameplay is the main cause of hating or loving the game. The new batting system is called SwingStick 2.0 which includes two components, the swing and the step. And no, this isn’t a dance. Basically, you use the right analog stick to swing by bringing it back, then thrusting it forward. Timing is the most important component to ripping a ball cleanly, and you must time the step and the swing accurately to maximize your hitting. There are three types of swings that can also influence your hitting: normal, defensive, and power. I very rarely am able to accomplish the “normal” swing. To normal swing, you bring the stick back and let go. I can randomly do it and get a hit, or he just stands there looking silly. Power swings involve bringing the stick back and thrusting it forward, and defensive swings are just a thrust forward. The direction which you push the stick also influences the hit. If you bring the stick left, then the ball magically tends to go left, and so on. I personally enjoy the system. It takes a little while getting used to, but given an hour with the game, it is not at all hard to be at least decent with the swinging mechanism. If you want to revert to old-school, you can go back to the classic one-button hitting, the classic swing stick, or even the Sixaxis control from 2K7.

Pitching has changed from the one-button interface, as well. Many people have trouble pitching at first, but it is also something you get used to. To pitch, you use the right analog stick once more to do your pitch “gesture.” All the pitch gestures for your pitcher are shown on the side of the screen, so you don’t need to memorize the gesture for every pitch. To throw a slider with a right handed pitcher, aim (obviously), then hold the stick left and watch the circle increase. As it increases, effectiveness increases, but it is harder to hit a good release point. Once you reach the desired effectiveness, move your stick to the second movement. For this case, the slider with a right-hander, you bring the stick in a counter-clock wise motion to the right, then let go when your circle has decreased to an inner green circle known as the release point. If you horrendously botch up the gesture or release it much later or earlier than you should, you throw a “meatball.” The computer will not hesitate to eat it up in its entirety and punish you. This gets annoying sometimes though, because if you randomly move the stick the slightest bit without meaning to, you throw a meatball right down the middle. Given my luck, it tends to happen to me when I’m facing the opposing team’s best hitters. Needless to say, it can make you frustrated. Overall, the new system is fun and fresh, but it can be a hassle when it unwarrantedly punishes you for no reason. And of course, if you want the old system back, you can have it via simple menu navigation.

Fielding is a whole new ballgame (pun intended). Once again the right analog stick comes into play (pun intended, again). To throw to your designated base, you point the analog stick in the direction of the base (first base is right, second base is up, etc.). If you hold it in that direction too long, you’ll throw it in the dirt with some mighty force. If you release it too soon, you may end up throwing it away. I mess up plenty on fielding just because I’m used to other systems, but it’s a nice system, though I have far more errors than I should.

The AI in this game is much more realistic than in previous games. When batting, they don’t always swing at ridiculous pitches out of the zone, nor do they have the ability to repeatedly rob you of your deserved hits. They also don’t have amazingly strong arms that can throw you out at third base from the back corner in right field. This is a pleasant change, and I can’t really complain much about the AI in this game. There are also some differences in managing games. In previous games, you could get a bunt single 90% of the time if you had someone very fast with a good “Bunt for Hit” stat. This game abolishes that minor fault, and now the computer actually throws you out half of the time. Managing games tends to turn out pretty realistically, though it isn’t surprising to see a good batter hit two homeruns a game if you always click “Swing for HR” with them. It doesn’t happen all the time, but perhaps more so than it should.

I have heard on the boards that many people have their games freeze while playing in a game. It seems to be more of a 360 problem, because I haven’t had freezing problems on my game except for two times. Both of the times that my game froze, I was exiting a game, so it wasn’t a big deal.

This game is just like any other sports game in the sense that once you get used to the system, you should have no problem playing the game well. The easiest difficulty is sad to play. You constantly get hits because they feed you plenty of fastballs in the zone; you also constantly strike out the opposition. The second (Pro) difficulty is a little bit harder, but not hard at all. The opposing pitcher continually pounds the strike zone, but throws off-speed pitches more often than in Rookie mode. It’s not too hard to minimize the other team to 5 hits a game if you have a great pitcher, and it’s not hard to hold the opposition to 4 runs if you have a mediocre pitcher. The next difficulty has a great difficulty spike from the previous one. The opposing pitcher throws balls more often, and pitches decently smart. Once you’ve mastered Pro, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem adapting, though. The final difficulty is similar to the last, but it’s also harder to strike out the other team. After hours and hours of playing, it still isn’t impossible to blow out someone on the highest difficulty.

Overall, this is a good game, but not a great one. If you want baseball, plain and simple, The Show might be a better option. However, if you want to try something different while overlooking the minor problems, definitely go with this game.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Major League Baseball 2K8 (US, 03/03/08)

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