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Major League Baseball 2K10 (PlayStation 3) artwork

Major League Baseball 2K10 (PlayStation 3) review


"Like so many other sports games released this season, MLB 2K10 is guilty of failing to break new ground. My Player mode won’t appease everyone. However, it’s pretty clear that 2K Sports designed it with only one kind of player in mind – the kind who has always wanted to be the individual star of a baseball team without having to worry about all the other nonsense."



Whether you like or loathe America’s favorite pastime, there’s no denying that it has made for some of the best sports games around. MLB ’09: The Show elevated baseball games to a whole new level of realism. Just a few years ago, The BIGS gave baseball the NBA Jam treatment by cutting out most of the rules and by adding several over-the-top gameplay elements. Wii Sports, of course, showed us the potential of a motion-controlled future. In the early days, World Series Baseball helped advance the sport while keeping it light and fun.

Among the classics and hidden gems are the annual upgrades that come from Sony and 2K Sports (and Atari if you count the “Backyard” series). Every year, these games battle it out for baseball supremacy, just as NBA Live and NBA 2K fight on the basketball court.

Major League Baseball 2K10, the latest arrival from 2K Sports, comes out swinging with a new mode – My Player – that lets players take on the role of an individual homegrown athlete as he attempts to climb his way to the top. In a nutshell, it’s MLB 2K10’s version of the athlete-specific modes that have been cropping up in so many sports games. Here, players are given the chance to build a (potential) star from scratch, adjusting everything from his appearance – including height, weight, skin tone, muscle definition, and the equipment he wears – to his position and the team he plays for.

Trivial elements like chest, butt, thigh, stomach, and calf size can be tweaked, but only the most obsessed gamer is going to care about them, especially when the visual adjustments are minimal at best. There aren’t many head and face combinations to choose from, so the resulting player won’t look nearly as good as the actual athletes. But considering that most of My Player mode is experienced from behind the player, this isn’t a big issue.

More significant issues arise from the gameplay, which is decent but disjointed. Why should a catcher get more time to bat than a center field? Why does the AI fluctuate between smart (ex: batters who successfully predict each pitch) and stupid (ex: pitchers who throw several nearly wild pitches in a row)? Why would a fielder grab the ball rolling in front of his feet and stand there while the base runners move from second to third? Why are the edges of the players, the field, and almost everything else slightly jagged?

There is seemingly no rhyme or reason to these problems, but they are a permanent fixture of MLB 2K10.

Despite the ongoing drama (or is that trauma?), My Player is entertaining, at least until the repetition kicks in. While scouting for balls in the outfield, the game is slow but intriguing. Players will have to keep a close eye on the ball, which is easy to catch most of the time – simply run to the white spotlight shooting up from the ground and the game takes care of the rest. When the ball flies overhead, however, things get really interesting. From there, it’s a frantic battle to grab the ball and toss it to the base that’s in danger of being stolen, hopefully before a teammate can do it since there won’t be any points awarded for someone else’s accomplishments.

My Player’s point system is fairly extensive, offering upgrades in the areas of base running (speed, awareness, acceleration and aggression), batting (contact vs. lefties/righties, power vs. lefties/righties, eye vs. lefties/righties, bunt and drag bunt) and fielding (catching, throwing accuracy, aim strength, fielding range and fielding anticipation). It’ll take an entire game’s worth of time to fill these options; every stat meter begins in the middle, and it costs a fortune to raise them.

Upon starting MLB 2K10 for the first time, players will notice that there aren’t many “new!” icons hanging under the features list. Drills, MLB Today and My Player modes are the newest offerings; not surprisingly, they take their cues from other sports games, primarily those from the 2K library. MLB Today, for example, opens the door to a baseball version of the Living Rosters feature that the NBA 2K series has been pushing for the last few years. This allows purists and perfectionists to download roster updates that mirror those of the real athletes, thus creating a real-world connection between MLB 2K10 and the actual sport. That connection is strengthened by MLB Today’s game lineup, which lets players take on virtual versions of the latest scheduled events.

In Drills mode, players can hone their skills by competing in several mini challenges, each of which revolves around a different area of the sport. While this could be an interesting and helpful feature in any sports game, 2K Sports has really outdone itself by making it a fun and compelling way to gain experience within the game. Hitting, pitching, fielding, and base running are the main categories, and each one offers at least two options (ex: fielding lets you take control of a catcher or play the infield/outfield).

Mechanically, MLB 2K10 is solid, if not a little predictable. Once again, the thumbstick is used in full force, allowing players to push it in various to directions to pitch and to bat. Both mechanics are fairly challenging, as it takes expert precision to throw a curve ball properly, and demands near-perfect timing when swinging the bat. These elements, more than any other part of the game, are true to MLB 2K10’s intentions. There is nothing arcade about them (unlike the fielding controls, which, by comparison, are rather simple).

Now that we’re four years into the current generation, the visuals in most sports games are starting to level off. That’s certainly the case for MLB 2K10, a sequel that features many of the bells and whistles players expect from PS3 and Xbox 360. The rich textures, intense shadows, and seamless animations are worth noting. However, these effects aren’t much better than what we’ve seen before, and of all the 2K Sports games, this one has the worst facial details. The jagged edges don’t help the situation.

On the upside, the rock-oriented soundtrack is pretty good, even if some of its artists (Jet, Tantric, Pearl Jam) are no longer the radio superstars they used to be. Boss Martians’ “Hey Hey Yeah Yeah” is a catchy track, despite the fact that its lyrics are as shallow as a teaspoon of water. “Lisztomania” (by Phoenix) has a nice ‘80s vibe, but considering the rest the soundtrack offerings – which include the likes of Iggy Pop and Social Distortion – its inclusion seems out of place. The same could be said for “Rapper’s Delight;” where’d that come from?

Like so many other sports games released this season, MLB 2K10 is guilty of failing to break new ground. My Player mode won’t appease everyone. However, it’s pretty clear that 2K Sports designed it with only one kind of player in mind – the kind who has always wanted to be the individual star of a baseball team without having to worry about all the other nonsense. Sadly, some of that “nonsense” (such as team management and the ability to control every position) is what makes baseball games fun; this year, those elements are carried over from MLB 2K9.

Last generation, 2K Sports sold a few of its games at a discounted rate to compete against EA (who was the sports game leader at the time) more effectively. If MLB 2K10 had been sold at a similarly low price, it might be easier to forgive the flaws and rehashed content. But as a full-price game, players expect a full-price experience, and that is something they do not get.

Rating: 7/10

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Freelance review by Louis Bedigian (May 07, 2010)

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