The MLB 2K series has been on a roller-coaster ride this generation, and many are pointing to this year as a "put up or shut up" point in the development process. In other words, I was more then a little interested to see how MLB 2K10 was shaping up. Luckily for me, I got a chance to play MLB 2K10 on Thursday.
Read on to find out what I thought about the game.
Gone are the days of absurdly high strike percentages. AI pitchers will work the entire plate, and will work outside the strike zone if you are having a Vladimir Guerrero-type of day at the dish. Guys like Santana and Lee paint the corners, and guys like Carlos Silva, well, paint the walls with batted balls. One of the cool little things I noticed is the pitching motions on the controller flip 180 degrees depending on whether you are pitching from behind the pitcher or behind the plate.
Total Control Pitching
I actually changed my mind about this feature after playing with it more since the demo. The art of pitching is always a challenge, but one of the biggest concerns is walks issued by the user. Hitting your spots with your secondary pitches (especially curve balls) can be quite challenging, allowing you to miss your spot much more than before. In my time playing as Brian Matusz, I walked three hitters over two innings because I could not get some of the motions down. Another upgrade is the fact that you can now select your pitches before you start your right-stick gestures. This stops the "wrong pitch" issues of 2K9 when using the wrong right-stick movements.
Being a new analyst to the game, everything he recorded is brand new, which really adds to the presentation of the game. He sounds very, very good when analyzing situations and players, and his commentary is not overdone in any way when he is chatting it up in your game.
This is another feature I was sour on until actually getting some play time with it. It is not an automatic foul ball by any means. Good contact hitters can foul balls off on an 0-2 count in order to keep the at bat alive. Bad hitters can and will strike out or pop up if using the defensive swing with bad timing. Of course, many people believe that the deletion of the check swing is not an adequate trade off for this (but at least that error is being corrected in a patch, which I was told will be ready on launch day).
For as much as I like the Total Control Pitching (and the defensive-swing mechanic), I am still on the other side of the fence with the Swing Stick. It keeps the challenge, but it just does not feel as intuitive as its pitching counterpart. I will probably be switching to classic batting when taking my hacks.
The preloaded throws are solid, as are the animations that accompany them. Turning a double play is much easier now as well. However, there are still some very uninspiring things that happen on defense. One that I have seen a couple of times deals with the line drive/one hopper dynamic. There have been multiple times where I have seen an infielder running backwards when a line drive is hit at him and running forwards with his glove in front of him on a ball that skips once on the ground. The auto selection of outfielders was also very hit and miss during my time with the game.
The options in this mode are very much like the options found in The Show's game last year. The mode does, however, add a very "superstar" feel to using your player. You start in Double-A, needing a "clutch hit" during a pinch-hit situation. You get a slow-motion walk to the plate accentuating the situation. Beyond that moment, everything you do is goal-oriented. The training points you get are separated into the areas in which you earned them (make a catch, you get fielding points, get a home run, you get batting points). As for the fielding camera, it is hard to get used to at first, but you get an arrow that points to the ball with a distance meter to help you out.
This could have easily gone into the pros column if I had a chance to view it. The way it is explained, there is one developer responsible for lineups and pitching match-ups each day. That is his only job. But, much like its basketball brother, MLB 2K10 updates its commentary based on real-life situations. Is Albert Pujols on a 36 game hit streak? If so, the commentators will mention it in the game. Is Derek Jeter injured? Expect to hear about it and see displays showing the impact to the Yankees lineup. I have high hopes for this feature, especially after playing NBA 2K10. In fact, since this is baseball -- where stats are of the highest importance to the rabid fans that follow every split and scouting report -- it could be received even more warmly than it was in NBA 2K10.
My first impression is that this is not the same 2K baseball game that became a punch line during the past couple of years. Now, it is not a perfect game either, but it seems to finally be a step in the right direction.
"Full disclosure: 2K gave me a copy of the game after the demo was over. While it did not influence what I wrote here, I always think it's important to be up front with the visitors of this site whenever possible.*