STAFF REVIEW of Major League Baseball 2K10 (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010.
by Ken Laffrenier

Major League Baseball 2K10 Box art You would never guess it when meeting me in person, that I was not a jock in High School and College. I didn?t spend my evenings and weekends playing sports and winning acclaim for my physical prowess (on and off the field). While I did take part in unorganized rugby matches and I tossed the football around with the kids in the hall? (not the real ?Kids In the Hall? but wasn?t that a great show, death comes to town doesn?t begin to measure up)?anyway, I digress. Baseball, in all its stats-filled glory, didn?t really appeal to me until a few years ago when I had the opportunity to join the company team. If you ever get the chance to see my 5?5, 170lb, 40 year old frame running the bases or fielding a long ball hit then you will be treated to a truly awe inspiring site.

Here we are, a mere 3 years later and I find myself stepping up to the plate in an effort to become one of professional baseballs all stars. No longer will I vie for the glory days of old; filled with the regrets of youth and the will of maturity. Finally I can showcase the skills and complexity necessary to become a star; finally I will hear the roar of the crowd as I round the bases.

Now?get that image out of your mind?and get back to reality for a moment. For all the reasons listed above and for so many other reasons, 2k Sports has , thankfully, released its 8th offering into its baseball lineup in the form of Major League Baseball 2k10. 2K Sports is a subsidiary of Take-Two interactive along with the 2K Games and Rockstar Games. Obviously, 2K Sports specializes in the sport genre and features an extensive lineup of licensed properties including the National Basketball Association, the National Football League and of course, Major League Baseball.

Truth be told I am a gamer to the core, and when I say gamer I mean geek, not athlete. I did do a little rugby but after having my %@# handed to me on several occasions I gave it up for the pixelized goodness of professional sports console licensing. My favorites have always been the hockey franchises (I am Canadian after offense to our neighbours to the south...yes this is being written less than 24 hours after the Olympic Hockey win). I have many friends that swear by the numerous and varied, football, basketball and baseball offerings and I have played matches for most of the titles. However, my last try at baseball was 2K's MLB 2K8. Anyone who has played 2K8 knows where I'm going here; the game was flawed on numerous levels and didn't work to draw in the non-sports oriented, casual gamers.

Thankfully, 2K Sports may have taken a couple of years but they seem to have addressed many of the issues of the past. Keep in mind that I won't be drawing on comparisons to past offerings in this review; I plan to simply showcase MLB 2K10...2K's the Bigs and the Bigs 2 are pretty good if arcade-ish and go a long way in entertaining the masses...okay, from now on, I'll only discuss 2K10.

Graphically the game is absolutely stunning; from a distance of 10 feet the gameplay cutscenes are as good as (if not better than) many of the sport networks telecasts. From the lighting to the players and even crowd in the stands (groups will scramble for balls that are hit into the bleachers and the spectator that comes up with the ball celebrates while the others cheer and jeer). Although I did notice a couple of very minor clipping issues; there are plenty of times that I would put the controller down to take in the visuals. While I can't say it's as good as being there, I can say it's the next best thing. It's obvious the care and detail that 2K has put into this game; each of the players have unique movements, stances and nuances; it is rare that you notice any movement on field that isn't entirely new.

The sound was great, even the intro immersed you into the baseball culture. The typical stadium sounds were spot on and the sound of the ball as it flies past for a strike and hits the catchers mitt is exactly what you want it to be; succinct and leaving you with a desire to really hit one out of the park. Add to the ambiance and excitement with the in game commentary from Steve Phillips, John Kruk, and Gary Thorne and you can't help but look around for overpriced beverages.

There is a ton of gameplay in this title. This is the classic 'Pitchers vs. Hitters' title with improved controls that essentially put the gamer onto the mound and into the batter's box. Most of the gameplay options are new but not surprising; from the Home Run Derby, practice drills, play online (not available as of writing this review but 2K promises to have fixed the issues surrounding MLB 2K9), manage a team and even follow a team through the Postseason. At the core of this release is the new 'My Player' gameplay mode. My Player allows you to create a unique player, customized to your specifications (favorite team, looks, left or right handed, etc.)and then immerse him into the Minor Leagues. From the minors you will earn points completing specific drills and in game plays. As you complete these tasks successfully your player will become better, faster, stronger; hopefully he'll become a six million dollar man and move up to the pros. Develop you player through the pros to reach the Hall of Fame. In my time playing I am still in the minors but I am enjoying the game more and more as I work to increase My Player's stats.

Ahhh Stats, what can we possibly say about stats? Some find them an absolute utter nuisance while others live and breath stats (I knew a group that would bet large sums on obscure stats...$1000 on who would break or replace a lace). This game is stuffed full of stats; from the commentators to the best place to throw the ball you are inundated with tons of seemingly useless knowledge. At first I chose to ignore the many numbers and facts presented but when I began to understand how to utilize these tidbits of information, well that's when the game really started to come alive. Knowing where and what a pitcher is most likely to throw increases the chances of hitting the ball; not just successfully but with accuracy. The game also presents real time stats on all of the players that updates on a regular basis.

During the actual Major League Baseball season the game adds additional features. First is the ability to play the same game that is being featured in the Major Leagues; if the Yankees are playing the Mets then you can step in along with the same lineup and starters (the commentators will even pipe up with updated stats). Also as an added feature for any baseball fan: MLB Today offers a scrolling display of actual, day to day, moment to moment, baseball news and information.

The franchise play is what you would expect...take your team through a season of play; different opponents, different fields,plenty of 7th inning stretches. This is still a baseball game; a good one but there is simply no way to amp up the intensity of facing another round of strike outs and fly balls. If you're not at all a baseball fan then this title simply won't be on your radar but if you are a fan then you have to consider how 'real' you like your console baseball title to be. If you like the strategy of going up against a winded pitcher in the 8th with 2 on and you're seeing an outside curve ball to your 3/2 count then this title is for you. But if you're like me and enjoy the occasional televised broadcast over beverages then I encourage you to try this one out. The learning curve is steep, often frustrating and the controls are almost revolutionary but it says a lot when after more than 5 hours of play I'm still in the minors and I've barely touched many of the other gameplay features. This title will keep you coming back and will try at every turn, to make you a stats fan.

Now I'm off to see if I can get 'Ken Laffrenier' above a .115 hit average (I wonder if I can bean the pitcher this time up).

Overall: 8.3 / 10
Gameplay: 7.8 / 10
Visuals: 9.2 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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