MLB 2K9 — Our Review (Xbox 360 version)
This week the Major League Baseball season kicks off a what promises to be a great and intense season in pretty much every division (ok, ok, beside the AL East where my Yankees will not only dominate the Rays and Red Sox, but will also get elusive title 27– GO YANKS!, even though we started out a little slow in the first game vs the Orioles), and what better way to kick off the new season then by playing the new MLB game, MLB 2k9? Well, before you run out and drop $60, how bout you read our nice lil (ok, fine it’s not that little 😉 ) review here first– trust me, not everything in this game is worth it.
Ok, so let’s get right to it. This game definitely has it moments, but at I was disappointed with some of it– actually, a lot of it. Let’s start with the good.
The gameplay is probably the best it’s ever been in a MLB 2k game. The stadiums look crisp and clear (particularly the new Citi Field and Yankee Stadium– both look so good it’s like your looking at the real thing, and God knows its much cheaper to look at these versions than to actually go to the real ones 😉 ). The announcers have real-sounding conversations; they will even stop their conversation when the ball’s in play, and then continue in the next at bat! It is also by far the best color commentary I’ve heard in any sports game (and I play pretty much all of them– NBA 2k9, Madden 09) and Steve Phillips and Gary Thorne sound much better that Jon Miller and Joe Morgan (particularly Joe Morgan).
Additionally, the game itself is much easier to play. The graphics are nicer in most cases, and the pitching controls are greatly improved and make it easier to execute your pitches. Hitting remained about the same, though bunting is a little different — you now hold down “X” and move the left analog stick (the little stick in the upper left on the control you use to move around in all games) to direct the bunt– and fielding definitely went down in my opinion (see the upcoming The Bad for details). The basics of the game though seemed to come out ok.
Some of the better-looking graphics in MLB 2k9
2k Sports (the makers of the game) also included a feature that they have in their other 2k9 games, like NBA 2k9, called “Living Roster.” Using Xbox live at every startup (assuming you got an Xbox Live account and connected your 360 to the internet), the game automatically looks for and downloads the latest roster once it’s available. I really like this feature, as it makes things a lot easier if you want to play with the latest rosters (like assume those reading this would). Gone are those annoying days of searching through roster lists for every single team just to put together the current squads 😉 (thank God).
Now let’s go to the bad, and unfortunately I found a lot more bad than good.
Ok, so let’s say whats bad about the gameplay. The fielding is just plain weird. Not only is it harder to just make a regular catch — you now have to really be DIRECTLY in the circle showing where the ball is — but if you’re the slightest bit off, you looking at a triple at the least, possibly even a home run. Also the running of the fielders just looks wrong, like flat out wrong, lacking even a hint of realism: everyone shrinks — C.C. looked Dustin Pedroia’s size when fielding a grounder (and I’m not just talking height!) — and runs in a weird awkward way. A slight slip moving a fielder will automatically lead to some sort of jerk reaction, letting the ball again roll away to the wall (this happened to me a few times). The fielders themselves appear oddly designed also, particularly their eyes! Never look at the players eyes when there is a close up– you can thank me later ;).
Oh, and forget about simple double plays like there were in last years game. The standard 4-6-3 is a 50-50 shot you’ll actually get the guy out at first, and that’s with your average big leaguer, not Jose Reyes. Talking about double plays, for some reason the baserunner heading to second doesn’t seem to make anymore “take out” slides to get rid of the double play. Yes, I understand these were everywhere last year, but I’ve played this game for over a week, and I haven’t noticed or been able to make a single one (and the computer couldn’t make one either mind you).
2k Sports also took out some things like manager arguing, and ejecting pitchers when they intentionally hit batters. Again, why they did this I don’t know.
The gameplay overall, not too bad, but not as crisp and developed as it should be, and not anywhere near as good as the Playstation-only MLB ’09 The Show (this is unfortunately for Xbox 360 owners, an exclusive product made by Sony only for their systems– PS3, PS2, PSP, and so they’re able to still make it even with the exclusive deal MLB and 2k Sports have which prevents other groups like EA Sports– the Madden guys– from making their own baseball games like they did in the pre-2006 years with their MVP baseball series, which was actually very good).
One other big problem with the gameplay: the 3-second black screens between every half inning. I got no idea why the game does this, but between every half inning, you see a black screen appear for 2-3 seconds, though it feels like much more. It is really annoying and makes absolutely no sense as other games seem to do just fine without it.
Now let’s move to the franchise mode. Its a disaster. First off, forget about simplicity, this is just that big of a mess. For example, wanna fantasy draft and chose not to draft certain players because their too old or too expensive? Oops! When you switch in the middle of your drafting to simulation mode — who has the time to sit through 175 rounds with 30 teams — the computer picks for you those players you (and the other teams) specifically tried to avoid. But it gets worse. If you then want to drop or trade those guys, you’ll first need to call them up from the minors, which thanks the new and de-improved 2k8, is exponentially more complicated; no more swapping guys in and out, calling up/sending down has become unnecessarily tedious, and trading minor leaguers for a major is no longer an option. Just so much more confusing and, frankly, annoying, then it should be.
To top it off, the computer-run teams make trades so often that even franchise players of certain teams will be traded over (I think Dice-K ended up with the Royals in one of my franchise modes– huh?). In short, 2k Sports really screwed up this franchise mode, making it a real pain to use.
Summary: For those of you looking for some pick-up games with the latest rosters per team, and aren’t really interested in much more than that, you may be interested here, though I’d wait a little longer till the price drops over the next couple of month’s because $60 isn’t worth it– by a long shot. Otherwise, for those looking for the complete baseball video game experience, I’d recommend either waiting for some things to be fixed (who knows, maybe, just maybe, 2k Sports will realize people aren’t happy with the problems in this game– it’s not just me, check out this review from Gamespot.com— and fix it with a software update to the game, though unfortunately that is an unlikely possibility), the price to really drop ($20 sounds reasonable), or just spending some time and going through the 2k8 game and fixing the rosters yourself. I know that last option is a pain, but if your looking for a better experience, particularly with the franchise mode, then it really is your only option as the game is just so buggy. Oh, and if your a PS3 or PS2 owner reading this, I’d definitely recommend going yet again with MLB ’09 The Show, as that actually looks to be yet again, a real good game (see Gamespot.com’s review of the PS3 version here).
It pains me to do it, as this game looked to be really good from all the off season promo’s it had, but I got to award it a rather pathetic rating of a 2, which was only saved by the better commentating and slightly improved overall gameplay and graphics.
We give MLB 2k9 a rating of a pathetic 2 out of 5
What are your thoughts– you have anything you’d like to point out on our review? Wanna just add your own thoughts on the game? And by the way, who do you think will win it all this year (though, I’m just gonna warn you– even though the Yanks lost the other day, it’s still our year. Ring number 27 here we come! 🙂 )? Sound off in the comments.
MLB 2k9 is available now for $60 on the PS3 and Xbox 360, Wii for $49.99, PSP for $29.99 and PS2 and PC for $19.99.