Who says you have to grow up? Here at SI.com's Game Room, our staffers review the latest sports video game titles to hit the market and welcome your feedback.
3/11/2008 12:18:00 PM
Review: MLB 2K8 (360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP)
Reviewed By Aaron Samus
Image Credit: 2K Sports
Things We Like
Feel Like An Ace: The new pitching mechanics are the best we've seen in any baseball videogame. Instead of simply pressing a different button for every pitch, in 2K8 you have to twist and wind the right analog stick in creative ways to execute pitches. It's not an easy concept to grasp but once you get the hang of it, it's by far the best feature of the game. The timing differs for every pitcher, depending on the type of delivery he features. You might get used to Justin Verlander's motion for seven innings, but when you bring in Joel Zumaya, you have to adjust quickly to his delivery.
Grab A Glove: The Total Fielding also is new and mostly an improvement over previous 2K titles. Instead of pressing a different button for each base, you have to use the right analog stick to point to the base you're trying to throw to, and the amount of pressure you apply determines how accurate your throw is. Double plays don't come off very smoothly but you can pull off sweet plays in the hole with your shortstop, like the Derek Jeter pirouette.
Stats And Facts: The Inside Edge Scouting Reports add an extra layer of realism. In Franchise Mode, you use team funds to buy the scouting reports for your rival teams. When you play them, you'll get pointers on where their pitchers like to go in certain counts and where the cold spots are for their hitters. Also, 2K8 has all the stats you could want, including OPS and Win Probability Added (WPA), the latter of which updates while the game is in-progress.
Trade 'Em: The more big games you have with certain players, the more likely you are to unlock his trading card. Once you collect a whole roster full of cards, you can take that team online and challenge all comers. This adds quite a bit of replay value.
Call 'Em Off: Be careful when running for a ball in the gap. Collisions are quite common if you don't call the other fielders off. Though the results are often disastrous -- inside-the-park-homers -- the crunchy collisions are pretty cool to watch.
Check out MLB 2K8 in action:
Things We'd Change
Hitting Blues: The hitting in this game is an uneven experience at best. You can rake against the lesser pitchers but any hurler with a clue will mow you down, especially at first as you struggle to get the hang of the SwingStick 2.0 batting system. Like in last year's game, the key is to time your step -- pull back on the stick -- just as the pitcher is about to release the ball. Then push forward or to the left or right (for directional hitting) to make contact. I found that pushing straight back and forth nearly always leads to an easy grounder or popfly. The best way to hit is to pull an inside pitch or go the other way with something over the plate. But with the nasty pitchers it's hard to figure out the movement in time to pull it off successfully, and the penalty for choosing the wrong direction is severe.
Strike 1 ... and 2 ... and 3: The main problem is that the pitchers have been infused with the spirit of Greg Maddux -- they're all control artists. Nearly every pitch is a strike, with many of them on the black of the strike zone. Under the normal "Pro" settings, it's nearly impossible to draw a walk. In one game, I left my controller alone for an entire turn through the batting order and every one of the hitters was called out on strikes on no more than four pitches. Ted Williams couldn't draw a walk against these guys, at least not with the default settings.
Bandits: To add to the frustration of batting is that the CPU fielders all play like Brooks Robinson. In one game against the Royals, I was robbed so many times by Ryan Shealy that I had to double-check to make sure that wasn't Don Mattingly at first base.
Awkward Announcing: Commentator Joe Morgan said this while Tigers infielder Brandon Inge was at the plate: "This guy is a world-class hitter." Maybe on Mars he is, but not on this world Joe.
Live Problems: So much of the game depends on timing that when you go online, even the slightest lag can ruin the experience. In one game I couldn't swing the bat in time for the game to recognize the command. The best way to play online is to set it to "strikes only" to make the game go quicker and prevent your opponents from throwing it in the dirt the whole time.
Keep on waiting for that perfect baseball videogame folks, 'cause this isn't it. It is worth playing for the pitching experience alone, and if you tweak the difficulty sliders you'll find hitting to be a lot more fun -- though on the 360 that will cost you a chance at some Achievement Points. Considering it's the only simulation baseball game on the market, it's worth getting. But if you are less into sim and just want to have fun, I'd wait for next installment of The Bigs.