The baseball season is just about to get under way, and that means it is time for everyone to get some of the dust off your mitt and get ready for another long grueling season of America’s great past time. When that time comes it also means it’s time for more baseball video games. Since 2K Sports grabbed the exclusive rights to the license a few years back, competition has been a bit sparse outside of the ever improving MLB The Show franchise from Sony. The big question is can 2K Sports get their baseball franchise back on top of its game, or will the game struggle as in year’s past? Read our full review of Major League Baseball 2K8 for the Xbox 360 to find out.
I have to tell you, when I threw in MLB 2K8 for the first time for a quick game, I was shocked to see how much had changed. 2K has been known to really try to push the bar with new control schemes, and what I call bullet points that really try to show how far the game has come in a year. From the opening pitch you could see that the developers from the ground up wanted to change this game into a completely revamped experience. Were the changes for the good though?
Well let’s get right into some of the big changes in the game, start with the pitching. The developers call it the Total Pitch Control, which is another way of saying, 2K is moving further and further away from the face buttons and relying more and more on the analog sticks in their game. Well with Major League Baseball 2K8, the pitching has gone completely to relying on the analog sticks. The idea is to mimic the motion that the pitcher does while pitching. So for a curve ball you will be moving the analog stick in a different direction than you will a splitter or a fastball. The idea is seems really intuitive, but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired.
I would have liked to have a designated practice mode in the game, but it does allow you to figure out what you’re doing while in a game and throw some practice pitches. The accuracy to which you throw these isn’t all that clear, and there are times where you feel like you nailed a pitch and it ends up throwing a meatball, meaning its probably going to get hit out of the park. This mechanic to me has the potential to be a real winner for the game, but I thought the implementation was far from perfect. When you’re throwing pitches in good locations and you feel like you nailed the motion of the pitch, and it ends up going dead center and knocked out of the park for no apparent reason, that can be frustrating.
The strongest addition is in the new batting. This has trimmed itself down to not worrying about what type of hit you want to do, but instead lets you swing away. The mechanic is a lot smoother this year, and the amount of variety in hits is pretty impressive. To go along with the positive flow, the defensive aspect of the game has been improved as well by relying on the right analog stick for throwing. This works out really well, and you’re given a meter as to how hard you want to throw the ball to which ever base you point at. This really works well, and adds an extra layer of depth to the game.
What surprised me most about MLB 2K8 is the lack of polish around the edges. I have heard rumors that there is a planned patch for the game, but as of right now there are a lot of frame rate and slow down issues. The game just doesn’t run smooth, and it has a detrimental impact on the rest of the game.
The modes in the game haven’t been changed all that much, the franchise mode seems to work a lot better in this year’s game and feels a lot more complete. The mode feels a lot smoother than before, and gives a much better all around experience. The online play in the game hasn’t changed all that much and I found that there was an unexplainably excess of lag when playing. I am 99.9% sure it wasn’t my connection having received no lag in other games, but from my few attempts to play online, the experience wasn’t necessarily all that smooth.
The gameplay was a bit of a letdown in MLB 2K8, and I have to say I was a bit surprised to see that. The series has struggled in years past with not smoothing the edges, and it unfortunately seems like they have taken a step backwards in the gameplay department. The ideas are new, original, and some implemented well, and others not so much.
I haven’t been all that impressed with the visual style of the MLB 2K franchise in the past few years, it looked like they were in the right direction, but no where near as good as they could have been. This year is more of the same, and in some cases a bit on the disappointing side again. The frame rate doesn’t help matters, but the player models are a bit on the bland side of the ballpark, and the game itself just doesn’t feel like it is generally moving forward.
I like the concepts behind almost every change that 2K Sports was trying to implement with this game, they all seemed like great ideas. The execution of these ideas however were no where near as well implemented. A big issue for me was that the integration of these ideas made the game a lot less fluid and that really hurts a baseball game. Baseball is a slow moving sport, when things aren’t moving smoothly, you see it even more then you would in any other sport outside of maybe golf. There is still some to be enjoyed in MLB 2K8, the game still has a lot of strong qualities, it’s just far from being on top of its game like we have seen in the past.
It’s a shame to see MLB 2K8 struggle to the magnitude it did in this version. You could see the developers had high hopes for a lot of the new functionality of the game, but when it is all said and done, everything doesn’t gel together all that well. The game is still playable, and enjoyable, just don’t expect it to be a perfect package.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.