Saturday | October 22, 2016
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MLB 2K8 is back with a bang, offering new gameplay additions which promise to make this the best MLB yet. So 2K will have us believe anyway. I’ll be checking out if it’s a home run or a flop. Firstly lets discuss the major additions to the game play mechanic.

Total Pitch is the first of three new gameplay facets, now you have to trace certain movements with the right analog stick to try and copy the actual motion a pitcher would make with his hand and arm. A curveball starts in the lower left and moves around to the upper left by the time the movement is finished. This is a much more intuitive way to handle the motion rather than the old style holding the face button and timing the release with the onscreen meter. Additionally if like me you hated the way the pitchers got tired around the 50% range, 2K have tweaked this to be now around the 30% stamina range.

Swing Stick 2.0 is the latest adaptation of the system 2K introduced last year with the only difference being that  they have removed the power control from the hit stick. It is possible to revert to the old two button style of hitting (one power, one contact) however, if you really dislike the new method. I am hoping that V3 of the Swing Stick will allow the end user to control the swing with the right analog stick. Surely this is the best method of control?

Precision Throw Control (thankfully) uses the right analog stick to designate your bases with the direction of the stick movement determining the accuracy. The longer you hold the right stick the more power you use and this also determines if you throw it high or low. I really like this method of throwing and it feels very immersive when you use it, almost as if you are actually throwing the ball yourself. The only negative I can mention would be the time it takes to get the throw ready, it can frequently make double plays a little difficult to execute.

Fielding in 2k7 faced criticism from fans with very limited movement animations available. This has been considerably improved, additionally the marker showing the ball landing area only appears if the player is facing the pop fly. It still isn’t a perfect system but it is a drastic improvement over any of the previous iterations.

The strongest point of MLB 2K8 is the vast array of features 2K8 have included. The all important franchise mode is extremely well loaded with options. With 90 minor league teams and over 20 stadiums at your disposal. Player call ups, scout prospects are all the order of the day. The only thing lacking is star mode seen in other game franchises (mainly EA games), in which you can create a player in your own likeness and take him on a career path to ultimate superstardom. I am a particular fan of the card mode, this allows you to build a dream team of players by competing specific challenges with them in the game. The online section of the game is virtually identical to last years with the addition of more lobbies. They really aren’t even worth discussing as the online portion of the game is really not enjoyable at all.

Additions aside, there are quite major problems with the way the game flows as a cohesive whole. This is not helped by the jerky camera motions and frame rate issues which once again rear their ugly head. The Xbox 360 version runs smoother although will certainly not be winning any awards for coding expertise. I fail to see how the Playstation 3 would fail to match the Xbox 360 frame rate in this game so I am firmly putting the blame on the developer. I cannot abide laziness.

Unfortunately the graphical issues don’t stop here and we are subjected to some horrible collision detection and ropey player animations. To make matters worse I witnessed several players walking right through each other. I really do not find this acceptable in today’s gaming age, these kind of problems should be weeded out by game testers before they reach the production stage. After all it totally ruins the atmosphere if you see one of your guys apparently oblivious to a ball rolling directly under their feet.

The physics are also a crucial part of a contact sports game, and they are, sadly lacking, right from the clothing to the players movements. These cloth physics annoy me because while in theory this sounds like a great thing to have, they only seem to actually work on a players mid torso area. The character models are also quite appalling with patchy animations more akin to a game released 3 or 4 years ago.

The audio side of the game is more acceptable with Joe Morgan and Jon Miller handling the commentating, however while their voice acting is obviously spot on (they are just being themselves after all!) the way the game engine is handling the dialogue is less than satisfactory. You frequently hear incorrect calls and dialogue just at the wrong time! When they work, they sound great and make you feel part of a live game on television but they rarely seem to get it right. Again, this is lazy and sloppy coding.

The music is fine with a bunch of lesser known rock bands providing the mood, however I can’t help feel we don’t really need pumping rock music in a baseball game. I would much rather have stronger crowd sounds and accurate commentating.

MLB2K8 is sadly lacking in most of the key areas and it looks and feels dated even with the three new gameplay mechanics that 2K have tacked on. The graphics are unacceptable for 2008 with substandard animations, poor collision detection and physics which rarely work right and even when they do they quite often don’t look right. There are many features in the franchise mode, however compared to other games in the same genre they feel dated. Let’s hope for 2009 that 2k spend some time overhauling the game from the ground up because it really is long overdue.

While it is great that 2k have introduced new gameplay mechanics the game just does not gel well or play well. A shoddy effort.
A total lack of effort from the ground up with framerate and collision detection issues galore.
Spot effects are fine, but the commentating rarely ties in with the game being played and the soundtrack seems out of place.
Franchise mode is acceptable if a little outdated in some key areas. If you love baseball games you will get something out of it, however for casual sports gamers, the thrill will not last long.
(not an average)
A shoddy second rate effort which needs a major overhaul for 2009 to be worth the money. Avoid.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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