While not the key to other sports games, the presentation of a baseball game is critical. The sports ample downtime can be enjoyable, tension raised with some camera shots, and classic moments remembered for how they were captured. As usual, it’s 2K Sports that handles this the best, with a nothing short of brilliant way of capturing the sport and all of its details. With tweaks to the fielding, this is the best baseball game ever made.
Even if fans standing and fighting for a foul ball doesn’t sound like a necessary feature in a baseball game, you’ll still need to ignore the batter/pitcher showdown in MLB 2K6 to completely dismiss it. That won’t happen. As in the real game, there’s room for both sides to create massive errors with every pitch.
Pitchers need to contend with aiming the ball, moving the catcher to make sure he’s ready for the next toss, and put “effort” on it. This simple targeting allows for full control and requires concentration on every throw. It’s strategic like no other baseball game before it. While you can master the timing to ensure maximum power on every pitch, the stamina drain comes into play.
You’ll also need to factor in payoff pitching. In a tense situation, you’ll need to handle the pressure of a shaking pitching cursor, a swiveling camera that shows you everyone on base before the throw, and the best commentary of any sports game reminding you of how loud the stadium is. This is where the presentation adds dramatically to the situation. It’s flawless come the 9th inning with bases loaded, up by a few runs, and two outs on the board.
The batter faces equal pressure thanks to a new analog swing mechanic. Power is determined by whether or not you let the stick go after pulling back or push forward. The left stick determines direction of the hit. Batters Eye is an additional feature that lets you spot the location of the upcoming pitch and hopefully get ahead of the pitcher.
Off the plate is a base running system that requires practice and work. However, the control is never out of the player’s hands. Every runner can be told what to do with a combination of a button and trigger. The button mashing to ensure each runner is up to full speed seems a little out of place in a game trying so hard to be a simulation, but it’s an aspect you can get used to. Again, this is another way to make sure the player is giving this game their full attention. At no time can you slip away mentally or give yourself a break.
MLB 2K6 runs into problems with its fielding. Getting an outfielder moving is sluggish and aggravating. It’s only a minor issue for the infield, but when a basic pop fly to right turns into a triple because a player doesn’t begin moving until the ball is almost overhead is inexcusable. Playing with the sliders doesn’t rectify this situation at all. Jumping and diving is handled with the analog stick, and is likewise annoying. It always feels a second too late.
You can experience all of this in a staggering number of modes, set up for both casual players and die-hards. If the fielding problems get the best of you, the extensive coaching mode means you don’t have to deal with it. Fans of the World Baseball Classic can replay that off-season event, franchise fanatics can play with a nearly ridiculous amount of roster options going down to even single A squads (or manage it all with the GM mode), while the online crowd gets lag-free play through full seasons and more. There’s always something else to find while digging into the menus.
Those who require detailed stats get the Inside Edge this year. These reports are purchased on specific players before each game using earned in-game tokens. While the “purchasing” idea is rather stupid, the Edge itself is anything but. When a batter steps up, you’ll know what pitch is his weakest, the best spot on the plate to hit, and various other scouting information. It can be invaluable in certain situations.
It would also be criminal to ignore the commentary from Joe Morgan and Jon Miller. The natural banter is indistinguishable from a real game as they make mistakes, comment on the crowd, laugh, and make pausing the game as natural as a commercial break with fan mail trivia. Going for a no-hitter isn’t just an accomplishment; it’s an event with these two calling the game.
MLB 2K6 is one small step away from the best baseball game you’ll ever play. With a tweak to the short-of-broken fielding mechanics, 2K Sports can proudly keep their exclusive license for as long as they want. It’s enthralling because they’ve crafted a baseball game that offers a wide array of control for every aspect of the game. That alone earns it the title it so rightfully deserves.
MLB 2K6 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: GameCube, PS2, PSP, Xbox.
Note: You’ve likely heard of widespread problems with MLB 2K6. The game freezes… a lot. These occurrences seem to be random, while turning off the majority of the presentation seems to help. A recent automatic Xbox Live patch seemed to solve the problem, but after one game, it began to happen again. This occurred with exhibition games only during the review process and after the patch. The final review score DOES NOT reflect this since many people have played the game with no issues at all. However, it is something to be aware of.