Major League Baseball 2K8 is the latest version of the 2K Sports flagship MLB line. It promises more innovation with 2K8 by adding more and innovated features such as a new pitching system, new fielding and base running controls, a completely overhauled batting system and over 90 minor league franchises. But does it live up to expectations?
So what is new with Major League Baseball 2K8?
• Precision Throw Control – gives you an unlimited array of throwing types and angles that give you more realistic defensive abilities.
• Total Pitch Control – is a totally new right analog stick pitching system that, when mastered, will give you unparalleled pitching control.
• Swing Stick 2.0 – that lets you control the ball to bat contact much more than ever before. It will give you unlimited varieties of hitting types.
• New Base running – has been simplified and the base running controls have been overhauled.
• Full Minor Leagues – now gives you access to 90 minor league teams in both franchise and exhibition modes. It comes with 20 minor league stadiums and more to ship via digital download.
• 2K Cards – is an in depth card trading system that allows you to earn, collect, and trade them online with the MLB 2K community.
Major League Baseball 2K8 is a mixed bag. I applauded 2K for making the changes to the pitching, hitting, fielding, and base running schemes, but I am afraid that some of the changes will frustrate many until they get the hang of it. I think that down the line it will benefit the game for added realism.
Let me start off with the pitching first. It is completely new mind set that one has to deal with. You are presented with several pitch diagrams. You choose the pitch you wish to make and move the right analog stick toward the first pitch direction, and then you watch as the expanding ring begins to flash (see image above) to a point before it turns red and then you have to make a second movement with the stick. For example, to throw a curve, you move the stick diagonally to the lower left, then at the correct time you make a counterclockwise movement to finish the pitch. If everything works correctly, you have a strike; if not…well read on.
It is not the mastery that is frustrating to me; rather it is what happens when you are off on a pitch. I could understand that it is hard to get strikes, that sometimes the batter hits a line drive, hits a ball through the infield for a hit; the problem is, that when you are off, the batter jacks one. While I understand that when a pitcher misses a spot, it can sometimes be knocked out, the system seemed off. When I was testing the system, I was seeing 90% as home runs. That would be fine if each batter was Big Papi, but they’re not. I have tried to throw a curve high and inside, almost to the point of hitting the batter on the back, and it was still hit as a home run. I tried to walk someone by throwing outside and had a very hard time to do that.
That is not to say that it is all bad, but it is frustrating when you are trying to get the hang of it. On the other hand, once you figure it out and you start to get it right it works pretty well. Also, as a side note, you can go back to the traditional button pressing method of pitching as well. I think that there will be many who will give up on this new pitching and go back to the old.
Next is the method of hitting. This too uses the right analog stick as well; here, too, you can go back to the button pressing method as well if you choose to. To swing, you pull back the right stick, and when the pitcher is getting ready to release the ball, you have to push the stick forward to swing. The manual says that you can release the stick for a contact swing, but it does not seem to work that way. It too was a little frustrating trying to get it right, and on this side of the plate, everything is a strike… or so it seems.
Fielding also uses the analog sticks as well. To move your fielder, you use the left stick, and to throw the ball you move the right stick in the direction of the base. As soon as you do, a meter begins to fill and when it hits the center section you release the stick and the ball is thrown. If you are off, so is your throw. Overall this feature works really well, but sometimes the players don’t always grab some of the easiest balls like slow rollers.
Overall, Major League Baseball 2K8 operates pretty well. There are some frame-rate issues that pop their heads now and then and there is an occasional lag and speedup with regard to fielders. I have heard that 2K is working on a patch for these items and hopefully they will get them resolved soon. One other note: when you are trying to read some of the text and button recommendations on a standard size TV, they are not very clear.
The announcing is really well done, as is the sounds of the game itself; the bat, mitt, sliding, etc. The crowd is okay, and some of these graphics are a bit lame, but not really something to affect the game. The music gives me more of the feeling of being at a football game as opposed to a baseball game. It appears that 2K partnered with Pitchfork Media and came up with music by Modest Mouse, the Flaming Lips, the Cure, and other indie rock staples. I don’t have a problem with the music itself, but it makes me think that the came was developed by someone who has never been to a game and it looses some of the feel.
The bottom line is that overall, I think that Major League Baseball 2K8 is a good game that still needs some work. I think that 2K8 is superior to 2K7 and that they are going in the right directions, but that they have not quite made it. Things feel more realistic than 2K7, but not near as good as 2K5. I think that if they want people to adopt the new pitching there needs to be more training videos like the one listed below, or they will find people giving up and going back to the buttons.
I think that if you are a baseball fan, that you will find Major League Baseball 2K8 an improvement overall. You will feel frustration about some of the changes, but give them a chance and I think that you will find it rewarding after you get over the learning curve.
Major League Baseball 2K8 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PS2, PS3, PSP and Wii.