Review – Major League Baseball 2K10

MLB 2K10 is the latest title in 2K’s long-running baseball simulation. The game takes pride in its pitcher versus batter matchup, the ultimate battle in baseball. Featuring improved controls and a new My Player mode, MLB 2K10 is an excellent baseball game that still suffers from a few flaws, mainly in its presentation and visuals, which can either be a major detraction for the title or a minor annoyance depending on what type of player you are and what type of experience you’re looking for in your baseball game.


Superior Control: Each pitch type in MLB 2K10 has a unique control scheme in which a specific manipulation of the right joystick (for instance, a 12-6 curve requires the player to swing the control stick around 3/4 of a circle). Doing so becomes easy in a hurry, but perfecting the pitch takes luck, practice, and perfect timing. It’s well rewarded when you do hit the perfect pitch zone because the ball will carry maximum velocity and movement. This leads to incredible moments when, as a pitcher, you witness your pitch freeze a batter or you watch him whiff on a high fastball. MLB 2K10 touts the ability to get into true battles with a batter, and it delivers. The AI often fouls off pitch after pitch, and it’s incredibly satisfying to place one or two pitches outside of the strike zone and watch the batter sit back and take balls only to swing and miss on a ball out of the strike zone when he’s caught in a 3-2 situation. The controls take some time to get used to, but once you become accustomed to them, pitching is the most satisfying aspect of the game.

My Player Mode: For the first time in series history, MLB 2K10 introduces a “My Player” mode in which you can create yourself and follow your career through the minors, into pro baseball, and perhaps eventually into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. My Player mode is the strongest aspect of the game’s numerous career mode choices because of the focus on improving skill points and because of its ability to hone you in on goals. The mode tells you what you need to do to reach the majors from the minors and it then tells you what your goals for the season are, for your career and what you need to do to gain Hall of Fame status. During each game, as well, there are numerous goals. For instance, as a pitcher, each batter you face includes a challenge such as “strike out the batter”, “force a ground out” or “force a double play”. If you don’t do so you won’t be punished, but if you do accomplish the goal, you earn bonus skill points to improve your player’s statistics. My Player mode isn’t without its flaws, though. The mode is most fun as a pitcher because you can quickly ascend to the majors and you participate throughout the game and wield superior control over the plate. As a fielder rising to the majors is much tougher than it is a pitcher. The skills you need to develop are greater and the opportunities to participate in each game are much less frequent because you only get in three of four at bats in a game and you only actively participate when a ball is hit to your position. Naturally, I can’t blame 2K for this – after all, you can’t expect them to get you up to bat 15 times in a game or hit every ball to you, but the truth is, playing as a pitcher is just much more fun.

MLB Today: MLB Today is a cool new feature that updates rosters automatically throughout the season. So, if you’re really into authenticity, you can follow your team throughout the regular season and you’ll have to deal with the adversity they deal with. If Dustin Pedroia is injured during the season, your roster will reflect that, as it will also reflect roster movement, such as whether David Price is called up to the starting five in Tampa Bay at the beginning of the season or whether he migrates several times between AAA and the majors. The only thing to note regarding MLB Today is whether rosters will also include updated player ratings to reflect player’s seasons. For instance, David Price carries a mid-70s rating in the game. But what if, after half a season, he was 11-2 with a 2.50 ERA? Would his skill be improved as a result? It will be interesting to follow how MLB Today works throughout the season, but regardless, it is a unique feature that truly melds the real thing with simulation.

Adapting AI: The AI in MLB 2K10 truly adapts to your style. If you’re known for dropping a 12-6 curve constantly, the AI will begin to jump on it and recognize your patterns. You’ll find that you can’t simply drop that curve into the dirt and catch them off guard. You have to change things up. Likewise, as a batter, if you swing at first pitches the AI will attempt to put their first pitches to you out of the zone to get you to chase. This leads to an appreciably difficult experience that reflects the true, difficult reality of pitching and batting in the majors. At the heart of the game, baseball is a thinking man’s sport. Every pitch is calculated. The placement of the pitch is like a chess battle with a batter who tries to guess what you are planning to hurl his way. It is impressive to take in the attitude in which the AI approaches you and approaches the game.

Removing You From The Fantasy: Unfortunately, MLB 2K10 focuses heavily on the sport while ignoring the importance of the presentation. It’s all well and good to have a realistic, fun, baseball simulator, but part of the joy in playing sports games is imparting the feeling that you are a sports star. While the stadiums and player models are far from horrid, they simply feel generic. As a huge Red Sox fan I was so excited to finally make the cut and get called up to pitch at Fenway only to discover that while there was the Green Monster and Pesky’s Pole and the tricky triangle in deep center-field, there also wasn’t enough detail to make me believe I was really at Fenway. The little details really count in sports titles because fans are so passionate about their teams, their stadiums and their cities. Seeing missing parts of Fenway and a skyline that just didn’t look right took me out of the moment and out of the believability. Comparing screens of MLB 2K10’s Fenway Park to MLB 10: The Show’s really highlights what MLB 2K11 needs to do now that they have, for the most part, made the actual gameplay excellent. Put us in the game by making every setting look truly authentic.

Online Troubles: Another aspect holding back MLB 2K10 is the fact that the game’s multiplayer ready screen froze. It was virtually impossible to play online upon release unless you wanted to play against a friend. Tackling a ranked match was rarely possible, which I’m sure will be patched up soon in order to make the game a more fully-fleshed out experience. As it stands, the multiplayer aspect of the game is decent although scoring runs isn’t terribly easy due to minor online lag. It’s hard to swing properly at a pitch when lag hits in the middle of its delivery. The true star of sports games are the offline modes, which 2K should be thankful for considering how hard it was to get the online multiplayer to work.


At the end of the day, MLB 2K10 is a very good baseball experience. The core gameplay is excellent, fun and not-too-punishing for mistakes. The career modes are good, and the My Player mode is fantastic if you are playing as a pitcher and is still quite enjoyable as a fielder. The only issues holding back MLB 2K10 are a subpar presentation that takes you out of the moment. While it’s obvious that you’re playing a Major League Baseball game, the stadiums look good but far from excellent, and frequently I found myself playing a minor league game in New Hampshire or Cleveland where the stadium had palm trees swaying in the wind. If only there were palm trees in New England!

Overall, MLB 2K10 is worth the investment because it provides a realistic baseball simulation that is fun and addictive. I recommend it for all baseball and sports-game fans.


8


*We reviewed MLB 2K10 on the Xbox 360. It was developed by Visual Concepts and was published by 2K Sports. It is available on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Wii, DS, PSP and PC.