Reviewed: March 14, 2010
Released: March 2, 2010
2K Sports is in big trouble. They are cutting back on sports games – the highly rated College Hoops series is gone, and rumors are flying that their former best NHL Hockey game is heading to the showers too. So that leaves Major League Baseball and NBA basketball as 2K's sole survivors with MLB being their only “sort of exclusive” title (Sony also shares rights for the PS3 and PSP). EA is throwing everything but the kitchen sink into their games and 2K is cuttings games... thereby putting a lot more financial strain on the last titles standing.
It's a real shame because 2K had some really good sports titles. Even the MLB series has been good... but then came MLB 2K9 and the bottom fell out. To be fair, it wasn't horrible... it just wasn't any fun and had way too many bugs. So hopefully 2K10 breathes some new life into this franchise. Well, good news baseball fans! 2K Sports appears to have completely revamped Major League Baseball 2K10! Well, maybe it's not that dramatic... but this is a significant upgrade from last year.
There really doesn't appear to be anyplace where there isn't an improvement. However the core of baseball – the pitching and hitting – have been revamped significantly. Total Control Pitching lets you put the ball exactly where you want it, as long as you keep a close eye on your pitcher. His fatigue as the game progresses will have a big impact on his control. So confident were the 2K developers in their pitching engine, that they put up $1 Million for the first person to pitch a perfect game. I'm not sure if they thought their pitching engine was so good that nobody would do it, or they just wanted people to spend hours trying. It was accomplished in a week. But 2K says they won't “judge” it for another month – probably to keep people interested.
Total Control Hitting relies much more on timing than previous years. You can time your swing for power, put the ball in play, or take a defensive swing. Pitch Tell uses a hitters “eye rating” to help you identify the type of pitch before it gets to your hitting zone. Both of these core improvements take some getting used to – but after a few games these tweaks along with the much improved player rating system will help you forget about all the previous years disappointments.
Probably the biggest change in 2K10 is the addition of “My Player”. In this mode you create a player, choose a minor league team and work your way to the majors and maybe the hall of fame. This mode is similar to the “be a player” mode that EA has brought into their games over the past few years. The FIFA and NHL “be a player” modes are probably the standards that all others should be judged. In that, MLB 2K10 is new at this and does a good job for their first time out. Quite honestly, I am not a baseball fan, but this mode is one of the few things that will bring me back to play this game. Just a suggestion: play as a pitcher. If you opt for another position you'll quickly get tired of sitting there waiting for something to happen – but that's one of the frustrations of baseball in real life too.
MLB 2K10 includes all Major League Baseball teams along with the AL and NL All-Star teams. Also included are two great teams in the form of historical fantasy teams. The AL team features Reggie Jackson, Paul Molitor, Yogi Berra and others. The NL team features Mike Schmidt, Johnny Bench, Willie Stargell and others. But there are limited minor league teams and no national teams in MLB 2K10.
Online play is fairly standard. There are not any major changes from previous years but there are some significant bugs in the shipping version – mostly when playing ranked matches. Also there are some odd decisions by your virtual manager leaving bad hitters in when the game is on the line, and not taking a pitcher out when they stink being the biggest problems.
The really interesting news is just as this article is going to press, 2K has released a significant update to the game – primarily to address the online play issues. There are some major league issues with the shipping version of MLB 2K10. Some of the these are addressed with the update, but not all. I think it's great that the developers would spend resources fixing their games – however if you don't have an Internet connection with Xbox Live, you can't get these updates. So you are hosed. It's great that 2K is supporting the game, but it's more than a little disturbing to find out that MLB 2K10 shipped with some major known bugs. So if you don't have Xbox Live, proceed with caution.
2K Sports has addressed some of the graphical issues that really hurt the game last year. Improvements are clearly visible in almost every area from fans to player animations. However there are still some framerate issues that stutter along here and there. I noticed it especially when a batter strikes out and the catcher throws the ball down the baseline to go round the infield. Some of the biggest changes are in the overall presentation. It looks surprisingly close to what we see on any network broadcast. Camera angles, and the MLB today section lets you see just how many improvements there are in MLB 2K10. The crowds even stand up and try to catch foul balls.
Steve Cook and Gary Thorne man the broadcasting booth in MLB 2K10 along with John Kruk. You may recognize Thorne from EA's NHL Hockey series. He is probably one of the best hockey announcers in the business, and many would say the same for baseball. All three announcers are significant improvements over last year and deliver a smooth and exciting game commentary. I rarely heard a repeated phrase and Thorne delivers an added level of excitement that honestly is more than baseball deserves.
The ambient noise is also about as authentic as you can get. The PA system plays that annoying knockoff of the “Day-oh” song. The fans yell at the players and each other. All this attention to the little details have hopefully begun to heal the wounds inflicted by MLB 2K9.
MLB 2K10 doesn't really give us much love by way of DLC's on Xbox Live yet. There are avatar items like team jerseys and hats, but no new teams or other items. There are a whopping 50 achievements for a total of 1,000 points available. Simple achievements like “getting a hit with two strikes” are overshadowed by the difficult six secret achievements.
The shelf life of MLB 2K10 really rests on your love of the game. There are quick and fun games like Home Run Derby, but there are also hardcore baseball fan items where you can play with the statistics and play full seasons. The addition of My Player is a huge plus for any fan dreaming of playing in the big leagues. But 2K still hasn't caught up to MLB The Show.
2K Sports delivers a good baseball game for the Xbox 360. It't not great, but it is better than last year’s version. It's a real shame that 2K has the exclusive license for MLB on the Xbox 360 locked up for 2 more years. Sony has the highly rated MLB 10 The Show, yet even if they wanted to, they can't port it over to Xbox. Unless you want an arcade baseball game, MLB 2K10 is the only realistic baseball game out there for the Xbox 360. The problem is 2K's only competition is on the PS3. Last year The Show was impressive, this year it's amazing. 2K has certainly made big strides from last year, but so has their competition and 2K just isn't catching up. But it's all you can get on the Xbox 360 for now.