SONY PSP REVIEW: MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL 2K6

Why take me out to the ballgame, when the ballgame can now come to me? by Colin Thames

April 21, 2006 - Major League Baseball 2K6 is a solid baseball game. It's not big on frills but it is loaded with modes, including online play. There are some instances when this version actually outshines the console.

If you don't mind a little compromise, Major League Baseball 2K6, makes a very playable portable baseball game. This is easily the best baseball game available for a handheld system. It may not have the same "broadcast quality" features of the console versions but the core of the gameplay is very much intact. The AI plays a very convincing game with plenty of realistic nuances that makes the scores, plays and number of walks, fouls and homeruns appear randomly natural. The controls are responsive and offer plenty of variation for batting, catching and throwing. There are also less bugs in this version than you'll encounter on the console.

Virtually all aspects of the game have been simplified, from the interface to the lifeless crowd of spectators. There isn't much in the way of flash with the presentation. There are few replays and the few that are shown are repeated. Cutaways are limited to homeruns, strike outs and the end of an inning with the team walking off the field. It's enough to give you a whiff of the real thing but what you really want is a big bite. Sound effects are also very minimal, with little more than the crack of the bat and the thud of the ball hitting the glove. The commentary is provided by John Miller and Joe Morgan, and they are the ones that bring some life to the game by providing some very personable play-by-play. They have recorded lots of dialog and while it's not always perfect for every situation it's a hell of a lot better than dead air. There are virtually no crowd or ambient sounds and there are no calls from the ump. To some of you this may sound like nitpicking but I want this to feel like a day at the ballgame or at least like I'm watching it on TV. Instead I'm reminded of playing a game on a handheld system and making excuses for why it lacks these details.

The number of modes in this game are outrageous. There are 10 single-player modes alone, with two multi-player modes that include Exhibitions and Home Run Derby. The single-player modes include Quick Games, Season, Manager Showdown, Home Run Derby, Home Run Derby Career, World Baseball Classic, Playoffs, Situation, Franchise and GM Career. Now you might be thinking that most of these modes are variations on a theme and since the gameplay mechanics are the same, they really aren't that big of a deal. However the GM and Franchise mode are every bit as good as those found on the console versions. They are deep and a lot of fun if you're looking for a behind-the-scenes sim of running a professional baseball team. There are a variety of stats and even a minor league roster which will assist you to make draft decisions. Players can be traded, contracts are negotiated and because of the built-in fatigue system, you can schedule time off for star players so they can be in peak form when you really need them.

As you know the control systems for baseball games vary from year to year. So far they have not reached perfection but they're getting better and deeper. The trick is to have a deeper control system without it being too complicated to operate. The learning curve in this game is not very steep at all. You'll get plenty of practice just by playing through the various modes but there is an excellent feature that acts as a coach with psychic abilities. The Inside Edge is an in-game tutorial of sorts that gives you hints and tips after each pitch whether you're pitching or batting. It takes into account the other players' stats and scouting data and will give you predictions as to what kind of pitches to expect or what kind of pitches to throw. It's well implemented into the gameplay and doesn't act like a cheat device, it gives you the same relative information that would be available to all Major League teams.

Batting is relatively easy. Choose your swing with the analog stick and then press the X button at the perfect time to execute the hack. You can hit flies, grounders, bunts and hopefully homeruns if you get the right pitch and the timing of the controls down. You can increase the speed of base runners and fielders by mashing the action button. If you're attempting to catch the ball, pressing the X button will execute a dramatic dive or wall climbing animation. All of the animations are very smooth, even the transition animations. The players' faces look generic and the crowd looks like a flat painting - and reacts like one. At least you can always keep your eye on the ball.

Pitching may at first appear to be a more complex affair but that's just the nature of the interface. It gives you a lot of control which makes for a more strategic game. Use the nub to aim and press a button to select a pitch and hold it down. While you're holding it, the targeting circle will expand, indicating a greater power level. Let go of the button when you have the right amount of break or power selected for your pitch. The circle will then shrink into a crosshair. Tap the button one more time, preferable when the circle is at its smallest as this will increase the accuracy of your pitch. It only take a few moments to learn how to use this system but it can take some practice to get really good at it.

Fielders are controlled with the nub and can throw to any of the four bases by pressing the corresponding face buttons. When you're up to bat, you can pre-select specific base runners and command them to steal a base. You can also adjust the catcher's position by using the shoulder button. If you manage to line him up perfectly and he catches the ball without having to move you will earn some points that can adversely affect the opposing team's morale.

Major League Baseball 2K6 is a great game as far as the gameplay mechanics go but it really skimps on the razzle and dazzle. We are most likely to be forgiving considering that this is a handheld game but we can't help but expect more because we know it's possible. I don't want to have to be making excuses for a game and if things aren't improved for the '07 season then the crap is really going to hit the fan.

Features:

  • World Baseball Classic™ Mode – The epic new international baseball tournament is exclusively captured – all sixteen teams, logos, and uniforms, as well as the authentic all-world tourney structure.
  • MLB® Perfection – Experience Major League Baseball® in its purest form, as next generation graphics create true-to-life player models, breathtaking diamond details, and stunningly accurate stadium accurate.
  • Inside Edge™ - Three years of actual scouting reports and analysis literally built into every player, every pitch, and every swing of the bat.
  • Swing Stick™ - Analog stick batting brings baseball video games to a new level. Control power swings, check swing and bunts all through simple and intuitive analog controls.
  • Pure Motion Physics – An all-new physics engine brings running, throwing, fielding, tag outs, and player-to-player collision animations to life with more detail and variation than ever before.
  • V.I.P. (Virtual Identity Profile) – The popular 2K Sports exclusive feature is now available in our MLB franchise! Save your friends’ profiles to compete when they’re not available! Learn their tendencies, moves, & logic for more heated battles. Get the upper hand in online tournaments by downloading other players’ VIP profiles.
  • Player Morale System – Successful team decisions and well-balanced team brings optimal performance to the field and the plate. Your team’s morale now hinges on every franchise move you make at any time in the year.

By Colin Thames
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
Major League Baseball 2K6 (PSP)
3.4
Graphics
The visuals lack razzle and dazzle. It seems like you're watching an amateur ball game instead of the Major Leagues.
4.4
Control
The control system is working overtime. There are lots of options and depth for batting, pitching, throwing, catching, running and stealing.
3.5
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The color commentary is most welcome but the game could use more ambient noise.
4.4
Play Value
The online modes may not include a Tournament mode but you'll still have tons of fun with the two available modes.
4.1
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: X360, PS2, X, PSP, GC
Dev: Kush
Pub: 2K Games
Release: Apr 2006
Players: 1 - multi online
Review by Colin

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best