|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Visual Concepts||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 2, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Baseball's a very strategic game, and Visual Concepts and 2K Sports have tried to bring that cerebral element to their latest baseball sim, Major League Baseball: 2K10. Without a doubt, the pitcher/batter duels in MLB: 2K10 are a lot of fun; the development crew worked hard to make these game mechanics compelling. Disappointingly, the duels aren't quite where they should be due to inconsistent batting. Also, other aspects, such as a lackluster presentation, inadequate fielding, dim-witted baserunning, and bad online multiplayer, serve to foil the appeal of the excellent pitching mechanics. All in all, MLB: 2K10 seems to be a big step in the right direction for the franchise, but it's still far from where it needs to be.
By far the most interesting aspect of MLB: 2K10 is the pitching. Rather than selecting a type of pitch and simply tapping through timed accuracy-power meters, players will have to input specific pitch commands. For example, executing a circle-change, a cutter, or a sinker are performed by holding the analog stick in a specific direction for power, and then rotating it in the indicated direction to perform the gesture appropriately. Picking a smart location, employing good timing, and starting and finishing the gestures smoothly and within the green zones will result in a near-unhittable pitch. At first, this can be a bit of a challenge - you'll likely be throwing wild pitches and meatballs - but within no time you'll be painting corners and working the strikezone like a 20-game winner. Because of the gesture-based pitching mechanics, this is the first baseball sim I've ever played where I had the most fun on the pitcher's mound.
Unfortunately, batting is not nearly as fun. The developers tried to incorporate the complexities of the pitch count into the mechanic, but didn't quite succeed in an engaging way. As in real baseball, depending on whether you're ahead or behind in the count will determine what kind of pitch you're likely to get and how you should swing. That means you'll frequently have to choose between hitting for contact, hauling back and swinging away, or protecting the strikezone by batting defensively. In order to replicate this, the devs included three different swing types. By tapping forward, you'll swing to make contact. By pulling back and swinging through, you'll try and go yard. Finally, by tapping either left or right, your batter will attempt to foul off pitches and lengthen the at-bat to force the pitcher into a mistake.
While the ideas behind the batting mechanics are sound, their implementation isn't. Perhaps the biggest blunder is that gamer skill, other than getting the timing down, has essentially been done away with. That's because players no longer have to worry about pitch location - if you get the timing and swing-type right, the batter will own the pitcher. Combine this with the fact that general pitch location and pitch type are revealed to you by onscreen prompts (more or less accurate depending on how good of a batter the actual big-leaguer is), and hitting soon becomes too easy. While these mechanics certainly make things more user-friendly for novice players, experienced baseball video-gamers will feel overly-coddled. Rather than using the left analog stick to determine where the ball will go after I make contact, I would have liked to have put the bat into the right zone in order to make contact. Swing timing, type, and location should determine the path of the ball off the bat, not the push or pull of the analog stick.
If you find batting to be too easy, you can always up the difficulty setting, but that doesn't really solve anything. Eventually, pitchers become dominant independent of swing selection and timing in the batter's box. That's right; while batting is too easy in most settings, at the top two difficulties it starts to feel cheap and unfair - hitting over 200 with even your sluggers becomes a real challenge, because you'll constantly foul balls off, getting yourself behind in the count, resulting in frequent Ks. If you do make solid contact, AI fielders have a knack for getting a jump on it and hauling it in. Overall, I found it challenging to find a difficulty setting that felt truly balanced.