Major League Baseball 2K7 is in the ballpark, but it’s not what I would call a home run
Year after year, the game of baseball remains unchanged, but until a video game reaches perfection, it better be offering new features.
Marginally improved, but far from perfect, Major League Baseball 2K7 is certain to disappoint hardcore baseball fans. At least the ones that care about reality and attention to detail, as far as facts and stats are concerned. Major League Baseball 2K7 is incredibly inconsistent with its presentation. The players’ stats are full of errors, the announcers make comments that would make you believe they are watching another game, and there are some impossible animations that will have players facing in the wrong position. Some of these animations are harmless, but others, such as the fielder with his back to the ball, can cost you the game. The good news is that the gameplay is pretty good.
Major League Baseball 2K7 would definitely not be my choice for game-of-the-year. It appears to be in a transition stage. It contains many of the same elements of ’06 but not enough new features of its own. Adopting these elements and slightly refining them is certainly commendable, but there should be a lot more to this title. As it is, I would liken this version to an expansion pack or re-title it 06-and-a-half. Personally, I would wait for next year’s version because there’s little here that you haven’t already played.
What I really like about the game is that it allows you greater control over a variety of often-neglected elements such as fielding, base running, and the ability to move the catcher in the optimum position. Batting and pitching are also more accessible and fun. The controls take a little while to get used to, but after the learning curve, you’ll feel as though you’re playing a great arcade game. There’s plenty of challenge as the A.I. is unpredictable and capable of a variety of pitches, hits, errors, and general nuances which make them appear almost human. They can be quite aggressive at stealing bases, and as soon as you’re on to them, they’ll act all conservative. They will play off the batter, waiting for the best opportunity to make a run for it. Even when they do start running, they don’t run any faster than your top players. The problem is trying to get your fielders to dive for the ball. Oftentimes, you won’t be given the option, and when you force a dive, you’re almost guaranteed to come up empty handed.
Who doesn’t like the hit stick system? It’s a great concept that breaks from the traditional button-mashing system. It feels more natural using the stick, and even though there are several moves, it eventually will feel like one flowing action instead of a combination. First, you have to predict where you imagine the ball is going to be thrown. You can move this target area immediately after the pitch. The action button swings the bat and the stick is used to add some power and direction to the hit. Pressing up increases the power of your hit, and by moving it to the left or right, you can attempt to have that ball land right between the fielders, instead of handing them a gift. Those that prefer the old-school style of batting have that option, so nobody should be complaining.
Pitching is done exactly as it was in last year’s version. You can have a third-person perspective or use the batter’s view box. It all depends on whether you want to see the pitch coming or going. I can’t tell you which I liked the best, but it was fun to mix it up. Both perspectives work well, and I always felt in total control. Throwing curves takes a bit of practice, as you have to allow for the break. Throw the ball higher than normal and off to one side. It feels weird at first but once you adjust to the game’s physics, it will all seem second nature. It almost feels like curling – in space. Yes, I am Canadian.
Some of the plays that you’ll see will remind you of a great Major League game. There are some incredible high-flying catches, grand slams, and runners thrown out by players throwing the ball between their legs. But there are some pretty awful animations as well, such as some pitches and the dives that just don’t seem to register regardless of how close you are to the ball. The game looks fine at first glance or from a distance, but the closer you get, the more generic things look – especially the players’ faces. Crowds and ballparks are well represented with just enough detail to appease me, even though it’s not much different than last year’s graphics.
Joe Morgan provides the color, and along with his partner, Jon Miller, you’ve got a duo on hand that is the baseball equivalent of Brooks and Dunn. Unfortunately in this game, the duo is more closely associated with Laurel and Hardy. It’s not the commentators’ fault, it’s just that some of their comments are triggered at the wrong time. They will often get the number of innings and games in a series wrong. Their lines are delivered convincingly enough, it’s just too bad that they lose credibility because of the flawed game. The stadiums are a little subdued as far as ambient noise goes, but the soundtrack rocks.
If you can live with the flaws, and it’s not impossible, then you’re likely to get enough replay value out of the multiplayer components to warrant a purchase. There are online tournaments that will pit you against other fanatics. Keep in mind that they will face the exact same limitations as you, so you can be assured that you’ll be evenly matched even though you might not feel that way against the A.I. However, my advice is to wait until the spring and see how some of the other baseball games compare. I don’t know about you but I’m still shoveling snow up here. It’s too early to be thinking about baseball anyway.