2K8 is among the best games
of the franchise
For those turned off by the 2K8 baseball series and who miss the days when one had an actual selection of different baseball simulations to choose from, 2K Games and developer Kush Games are attempting to restore the faith. This is probably the best in the entire 2K series. Part of the ways they’ve accomplished this is by adding a completely new method of pitching and by recreating an impressive baseball broadcast atmosphere unlike any game before it.
The most notable difference for 2K8 is the introduction to the Total Pitch Control scheme, which uses your right analog to hurl a ball the way you choose. Now, this may at first deter longtime baseball gamers, but the new pitching setup works pretty well – picking up where the Swing Stick left off for batting controls. Rather than simply hitting a face button to decide whether to go for a fastball or a slider, 2K8 requires you to flick the analog in a motion intended to simulate the pitcher’s arm movement. If it’s fastball you want, pulling the stick straight back and flicking it straight forward quickly will determine how fast you throw it. You can determine which side of the plate you want to throw it on by changing the angle to affect the right or left direction of the ball. If you want to throw a curveball, it gets a bit trickier, as you will have to hold the analog back and to the left and curl it quickly forward to the upper left. While the Total Pitch Control setup is tricky at first, it does get pretty fun once you get the hang of it. Sometimes it seems the pitcher may not be throwing in consistency with the way you move the stick, but stamina and fatigue do affect pitching ability.
The batting is the same as it has been, using the right analog Swing Stick mechanics to gauge the speed and direction you want to send the ball. Utilizing the Batter’s Eye with the left analog to help find the location of the ball in the strike zone will be key to helping you hit the ball. I find it very hard, however, to pick spots where you want to land the ball. How you hit it and where it goes is often only determined by how late or early you swing at the pitch, so often you have no choice but to swing blindly at a pitch and send it where it may.
Kush has also introduced a new mechanic when fielding, dubbed the Precision Throw Control, which utilizes the right analog to throw the ball in any direction. It also takes some practice to for those familiar with using the face buttons to precisely choose which base you want to throw the ball to. This new setup requires you to flick the stick in the direction you want to throw the ball and gauge the speed by how long you hold it forward. It can be tricky and seem inaccurate at times, but like the Total Pitch Control, this also takes getting used to. And I suppose by re-inventing the pitch mechanisms and eliminating the use of face buttons, Kush decided they would have to do the same in the fielding department.
But the hitting and pitching is definitely the main focus of gameplay, as there really isn’t much to do in the way of fielding or base-running. In fact, there are times when an opposing player will hit a line drive and one of my basemen will dive and catch the ball without me hitting anything. They have changed base-running as well, using the right analog to command your avatar around the bases, which adds to the strong analog focus of this game’s button setup.
Graphically, 2K8 is impressive. The players are all well-designed to capture the likeness of their facial features and body structure. Kush has also done a good job of simulating different batters stances and pitching movements from player to player. The stadiums are brightly lit and detailed from the infield to the backdrop, with special attention to capturing the picturesque cityscapes of places like Detroit and Pittsburgh. Little animations like seeing patrons walking through the halls and waiting in line at concession stands, or talking to pre-game reporters is a nice touch and brings the more realistic feel of a broadcast to MLB 2K8.
One of the best attributes of the game, and something Kush obviously worked on in detail, is the commentating. The commentary of Joe Morgan and Jon Miller is incredibly in depth both before the game and during. Before the game starts, they set everything up well as they introduce a little history about each stadium and sometimes a quick note about the teams or a specific player. During the game, they do an excellent job of having John call all the pitches and plays and Joe interject with some knowledgeable baseball insight that actually reflects what’s happening. If you hit a homerun on a cutter, the duo will talk about what went wrong with the pitch and why the cutting fastball may not have worked for the pitcher in that strike zone. As a batter approaches the plate, they will sometimes mention what he did last time at bat or a career stat. Sometimes I notice a comment may come in a bit late after a play, but things like that are usually expected in any sports game.
Even little things like the in-stadium announcer announcing the weather and wind speed over the loudspeaker add nicely to the ballpark atmosphere. There is one animation between innings where the organ will play “Take Me out to the Ballgame” and camera pans over the audience as the crowd sings along in unison. Things like that are fantastic additions to capture the true spirit of a Major League Baseball game. Kush has worked hard to give 2K8 an authentic baseball feel.
But like any game, 2K8 has its flaws. One very big frustration I have with this game is the music selection. To each his own, but when I play a baseball game I expect to hear the music associated with live baseball games – hip-hop, hard rock, and Latin music. For some reason, this soundtrack is filled with horrendous artsy indie rock, which to me, should not be the soundtrack to a modern baseball game.
Another big disappointment I found was the Home Run Derby. There is no broadcasting whatsoever for this event, which I often love playing in baseball games, especially among a group of friends. There is also no name announcements for the heavy-hitters in competition, and you can only select from about 15 players. What should be a fun mini-game on MLB 2K8 is instead a boring add-on that is totally sterile without any dialogue whatsoever and is really no fun to play.
With all the expected deep Season and Franchise modes, Tournaments, and GM modes, 2K8 is a lot of fun with a lot of teams, players, and stadiums to play around with. It is certainly a step in the right direction for the franchise, and while I am still a believer that EA makes the best sports games out there, 2K is in charge of the baseball market and, for now, this is the best one out there.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
Great detail in stadium atmosphere and player design, though movements can be glitchy and due to slow framerate. 3.2 Control
The Total Pitch Control actually ends up being a great addition to the control scheme once getting used to it. Fielding controls still need a lot of work. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Excellent commentating and stadium ambience for an authentic broadcast feel. Music selection definitely does not capture the Major League Baseball atmosphere. 3.5 Play Value
For those with patience for baseball games, this offers hours of fun with numerous game modes and teams play around with. 3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.