More of the Same in 2K9
People can be hard on baseball games, especially when speaking of the 2K series. It’s only natural, as the long-running baseball simulation is meant to appeal to the most seasoned sports gamers who want to feel the power of the league’s heaviest hitters and fill the cleats of the best on the mound.
When the good intentions of developers to improve game mechanics go awry, or when a game simply does not offer enough new features from last year’s installment, gamers are rightfully off put. Though that statement can be said for the next-gen version of the game, this version of Major League Baseball 2K9 is certainly not without its faults. It doesn’t fall short of being anything other than a fun game and a good time, it doesn’t offer a whole lot of new stuff from last year.
Off the bat, starting up the game gives the illusion that a lot has changed; the new menus look crisp and clear, and an updated compilation of hard rock and indie music gets the player in full baseball spirit. Navigationally, Major League Baseball 2K9 looks fantastic. It is obvious the menu setup was designed for use of the Wii-mote, which is something those who are still hanging onto their PS2 should be used to seeing by now.
It is when you start scrolling through the menus that you realize there aren’t a whole lot of differences between 2K9 and 2K8. Those looking for new modes won’t find any, as Exhibition, GM Career, Franchise, Season, and the Home Run Derby all make a return. So, if you liked what last year’s version had to offer in the way of game modes (Home Run Derby is actually very enjoyable when playing amongst friends), you will inevitably enjoy this version. Whether or not you want to spend the money on a new version that offers little more than updated rosters, menus, and commentary is the question.
Load up a game and you’ll notice the graphics have gone unimproved, at least not significantly. Characters continue to look edgy, while somewhat choppy animations can become awkward with a lot of on-field activity. Framerate issues occur, though not to the point of making the game hard to enjoy, which is one reason why some fans may actually prefer this to the unsmooth and glitch-ridden PS3 and 360 efforts. Any improvements in A.I. are completely unnoticeable, and though the PS2 version does offer online play, finding enough players may be a challenge due to the rapidly aging system. Also, while the ability of capturing MLB ambience both aurally and visually has always been a strongpoint of the 2K series, making the player feel as though he is actually controlling the outcome of a live broadcast, there seems be nothing new in the way of stadium details or crowd movement to improve on what developers have accomplished in the past.
Although this version doesn’t contain as many new features as its 360 or PS3 counterpart, it does feature upgraded commentary with the inclusion of Gary Thorne and Steve Phillips for the first time in series history. It doesn’t go unnoticed, with impressive play-by-play and smooth commentating to add more excitement to what can be a slow-paced game. With Jon Miller and Joe Morgan out, the new voiceover work mixes things up in the series to make things fresh, though not entirely exciting, as the two are about as stale as a day-old donut.
Those familiar with the classic face-button pitching may actually prefer this game to its next-gen version as well. Without incorporating the right analog pitch controls, which for some reason still lack accuracy in 2009, the face-button pitching of the PS2 version allows you to select your pitch of choice with either the Circle, Square, X, or Triangle button, depending on the pitcher.
Those who have played an MLB 2K game in recent years will pretty much know the drill, and those who felt that analog pitching mechanisms have ruined the series may actually see this PS2 version as a pleasant alternative.
Of course, the batting scheme continues to utilize the Right Analog as the virtual bat for the player to swing back and flick forward to mimic the motions. It feels pretty much unchanged from last year, for better or for worse. It is equally as difficult to control where you are aiming your ball upon making contact, and it pretty much comes down to perfect timing to successfully nail a pitch. Where it goes from there is up to the game gods.
While MLB 2K9 for the PS2 does not offer any solid, new features to those who own last year’s edition, it is in some ways better than the PS3 or 360 version when comparing price to playability. What this PS2 version of Major League Baseball 2K9 does do is offer little reason for serious baseball gamers who do not already own a PS3 or 360 to upgrade their console. All the entries in the Major League Baseball 2K series are going to have to significantly step up their game next year if they want to win back their audience.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
Seemingly unchanged from last year, graphics aren’t without their faults and continued framerate problems can occur, though not as noticeable as on next-gen 2K9 offerings. 3.2 Control
Face-button pitching tends to be more accurate than the next-gen alternative, and those who enjoyed last year’s control scheme will feel at home. Batting controls are also equally inaccurate as previous years. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
New commentating duo of Gary Thorne and Steve Phillips is a breath of fresh air to the series. There’s also an updated soundtrack and continued excellent stadium ambience. 3.3 Play Value
With almost no new features to speak of, there is little reason to do away with 2K8 and replace it with 2K9, other than the fact that it is, on its own, an enjoyable baseball game with new rosters. 3.1 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.