Major League Baseball 2K9 Preview

I will be the first person to admit that I was not expecting much out of MLB 2K9 this year. With the development team switch from Kush Games to Visual Concepts, I did not think that there would be enough time for Visual Concepts to take control of the MLB 2K series and turn it around in just one year. While there is still very little information available concerning the game and there is still a month and a half left until the game releases, I am now becoming more intrigued as to what the company has in store for consumers come this March.

Last week, the feature list for MLB 2K9 leaked onto the Web. While there are obviously some spotty areas on the list, the developers look to be focusing more on the core game of baseball and also on the surrounding atmosphere, which is a welcome relief to both baseball fans who only own an Xbox 360, and also those consumers looking for an alternative to the MLB: The Show series.

Real-Time Living World

One of the most noticeable additions to the series, as stated in the feature list, is that of a "real-time living world." One of the faults of the MLB 2K series in the past has been the lack of a true baseball atmosphere. Previous games were marred by instances of the crowd being relatively quiet during a close postseason game, or the winning team overreacting in a regular season game after a shutout has been thrown.

The real-time living world could be very interesting and bring a new level of detail to the game. Instead of a game like MLB 08: The Show, which has excellent presentation but relies on cut-scenes to show batters walking up to the plate, pitchers coming in from the bullpen, and the players running back to the dugout after the inning is over, this list gives the impression that everything will happen around the user without requiring any cut-scenes to show the action. Does that mean the user may not see some actions, or will the user be able to look down the line and see a relief pitcher take off his jacket and begin to warm up at all times?

Also, with the amount of problems MLB 2K8 had with frame-rate stutters, potential consumers will need to see gameplay videos of this "real-time living world" in action before they can decide if it truly is as immersive as the feature list makes it out to be.

Topps Trading Cards Changes

The feature list also mentions some alterations to the Topps Trading Card feature in the game. The system seems to be more streamlined and easy to use, allowing users to unlock trading cards by playing either with or against certain players. Users will also now be able to view their trading cards at any point in the game. Also, like last year’s game, users can create their own trading-card team and compete with it online. What remains to be seen is how stable the online play will be for MLB 2K9. If there are still major problems with the online experience, trading-card teams may go unused for another season.

Core Gameplay Enhancements

Visual Concepts has also apparently made quite a few changes and improvements to the core gameplay: pitching, hitting and fielding.

In MLB 2K8, consumers, in general, either loved the right-analog pitching system, or they hated it. There seemed to be very little middle ground among those who played the game. This year, it seems as though Visual Concepts has recognized this problem. The feature list mentions that VC has improved the pitching system by changing it to two steps: hold and gesture.

It still sounds as if the right-analog system is in place, but now allows for "increased accessibility for pick-up-and-play users." This is a step in the right direction because last year a lot of consumers did not understand the new pitching system, and gave up on it before they had a chance to get accustomed to it.

Hitting has been changed as well for MLB 2K9, incorporating a new zone-hitting system, which is something that fans have been asking about for many years now. In addition, the feature list mentions improved hit distribution, resulting in a wider variety of hits. However, I still have some reservations about this comment because this was promised in MLB 2K8 -- there was more hit variety when compared to the 2K7 version, but there were still not enough extra-base hits, excluding home runs.

Lastly, fielding has allegedly been improved in MLB 2K9. According to the feature list, the fielding A.I. has been upgraded to a point where the specific fielder’s true abilities will be recognized. This leads me to believe consumers will hopefully no longer see unproven rookies making spectacular plays all throughout the game, which would be a welcome change and would add more realism to the gameplay.

Two other major changes to the fielding system, and throwing in particular, pertain to the ability to either quick throw in order to start a double play more quickly or throw on the run, and the ability to hold the ball, which would effectively allow the user to cancel a throw and instead throw to a different destination. Also, while it is not specifically mentioned in the feature list, I was a huge proponent of the meter-based throwing system, and I am hopefulhat it is still in this year’s game because it made throwing seem much more fluid in MLB 2K8.

Overall Outlook

Overall, the feature list for MLB 2K9 seems to be a large step in the right direction for the series. However, those people who only have an Xbox 360 -- and therefore can only play MLB 2K9 -- may be getting a bit worried about the dearth of pre-release information, screenshots and videos that have been released. For a game that releases in only a month-and-a-half, it is peculiar that the game is not being marketed more heavily. With that being said, more information will hopefully be released after 2K’s other baseball game, MLB Front Office Manager, is released later this month.

Major League Baseball 2K9 Videos
Member Comments
# 1 ehh @ 01/16/09 11:00 AM
As you mentioned it's definitely a concern that there is no marketing or pre-release information yet. Not trying to be pessimistic but it's hard to imagine this will be a quality game. This series has basically "started over" in each of it's last four installments, not a good thing.
# 2 bodhiball @ 01/16/09 12:18 PM
I love how a mlb 2k9 "Preview" is simply speculation and hopes on the feature list already revealed. Bad sign.
# 3 bodhiball @ 01/16/09 12:20 PM
Originally Posted by bodhiball
I love how a mlb 2k9 "Preview" is simply speculation and hopes on the feature list already revealed. Bad sign.
p.s., thats not a dig at you Jack or the article...just that its crazy its all you have to work with so soon to release.
# 4 Trini G1aDiaToR @ 01/16/09 12:26 PM
Yeah, I liked the right-analog pitching system and the throwing meter a lot... the pitching was very flawed but I thought it had great potential so I hope this years improvements are as good as they say.

I only have a 360 (and a Wii and I'd like to see them improve the Wii version too last years version had an interesting pitching system too). I hear so much about the Sony franchise that I'm jealous... but I'm not getting a PS3 at this point.

Lastly, If they have to delay it a bit I'm fine with that... just give us a good game. I don't understand why sports games always have to come out in the pre-season... I'll wait till the season starts, or even later, if it means the game will be better!
# 5 bodhiball @ 01/16/09 12:31 PM
and remember, 2k8 was releasing screenshots as early as January 11th last year, and demo's for reviewers around the 18th....so it is late even for them to still not have info.

While I hope this is due to their constant work on the product and wanting to release the best info possible....there is no way that we cant feel a little nervous since this is the same company that didnt release a demo last year until the product shipped because they knew it would hurt sales. Smart business decision? In a narrow minded sense, yes....but some serious bridges to rebuild with the fan base.

Last thing....I know it seems kind of small and petty, but I cant for the life of me figure why a company that needs to build its reputation back up wouldnt start filtering screens out now, bit by bit, to get us excited and feeling more confident. You would figure even if there is more work to be done, they MUST have some player models or stadiums complete? Enough to show off the game a bit? Seems like very odd marketing.
# 6 SPTO @ 01/16/09 12:32 PM
I'm taking a completely cool and unattached approach to this game. Last year's was ok but it wasn't what it should've been.

I do like some of the presentation aspects that seem to be coming our way though.
# 7 thudias @ 01/16/09 12:46 PM
I cant see how this will be better than The Show.
# 8 bodhiball @ 01/16/09 01:00 PM
Originally Posted by wsu_gb23
I really believe the only thing stopping 2K from releasing significant info is the fact that Front-Office Manager is to be released in 2 weeks. They have done this with games in the past as well...this includes the best NBA simulation, the NBA 2K series...after hockey was released we got a pretty good amount of info pertaining to NBA...I believe MLB 2K9 info will be released starting Jan. 29...who knows, maybe the first info we get will be a demo....that would be worth the wait.
I can totally see that logic, but there has even been limited info about FOM from 2k. Its what, 2 weeks from shipping? No vids, no demo, the dev diaries stopped and the screens have been limited.
# 9 Flaxseed Oil @ 01/16/09 01:01 PM
I have bought every installment of this game dating back to WSB 2k3 on release day.

This year I will be waiting until I see the reaction of this board before I pick it up. I have confidence the Show will be good enough to hold me over.
# 10 Eski33 @ 01/16/09 01:01 PM
I own both systems and love The Show but I am hoping to add a baseball game to my 360 library.

I am concerned that there has been zero screen shots or videos of 2K9. The last two games, to my knowledge, with this little information released so close to release was NBA Live 07 and MLB 2K8. We all know how those two games fared.....
# 11 asu666 @ 01/16/09 02:12 PM
I want the camera system changed to User/CPU instead of the Home/Away system. Home/Away changes and it's a pain to keep flipping the cameras around.
# 12 Trevytrev11 @ 01/16/09 02:24 PM
Originally Posted by thudias
I cant see how this will be better than The Show.
I think most are just hoping that it closes the gap.
# 13 DubTrey1 @ 01/16/09 02:38 PM
Sadly, I think that more and more people are going with the Show. Even those who may not have made the plunge - will - once the PS3 price drops occurs as it has been rumored to be....
# 14 Checmate101 @ 01/16/09 03:28 PM
They need to hustle up...I want to know something.
# 15 Flaxseed Oil @ 01/16/09 03:40 PM
This series has so much potential, but i have a feeling it will end up being a AAAA player in the end.

I love that it has all 3 minor league levels...but the system is broken.

I love the player models..but the gameplay is broken.

I love the custom music and stadium music...but it doesnt sound right.

I love the right analog pitching system, but they made it too hard.

I love the swing stick, but they screwed up the ball physics and there are too many homeruns.

I love the signature styles, but the faces looked jacked.

I love all the sliders, but I hate how I fight with them all the time to get a decent game (been doing this since 2k5).

I am not going to get this series again until this board is impressed with it again.
# 16 mdiggitydawg @ 01/16/09 04:01 PM
i am so tired of waiting with bated breath only to have the wind knocked out of me year after year when it comes to this game. yes i love to play baseball and yes i pray this will be a good release because we have no other choices, but seriously why so hard to make a decent baseball game? Also the lack of any mention to franchise and multiple seasons can not be a good sign. Maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised but the sad reality of the sports side to video games has been utter and complete disappointment thus waiting for a patch or as cubs fans like to say "next year"
# 17 ckarlic @ 01/16/09 04:01 PM
Originally Posted by SPTO
I'm taking a completely cool and unattached approach to this game. Last year's was ok but it wasn't what it should've been.

I do like some of the presentation aspects that seem to be coming our way though.
Yeah. Im not too worried since I have a PS3 and have the luxury of trying both games. If I didnt then I might be a little bit worried.
# 18 magoo1967 @ 01/16/09 04:13 PM
I'm confused, wasn't Visual Concepts always involved with making this game since the 2K series first appeared on the Sega Dreamcast?
# 19 NAFBUC @ 01/16/09 04:24 PM
2k did not release a demo early last year and you have to wonder about the lack of promo again this year.
# 20 jeffy777 @ 01/16/09 07:25 PM
Originally Posted by Seamless
1. The right analog pitching was NOT too hard. If you thought it was, drop down a level. It's posts like this that make companies dumb down the AI and make the game easy. I want the higher levels to be difficult. The only thing off about the analog pitching was there were too many meatballs.
Agreed. 2K8's pitching was not hard. After a few games, it was simple, and I ended up liking it quite a bit.

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