Major League Baseball 2K5 Review (Xbox)
"Major League Baseball 2K5" arrives this spring amongst great anticipation. A new developer, Kush Games, is in charge, and the game itself has been dramatically overhauled for 2005. Was it worth it?
For the past few years the 2K series has had the best graphics of every baseball game, and this year is no exception. The stadiums are as accurate as they come and many of the player faces are spot on. The presentation is also top notch, and it looks just like an ESPN broadcast. The replays of strikeouts, diving catches and big plays are near-television quality and greatly add to the overall enjoyment of the game. The only real negatives reside in some of the animations. Some of the fielding animations are a bit choppy and don’t hold up in comparison to the competition. The batting animations sometimes stutter and fail to match up with what’s happening on the field. For example, I’ve hit singles, and after watching a replay, I've seen that the bat failed to make ever contact with the bat.
This year, “Major League Baseball 2k5” adds ESPN's Jon Miller and Joe Morgan for commentary, and its one of the best improvements made to any game this year. I love both Miller and Morgan on "Sunday Night Baseball", and I love them in this game. It also appears to me that the duo spent a little more time in the studio then most real-life commentators do when contributing to a videogame. Not only does Miller call the play-by-play and Morgan adds the color commentary - but they also have many player-specific comments and a "mailbag" segment where Morgan answers questions. This is a huge improvement over last year's game - where Rex Hudler’s atrocious commentary made me immediately mute the announcers.
The crowd sounds and atmosphere are also improved from last year's game. Playing "2k4" was like playing baseball in a church. The crowd didn’t react loudly for anything, and it killed the "immersion factor" for me. This year’s version is totally different. Not only is the crowd active and loud - but it's loud at the right times. Also, little additions like the “Yankee Roll Call” (The crowd at Yankee Stadium chants the name of each Yankee) adds to the game and makes you feel like you are actually in the stadium.
Bugs, bugs, bugs. To be honest with you, I usually prefer sports games from Visual Concepts (VC) over its competitors, but recently this company has had a real problem weeding out game-damaging bugs from its titles. "ESPN NFL 2K5" had several bugs relating to the draft and CPU roster decisions in its franchise mode. "ESPN College Hoops 2k5" had Dynasty freezes and small glitches like the CPU recognizing the wrong conference champions. "ESPN NBA 2k5" had the infamous "timeout bug". Some of the bugs were easy to ignore - and didn’t affect my enjoyment with the game - while others caused me to return or trade in the game because they made it all but unplayable. The most obvious bug in “Major League Baseball 2k5” is the “passed ball” bug.
With that said, it seems the “passed ball” bug is fixed by setting the CPU errors slider to 50. With this setting, the passed balls disappear and you still will see a realistic number of errors and wild pitches. It's a shame, though - because most consumers don’t visit message boards and they will purchase this game, encounter the “passed ball” bug and quite possibly return the game, never realizing that the bug is easily fixed. Now that Take2 Interactive has taken over the entire 2K Sports series, let's hope they spend some of the millions they have earned from the “Grand Theft Auto” series on better bug testing and quality control.
There really aren’t many changes to the Franchise mode this year. The only major additions are picking a major league staff and a farm system report that details the development of your team’s minor leaguer. "Major League Baseball 2k5's" Franchise mode isn’t as deep as the competitions, but if you were happy with last year’s franchise - you’ll be happy with it this year, too.
Here's where "Major League Baseball 2k5" really shines. No other developer has even come close to 2K Sports' online leagues, and this title continues that proud tradition. Thankfully - especially since the discovery of some of the game's oddities - "sliders" can be used in online exhibition games and in leagues. Leagues use "living rosters", where trades and injuries occur and persist in this online world. The game itself plays silky smooth online, with no real lag in most cases. VC knows online play, and with this title, they continue to set themselves apart from the crowd.
To be honest, this is a tough game to review. On the field - and with the passed ball fix - this game can be as good as baseball gaming gets. I'm just thankful that we have the Operation Sports forum and other forums like ours, because without them, the passed ball fix may have never been found. That fix has subsequently made the game much more enjoyable. However, the multiple bugs and lack of multiple fielding camera angles hurt this game severely and simply can’t be forgiven. I can only review this game as it comes out of the box - and because of that, I must give it a lower score than I would have had the game shipped glitch-free.