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Major League Baseball 2K8 REVIEW

Major League Baseball 2K8 Review (Xbox 360)

Taking one step forward and two steps back isn’t new to sports gaming. Nonetheless MLB 2K8 falls into that exact pitfall this year.

Since I’m a nice guy I’ll start with the step forward. The new pitching system is a lot of fun and harder to master than any other pitching system to date. While most people will master the fastball after a few games, breaking pitches and other off-speed pitches really take some touch and feel to harness effectively.

Taking last year's game and just adding the aforementioned pitching mechanic (plus the new baserunning system) would have been a step in the right direction for the franchise as a whole. This is because the new pitching style is good enough to carry the lack of development in other areas; but, sadly MLB 2K8 isn't just an improved MLB 2K7.

The 800-pound gorilla in the room, of course, is the frame rate issue. Quite simply it is inexcusable and unprofessional to release a game on a console with this kind of problem. To think, at some point somebody at 2K Sports made the decision the game could go to market as is, with gameplay often looking like its waiting for an art school student to draw it on screen for you is hard to fathom. Hopefully a patch is looming, but for those without an Internet connection, well they are just out of luck.

The audio commentary is also among the worst in recent memory. It took all of three innings of play for the tandem of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan to completely botch the play-by-play. In this case a home run was hit that was a good 20-feet toward left center from the foul pole. That didn’t keep Miller from excitedly informing us, "It’s off the pole! It’s a fair ball! Home run!"

I know I know. It’s a lot to ask that the audio match the play on the field. But luckily, unlike the frame rate issue, you can just turn the commentary off.

The game also seems to crash more often than your average title. I’ve had other games crash on me before, but the crashes always registered this thought in my mind:

"Wow that’s odd. Let me get a beer and I’ll just start over."

But five crashes in a week has got me thinking: "Make it a scotch."

What’s worse, I’ve never had another game crash while in the franchise part of a game; it’s always been while on the field of play. Most of my crashes in MLB, however, have been while tooling around inside my franchise - not on the field. The paranoia this brings on can’t be described. I now find myself rushing to save the franchise any time I make a new deal, tweak my rosters or put any elbow grease into my franchise.

To date I’ve done my first free agent signing period twice. I have had to deal El Duque and Moises Alou twice. I’ve had to do my draft…twice. And I’ve had to setup my entire 85 man system…twice.

The kicker is, this year's presentation isn’t drastically different in comparison to last year's offering. The cut scenes and overlays that stutter and pause are very similar to the ones that just last year were smooth as silk.

The commentary also sounds very familiar, and yet last year's game got the action on the field correct. The end game highlights are run the same this year, and yet last year's loaded in-and-out with ease, while this year's have all sorts of problems rendering the action on the field.

It really has to make you wonder what happened over the course of 12 months?

On The Field

Overall, gameplay is pretty solid -- once you get past the presentation and audio issues.

The star, of course, is the previously mentioned pitching system.

The new baserunning system is also a step in the right direction. For the first time in a while I feel like I have complete control over my players who are on the basepaths, and thus I can do what I want with them. I also enjoy the option to send a player on the pitcher's first move. This lets you sneak a few stolen bases for the players who aren’t likely to steal, and that makes it more realistic overall (the super speedsters aren’t the only ones who steal bases after all).

Swing Stick 2.0 is also a step in the right direction. It takes you a while to get the timing down, but once you do you have a lot more control at the plate than in years past. Much like the new pitching system, you’ll find yourself getting into a groove with the timing after a few games.

Like most videogames over the past few years, it is again very tough to work the count and have realistic at bats. So don’t count on drawing many walks or seeing too many 3-2 counts. Most players are just going to go the plate with the typical "grip it and rip it" strategy.

Franchise Mode

The big addition to the franchise this year is the ability to play minor league games. I always enjoyed this feature in the MVP games and it’s a nice change to try out some of your phenoms before deciding whether they can make it on your big league squad.

The GM Goals system is still a nice twist that is sure to drive players batty -- dealing with the crazy whims of a lunatic millionaire who spends too much time thinking he’s a baseball man.

In other words it's completely realistic.

Otherwise the franchise is solid. Nothing is really so incredibly cool and amazing you drool over it, but it's also tough to find a feature the franchise mode should have that it doesn’t.

That being said, the free agent system could use some work. I got all excited before heading into it seeing headlines like, "Hot Stove Alert: Sox Make Offer Ready For Nathan." Sadly there isn’t much give and take or dialogue between you, the players or other teams. You make a bid, wait a few days and chances are you’ll sign the player.

Some of the salaries also seem a little out of control, to the point teams are having problems signing stars later on in the franchise.

Online

Truth be told its very tough to play online. The new hitting and pitching systems that are based largely on perfecting your timing fall apart under the lag of online play.

Simply put, you can throw a pitch that is perfect offline that turns into a meatball online. And a ball you’d make contact with offline ends up being a swing and a miss online.

And those online detriments are a downer because the league options looked promising, with the option to allow trades and tons of other features which people have grown accustom to seeing in 2K Sports games.

Miscellaneous

I have a secret to admit. I like collecting virtual baseball cards. I know it sounds silly, but it's actually kind of fun, mostly because of the in-game aspects tied to unlocking the cards.

For instance unlocking a Johan Santana card by striking out 12 batters is an accomplishment.

You’ll find yourself looking at the box score after the game because you'll be trying to figure out what else you need to do to unlock the next player on your team, and perhaps alter your game plan as a result. Try and win another game? Or try and steal third with Jose Reyes to unlock his card?

The Stadium Beats feature is also pretty cool, especially to fill the void of no audio commentary (since you’ve no doubt turned Jon and Joe off). If you really wanted to spend the time it's possible to have play lists not only for individual players but also a number of different situations.

Final Thoughts

I would imagine the folks at 2K are kicking themselves. This could have been a very solid offering that took the series forward. Instead MLB 2K8 is going to be known as the Slideshow Edition of MLB 2K.

The new pitching system alone would have been grounds for acclaim.

Yet, instead of completely enjoying this game, we’re left wondering “what if.”


Graphics: Pretty run of the mill graphics for a next generation game.

Sound: Yikes. Bad audio commentary that doesn’t match up with on the field action. Lifeless crowds. Stadium Beats is a nice plus though.

Entertainment Value: Despite the game being broke on so many levels, you can turn down off some of the presentation options and enjoy an entertaining game.

Learning Curve: It will take you a number of games to get the hang of everything. With new pitching, new hitting and new baserunning systems you almost have to completely relearn the game.

Online: Yikes, Part II. Lag makes it tough to pitch and hit, in large part because both are completely timing based.


Major League Baseball 2K8 Score
Fun, challenging new pitching system.
Baserunning system also very good.
Who knew collecting cards would be fun?
Framerate issues and crashes. 'Nuff Said.
Online play hampered by lag.
Audio commentary is a joke.
6
out of 10
Member Comments
# 1 BlyGilmore @ 03/10/08 07:08 PM
why thank you ;-)

very tough game to review. balancing some of the new things they've done with the utter inexcusable frame rate issue wasn't that easy.
 
# 2 gallandro @ 03/10/08 07:08 PM
Spot on review. This title will be a solid 7 after lag fixes and the frame rate patch. A step in the right direction, but some steps back.


Yancy
 
# 3 ezekiel55 @ 03/10/08 07:22 PM
One thing you failed to mention is the fact that they removed vendors walking down the aisles and the fact that the fans dont reach for foul balls anymore. I cant undertand the reasoning behind that. Overall though, the game with a few tweaks, would play one hell of a game of basesball...to bad the developers rushed it out the door.
 
# 4 Blzer @ 03/10/08 07:29 PM
I agree with everything you said, but I still see potential in this series. I don't know why the graphics took the hit they did (I understand dumbing down details, but now the sky (and overall lighting) and grass look God awful), and I don't understand why presentation overall hasn't gone a notch up... but with only playing the demo, the framerate is supposedly better than retail, and I can't complain any more than the crap 30- FPS that was MLB 2K7. I'd say that and anti-aliasing were marquee components to add in MLB 2K8, even with optimization.

But, far and large, as everyone else says... gameplay over graphics. Surprisingly, "gameplay" isn't one of your bolded terms at the end to go over... but baseball is purely nothing else other than hitting, pitching, fielding, and baserunning. Aside from some herky-jerky looking animations, the gameplay has improved ten-fold, and that's what everybody claims they wanted fixed... though now it seems some people are showing their true colors, and that visuals certainly may matter. Either way, you couldn't sit there with a straight face and convince yourself that MLB 2K7 had these four facets ironed out and working properly. Brinkman promised hit variety, seamless fielding, intuitive pitching, and user-friendly baserunning (all whilst motion-capturing more signature styles than ever seen before and maintaining 60 FPS in the pitcher/batter duels). It was a good segway going into 2K9, which gives it a higher potential rating.

However, compared to its opponent, it is falling short in some departments. In the future, they may be neck-and-neck once again. Until then, as long as the patch comes out soon enough, all console owners should have a playable game this year.
 
# 5 Heelfan71 @ 03/10/08 07:34 PM
6 is how I would rate it also. Maybe come back and look at the game again if they patch it.
 
# 6 BlyGilmore @ 03/10/08 07:34 PM
well - most of the review talks about game play ;-)

I'm hopeful for the future of this series, if for no other reason than i'm a 360 gamer who loves baseball. and at the end of the day I want what most of you want - an entertaining baseball game that doesn't make me want to swallow my own tongue.
 
# 7 Sportsforever @ 03/10/08 07:35 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by MMChrisS
After some database problems this afternoon, we have finally posted our review of Major League Baseball 2k8, written by Dave Branda (aka BlyGilmore).
I'm not going to disagree with the review/score. I thought you're writeup was a good appraisal of the game. While I personally am enjoying the game at more than a 6/10, I shake my head and wonder how it shipped with some of the issues it has. While everyone's opinion will differ, I think the majority of folks would agree with the write up. Good job.
 
# 8 BrownsFan72 @ 03/10/08 07:49 PM
Great review, I would give it a 6/10 also.
 
# 9 Pigskin11 @ 03/10/08 08:18 PM
6/10...spot on
 
# 10 whosgotcha @ 03/10/08 08:35 PM
I don't know about the score. I haven't played MLB 08 The Show. But I am having fun with MLB 2K8.
 
# 11 michiganfanatic720 @ 03/10/08 08:59 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by zekey55
One thing you failed to mention is the fact that they removed vendors walking down the aisles and the fact that the fans dont reach for foul balls anymore. I cant undertand the reasoning behind that. Overall though, the game with a few tweaks, would play one hell of a game of basesball...to bad the developers rushed it out the door.
I think they were trying to take things out to make the game run smoother. It obviously didnt work very well though.
 
# 12 bigmoe @ 03/10/08 10:12 PM
Well I havent bought the game yet and this review along with many others take ,has put me on hold until I can buy on sale if I can hold out.NHL 08 and NBA2k8 still take up alot of my time anyway...
 
# 13 Tomba @ 03/10/08 10:15 PM
Sadly this is NOT the game I wanted it to be... Bought/the PS3 versiona nd am hoping for a patch. i'm giving 2k about a month to do so...
 
# 14 Tomba @ 03/10/08 10:17 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by BlyGilmore
why thank you ;-)

very tough game to review. balancing some of the new things they've done with the utter inexcusable frame rate issue wasn't that easy.
I only hope 2k and Brinkman see THIS review as I believe it is the "definitive" review of the game from the most accurate sports gaming site out.
 
# 15 Spanky @ 03/10/08 10:20 PM
Thanks for help saving me $60. It used to be I'd buy a highly anticipated game on release day. Not anymore. I've learned from my mistake -- NCAA Football 08 -- and I'm glad I showed patience with this apparent disaster of a game. I don't care if it has some good points and plays a decent game of baseball after you get the hang of it, for $60 it damn well better be orgasmic for me to reach into my wallet.
 
# 16 Triggerfish @ 03/10/08 11:11 PM
when is the 2k contract with mlb up? I thought it was better then last year...which is ez...i really dont think they have the resources for the game. I am enjoying the pitching though...the "show's" old school buttons are getting real old and boring. I agree with the 6.
 
# 17 Radja @ 03/10/08 11:21 PM
i actually think the score should be lower if you do not have a gold xbox live account. the frame rate issue will never go away. i fortunately, do have online support so it is a six to me.

the game play may be in the 8 or even 9 if it is fixed. but the overall problems really drag the score down.
 
# 18 Brophog @ 03/10/08 11:46 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Triggerfish
the "show's" old school buttons are getting real old and boring. I agree with the 6.
It's all in your mind. The sticks are just buttons that work different with pluses/minuses as psuedo-buttons. You'll just get bored of them too, as the mechanism is essentially the same. Heck, take away the step process in swinging and it IS the same. Pitching is still essentially a meter. Throwing is the same metered throwing we've had for a while, with an accuracy penalty that doesn't seem to really exist unless you constantly REALLY botch it up. Whose that bad on throwing with the sticks?

That has nothing to do with the game, fwiw. The real reason you're bored is the fact we've been using the same controller designs now for a very long time. We have buttons, and imprecise sticks that act like buttons.

For the review, I agree that a 6 is a tad harsh, but I don't know his scale.......everyone has a different 1-10 scale. On mine, it's a tad harsh. On his, it may be generious. To me, though, the review focused too much on the framerate, which while annoying, is almost definitely to be fixed via a patch. And I know that there are still those out there that don't have broadband for their console, but the reality of console gaming in this generation is that a lot of games now require patches, however unfortunate that is for the end user.

So, to me, in terms of reviewing a game, the fact something like this framerate issue exists is merely annoying, I don't think I would put nearly the attention into it. I would have focused on the hitting engine, the variety, the animations, the feeling of if the ball is organic or on rails, the controls, the presentation, the sim engine........those kinds of things. And then I'd hope that something that sticks out like theframerate would be duly fixed.

Given that, what I would like to see from OS is a second review post patch. In fact, given how buggy The Show is, I'd hope both games got patched and both games got 2 reviews, to try to show how good they really are.
 
# 19 crumpled_heap @ 03/11/08 12:02 AM
This game does not deserve a six. All the negatives you gave it had nothing to do with gameplay. Who cares about the commentary, who cares about the presentation, who cares about online play. The gameplay is good therefore it does not deserve a six.
 
# 20 gallandro @ 03/11/08 12:18 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by gilgamesh348
This game does not deserve a six. All the negatives you gave it had nothing to do with gameplay. Who cares about the commentary, who cares about the presentation, who cares about online play. The gameplay is good therefore it does not deserve a six.
Huh? It's part of the game isn't it? Commentary and presentation is part of the overall package, isn't it? How can you avoid those issues and call it a comprehensive review. A 6 is more than fair for 2K8. The gameplay is pretty good, but seriously, beyond the gimmick of a new controller configuration (and it is a gimmick), 2K8 has problems out of the box, and a comprehensive review should reflect that.

I was a looooong time apologist for 2K Baseball (helped bfnjoe with some slider sets and discovered a workaround for the passed ball bug from 2K6), I loved World Series Baseball 2K3 and have steadily watched this franchise go downhill. There have been positives along the way, but all in all 2K has really just gotten stuck in a rut as of late.

Fortunately I rented 2K8 (MLB2K7 was the final straw for me buying 2K Sports games sight unseen), and will be passing on this year's version... I'll stick with The Show.


Yancy
 

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