BeeZee’s Note: Our series of reviews of baseball video games continues with MLB 2K9. FBD first base coach Brandon Bilko of Priced Out Of The Citi stopped by to give us his review after playing the game since its release date.
Let’s dispel one thing before we kick off this review – this game is not and will not be MLB 09: The Show. The game is inferior and will continue to be so unless 2K Sports gets its act together… or until their third party contract rights with MLB run out in 2012. Until then, we baseball fans without a PS3 will have to hope that things keep improving, and it’s safe to say they have slightly in 2009.
Lets get to the different game play aspects of MLB 2K9 for the XBOX 360.
Hitting In MLB 2K9
The gamers favorite part of the baseball simulation experience is hitting. It is relatively easy in this edition of the MLB 2K series even if you’re a novice that swings at almost every pitch. The left joystick controls where you will hit the ball upon contact (LF, CF, RF, fly ball, grounders, etc.) while a down and up motion on the right stick allows you to cock back and swing away. This left stick trumps whether you’re ahead of or behind on the pitch. The game also features something new for this season known as “Hitters Eye.”
A small circular shadow appears in the strike zone that you can move and lock, according to where you think the pitcher is going to throw the ball. If you guess correctly it will flash green before the pitch is thrown. Regardless of whether you like the idea of it or not this feature seems completely arbitrary. I rarely guessed the pitch in my games and averaged a solid ten home runs per contest.
That brings up another point: if you like the big fly, this is the game for you. It is ridiculously easy to smack homeruns. They are not as easily robbed either as they were in 2K games past. I’m personally not one for blow out games. After the first set of back, to back, to back, to back homers, it just gets old.
Pitching In 2K9
Pitching is better than in versions past as they have removed the third stroke with the right stick to get the ball across the plate. It is now only 2 strokes – one to get the power circle to start filling and the other to stop it at its apex. Catchers call a decent game, though I noticed a lot of them asking for occasional hanging sliders or curve balls. You have the ability to shake them off, though most times it is better to throw what is requested.
I found that pitching what you want can result in the other team teeing off on whatever the pitch is (and I’m sorry, but Yadier Molina is not going to fist a fastball down and in – out of the strike zone – for an opposite field ding-dong. That will never, ever happen). Picking off has improved, but also has become a bit too easy. If a runner takes more than a 2 step lead off the bag, consider him a goner.
Base Running In 2K9
Base running is slightly better than it has been in games past. A simple press of a button switches the runners and you still have the option to advance all or individually. Stealing is more about timing this year. As previously mentioned, it is quite easy to get picked off and one needs to pick and choose their spots carefully.
Fielding In 2K9
Fielding is a bit of a disaster. Though getting under a fly ball has improved a bit, throwing out runners on hits in the gap is terrible. Glitches in the animation cause fielders to not put down tags or simply be off the bag on what should be an outfield assist. If that was the price to pay for not having pre-generated cut scenes, I’d gladly take them back.
Other 2K9 Notes
The animation is brilliant in the game. Your favorite players look as such and 300+ have their signature moves. The stadiums are visually impressive as well with both the New Yankee Stadium and Citi Field included. Another improvement includes an almost hand held-like shot of pitchers and batters in a shallow depth of field. It is definitely a nice additional camera element.
As previously mentioned, there are no more pre-generated cut scenes so the game appears to be legitimately televised. You have the ability to put on a “Hurry Up” feature as well if this isn’t for you and you would prefer to get a quick game in.
The real improvements to the game come with the online features. There is hardly a lag when playing on XBOX Live, though I’ve heard otherwise in regards to online play for the different platforms. Another key feature is the roster update. Upon turning the game on, the system goes online and downloads the up-to-date roster and lineup for each respective team including disabled lists and call ups. This is a real treat for the avid baseball fan.
All in all the game is fun to play – if you can get past the flaws. It’s visually stunning and relatively easy to play.
If you can’t get past it’s shortcomings, however, then you’re out of luck. Unless you can get your hands on a PS3.