04/28/2008 4:19 PM ET
Bloggers take a swing at MLB 2K8
Trio of reviewers take new video game for test drive
By Steve Dempsey, Paul Festa and Ryan Maloney / Special to MLB.com
A new Major League Baseball season also means a new beginning for video gamers everywhere. Put down your Assassin's Creed, your Halo2 and, yes, even your Guitar Hero 3. The MLB 2K8 game from 2K Sports has just arrived at the MLB.com Shop, and to help capture the diverse experience we turned to three members of the MLBlogs community who reviewed the game over the Nintendo Wii, PLAYSTATION3 and Xbox 360 systems.
Wii: Swing Batta-Batta Swing
Owners of the Nintendo Wii have long been waiting for the console's first true baseball simulator. With the release of MLB 2K8, they finally get what they have been waiting for and will find that it was well worth the wait.
There are still a few weeks before the 2008 season officially gets under way, but with MLB 2K8's realism, the season can begin today. Players, managers, fans, and stadiums are very lifelike and gameplay is about as close to what fans will see on TV and in stadiums when Opening Day finally arrives.
The Wii Remote and Nunchuck are used throughout the game to provide a gameplay experience that Wii owners have come to expect from the system. With Total Pitch Control, gamers are required to select a pitch with the Nunchuck, and then grip the ball, wind up and pitch -- all with a throwing action using the Wii Remote. Swing Stick 2.0 puts a bat in the gamer's hand, in the form of the Wii Remote. A swinging motion, coupled with a directional selection on the Nunchuck, gives the gamer an unparalleled hitting experience. Timing and swing speed also play a major role in determining whether a batted ball ends up being a popout to second or a long home run.
MLB 2K8 for the Wii can be played by people of all ages and skill levels. Its default difficulty levels allow players the ability to find a level in which games against the computer are competitive and realistic. I started playing on "Rookie" and won my first game, 23-0. Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Mike Cameron, Corey Hart and Bill Hall each had multiple homers and Ben Sheets pitched a complete-game shutout, while striking out 18 Cubs. As much as I would like to think that is the way the real Brewers will play this season, I moved up to "All-Star" and found that gameplay was much more realistic.
I have played baseball games on other systems and, although the Wii version lacks some features the other consoles have, none of the others comes close to the interactive experience I have enjoyed with MLB 2K8 for the Wii. I believe gamers will find MLB 2K8 to be very addicting; they will just need to make sure they do not play too many quadrupleheaders or they may find themselves on the Wii DL! -- Steve Dempsey
PS3: Total Pitch Control and total satisfaction
Every true baseball fan knows that the beauty of the game lies in its nuances. The folks at 2K Sports get it. They have captured the excitement, suspense, strategy and precision of Major League Baseball in their latest baseball simulator, MLB 2K8 for the PLAYSTATION3. That's right, it's a baseball simulator. From the first Josh Beckett fastball you face, to the first payoff pitch you throw to Albert Pujols, to the first time you make a trade or sign a free agent, you realize this is no arcade game.
The core controls -- pitching, batting and fielding -- have been overhauled for this version, giving the user a realistic on-field experience. Using the right analog stick on your PS3 Sixaxis controller, you simulate the step-and-swing batting motion of a Major Leaguer. Say you are a leadoff man, like Jose Reyes (this year's coverboy), just trying to slap the ball and get on base. Pull the stick back to step, then release it to make a controlled swing. If you are an RBI man like Ryan Howard, pull the stick back, crash it forward, then watch how far your moonshot goes -- maybe into McCovey Cove in San Francisco, or onto Waveland Avenue outside Wrigley Field.
MLB 2K8's Precision Throw Control adds an exciting dimension to fielding. With every double play you turn, or every relay throw you make to the plate, you will realize that there is no such thing as a routine play in Major League Baseball. You may even find yourself pumping your fist after you nail a runner at home.
The coolest innovation, however, is Total Pitch Control. In the past, there was that time you threw a no-hitter with your eyes closed and nearly dozed off on the couch. Come on -- you know you've done it. If you are bored with that conventional three-button-push user interface of the past, then give MLB 2K8's Total Pitch Control a shot. Pull the stick back to wind up, then push it forward to fire to the plate. To mix up your pitches, change the direction of the stick when you release the ball. Fastball, two-seamer, curve, circle change -- they are all there. And each pitcher's repertoire is realistic. Johan Santana throws a fastball and a nasty circle change. Brandon Webb throws a diving sinker. And El Duque throws . . . every pitch in the book.
Beautiful simulations of every Major League ballpark -- and ballpark-specific items such as Roll Call at Yankee Stadium or the Tomahawk Chop at Turner Field -- make you feel like you are right there. The graphics are detailed, especially the uniforms, which even flutter in the breeze. The animations are smooth and realistic, which makes for slick gameplay. The menus are easy to use, and they fit right in with the look and feel of the PS3's main menu. In fact, the overall presentation is amazing, especially if you have your PS3 hooked up to an HD display.
Finally, the dulcet tones of play-by-play man Jon Miller and expert commentary by Joe Morgan round out your MLB 2K8 experience. The smooth audio editing makes it sound as if they are calling your game live, and their comments are seldom repetitive.
The new game also is available for PlayStation 2 systems. My experience was on the more advanced version, and after playing it I can say that MLB 2K8 will bring a new level of fun to your baseball gaming world. -- Paul Festa
Xbox 360: Celebrating baseball in its purest form
When it comes to playing MLB 2K8 on Xox 360, all the Denis Leary voiceover in the world could not do this game justice.
MLB 2K8 on Xbox gives you a thrilling gaming experience without losing the integrity and authenticity of America's favorite pastime. The new pitching feature shows what a true art form pitching is while rewarding for strategy and perfect pitch placement. It pushes you to improve when you fail in those categories and are repeatedly taken deep by Major League-caliber hitters who couldn't care less if your last pitch got away from you. As with a real game, your success on the mound greatly determines your final outcome.
Hitting with the new Swing Stick 2.0 is awesome. Now there is an amazing amount of control over what you do at the plate, whether you are looking for a particular pitch or executing the timing of your step/swing to put the ball into play. It makes for a fluid batting experience and I was psyched when I finally went yard with the updated format (home run courtesy of Alfonso Soriano).
The first stadiums I played in were the four I have visited: Fenway Park, Shea Stadium, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium. The ballpark simulations are truly impressive. I practically felt Manny being Manny at Fenway. The only thing missing at Shea was the Citi Field construction noise. I am pretty sure I saw Lou Piniella reading "Fluent Japanese in 10 Days" at Wrigley and I essentially felt the ghosts of Yankees past in The Bronx. Basically, what some people do on a cross-country trip you can do in your home with MLB 2K8 on Xbox 360.
Experiencing the graphics and sounds of each park is like sending yourself on a tour of every Major League stadium in North America. The biggest surprise for me was the stadium PA announcer audio. Even without a surround sound system, it sounds like his voice is echoing throughout the stadium.
Overall, I found MLB 2K8 to be a fun and refreshing simulation of what it must be like to play in the Major Leagues. It celebrates the sport and presents it in its purest form; check out the list of current Major League records and tell me if you notice anything missing. I highly recommend every baseball fan with a gaming system to pick up MLB 2K8. It is everything you love about the sport wrapped into one exciting video game. -- Ryan Maloney
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.