MLB 2K7 Review

Last year’s MLB 2K6 baseball game had some problems related to game crashes, graphics and gameplay issues, but in a conference call held a few weeks ago with Kush Games, many of these issues have been addressed with the release of this year’s new title, Major League Baseball 2K7. So does this game hit it out of the park, or does it need to be sent back down to the minor leagues for some more work? As we’ll see, it all depends on your dedication and how you feel about the sport.

Baseball is considered the national pastime in the U.S., and although this is an arguable point for many, the millions of fans who attend and follow the game evidently carry enough clout to get game companies to develop baseball titles for them. Virtually all baseball video games that have come out over the past six or seven years have had a hard time trying to balance gameplay so that hardcore fans and casual gamers are able to enjoy the baseball experience, and for MLB 2K7, this problem and conflict of interest continues to be the case.

The first thing you can do in MLB 2K7 is immediately go to the Play Ball (quick game) setup. You choose your team, set up the conditions for gameplay, and bada bing, you’re off and running. Fans of baseball will appreciate the total control they’ll have in this game. Defense and offensive moves are numerous and deep, and hardcore fans will definitely do better with the palette of controls while non-baseball fans will only scratch the surface and miss out on the nuisances of using strategies such as positioning runners, moving the outfield and infield, substituting players, doing bunts, picking off players, playing the percentages and an astonishing amount of small details related to the game of baseball.

MLB 2K7 isn’t just about pitching and batting. For true followers of the game of swat, you’ll be able to go into the franchise or general manager modes to see what it feels like to run a baseball team. In these sections of the game, you’ll be graded on your performance regarding either the business side of managing a team or the decisions you make during ball games. This title takes an interesting approach to streamlining these rather tedious aspects by allowing you to play games in a semi-simulation mode. You don’t see the actual action during a game, but you dictate what the players do by means of a scorecard interface. You tell the players how to bat, how to pitch, and other related baseball strategy and the "scorecard" tells you the final results of your actions. Although this mode was pretty simple, I actually enjoyed this way of playing a quick game.

These games take a fraction of the time to play, and also give you the option of actually joining in the full graphic mode when you get into crucial situations. In one of these games, MLB 2K7 alerted me that I had a chance to score some runs in the tight contest, and I could switch from the scoreboard version to "live" gameplay. I did so, and was able to get a few critical hits with my team, proceeded to bunt home a run — but I still lost the game because my pitcher tossed a few wild throws to the backstop. I had some relief pitchers warming up in the bull pen, but I didn’t give them enough time to get loose, and they started to throw wild pitches when I subbed my starting pitcher. (This shows what kind of baseball manager I would make, but don’t tell anyone.)

I’d have to say that the realism in this game is one of the high points of the title, but it proves to be one of its low points, too. The reason behind this is that the game can be so complex, that only the fanatics of the game can ever appreciate the small intricacies that make up the sport of baseball. Of course, you can just play a simple tournament or season of baseball, and choose to play each game or quicken the pace by allowing MLB 2K7 to simulate all or some of the games, but the game can quickly go over your head as far as the duties of buying scouting reports, doing trades, setting up the lineup for players, or understanding when the best time do a "hit and run" play is concerned. For the dedicated baseball person, this is what the game of baseball is all about, but for all others, it will either make no sense at all, or will be degraded into an experience of just pitching and hitting, and in doing this, they’ll be missing at least 90% of the capabilities of MLB 2K7.

The realism of this game is good. Even for a simple exhibition game, I was quite impressed with the general physics, game situations, and things I could do to try to affect the outcome of the matches by managing my team. But one thing’s for sure: mastering the duties of hitting the ball isn’t easy, by any means. You can attempt hits by either the classic way — just punching the "A" button at the right moment — or play the game in the more realistic way of using the right control stick to swing at the ball. Pull back to have your hitter take a step into the pitch, and release when the ball comes over the plate.

This part of the game will confuse (and frustrate) a lot of people because it isn’t entirely clear whether it’s all about timing or the positioning of where you want the batter to swing. As it turns out, it’s a little bit of both. Just before the pitcher throws, you have a split second to guess where the ball will end up in the strike zone. If you guess correctly, you’ll be able to get more power on the ball, assuming that you can make contact. While this works in theory, I had a pretty hard time in adjusting to this method and soon found myself just using the simple way of batting — I just pulled back on the right stick and released it when I thought the ball was coming over the plate.

For the duties of pitching, you have to keep a close eye on the stamina of your pitchers because they will start to tire and run out of "heat" for their fast balls or lob big, juicy homerun pitches to the batters if you’re not careful. Pitching is accomplished by selecting the type of pitch that is associated with the real life pitcher’s arsenal of weapons, and then clicking the A button twice to determine the amount of power you want to put on the ball. If you max out on every pitch, it will bring down the stamina of your pitcher pretty quickly. I found this out too late as the Chicago White Sox hit a grand slam off of Giants pitcher Barry Zito.

MLB 2K7 has a truckload of different gameplay features. There are modes for managing pitching rosters, getting into depth charts, setting up game situations, changing lineups, trading or letting go players, tournament series and the proverbial kitchen sink thrown in for good measure. The scope of this game is very broad and it will easily overwhelm you if you’re just a casual gamer.

Online gameplay looks just as good as single player and offers you a viewpoint from either the batter’s box or the pitching mound, depending on whether you are up for defense of offense. There were lots of offers for playing one-on-one games in the lobby, and you can check each invitation to see just where the challengers are in the game standings. Playing against a live person on the other end really adds some real excitement to the game over playing single player mode, but committing to a game may be too long for some people. The games are a lot faster than real baseball games, but if you add up the total time to play the game, planning strategy, and making changes to the lineup, you’ll easily burn up half an hour or more in a typical game — considering of course, that you don’t go into extra innings.

The previous point leads to the real concern of MLB 2K7 as a video game: no matter how you cut it, it’s still about baseball, and because of this, the pace of the game goes along rather slowly, even if you button through the animation sequences. If you can’t appreciate the finer points of baseball, there is little to gain from playing this title. Since the game is a simulation rather than an arcade styled game, only the serious fan should apply.

As far as graphics are concerned, MLB 2K7 has done a very good job. The realistic portrayal of the baseball stadiums, gameplay animations, character movements, camera angles and overall detail in how this game looks is one of the things that gamers will enjoy. A special "style signature" feature where the idiosyncratic moves of big name baseball players such as those of Derek Jeter is incorporated in the player animations and really capture the realism of the players. I was pretty impressed with how the game was visually presented.

The detail in audio engineering is downright excellent. The sound of the crowd in the stands, the chatter and background noise of the dugout and players on the field, and the realistic commentary by announcers Jon Miller and Joe Morgan add to the illusion of actually being at the ball park. The only things missing from totally convincing me that I was at the baseball stadium was the absence of the smell of beer, peanuts and hotdogs in the stands. There are also some good tunes along with this game. It’s got an assortment from old to the recent with music tracks ranging from groups such as Nirvana to Tapes n’ Tapes. You’ll be surrounded with sound and the Kush Games development team has definitely not scrimped on the sound aspect of MLB 2K7.

Trying to put an accurate review score on Major League Baseball 2K7 is not an easy thing to do, because the game is so specialized. We could score it just for those who are into baseball, but that would give a false impression to gamers who don’t follow the sport. Although the game has tried to cover all the bases in order to appeal to serious fans as well as to casual gamers, it exceeds in one field and falls short in the other. For the hardcore, it offers many of the things that make the game so enjoyable to them. There are statistics and game features galore, and any baseball fan worth his or her’s salt will get some good entertainment out of the game. But for casual gamers, there is little to be happy about because the basic functionality of just playing a standard baseball game — by pitching and batting — is all that will be really playable or somewhat interesting to them.

So we’ll give this game three scores; one for the serious follower of the sport, one for the non-fan, and the final score which is an average for the two. MLB 2K7 scores an 8.4 for the serious baseball fanatic, and a 7.0 for the casual gamer, with an average overall rating of 7.7.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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