Game trailer: MLB 2K10
Just as spring training arrives, so do the year's two Major League Baseball games. Though this season always reminds us of the gone-but-never-forgotten MVP franchise, we're happy to report that both offerings do the sport justice.
PS3 owners will have to make the decision between MLB 2K10 and MLB 10: The Show, as the latter is a PS3-exclusive title. That said, Xbox 360 owners won't be shut out of a good game, as 2K10 has finally broken the streak of disappointing baseball titles. In fact, this year's effort is the one of the best improvements year over year we've seen in a very long time.
Pitching in 2K10 remains the most difficult to master (pitching is done via two-step gestures with the right stick), but it only took us about five full games before we felt comfortable with our delivery. Where 2K has transferred most of the game's action (hitting and pitching) to the right thumb stick, MLB 10 remains traditional with more conventional button-based mechanics. We're not sure either way is the "right" way, but we definitely had an easier time making contact with the ball in The Show. Check swings in MLB 10 were also a nice advantage in the batter's box, as the game offers three different types of animations for doing so.
More so than in years past, both MLB 2K10 and MLB 10 allow the batter to see the ball fairly well, as we found ourselves taking pitches as often as we swung. The Show lets you guess an incoming pitch--ultimately giving you a better idea what's coming even if you're wrong--and 2K10 flashes the name of a pitch if it's not delivered perfectly.
Probably the most frustrating element of a bad baseball game is fielding, but this year both titles provide a very satisfying defensive experience. Animations are very realistic on both fronts, with diving catches and double plays sticking out the most. We couldn't help but notice the sort-of autopilot mode outfielders go in for pop-ups, but we suppose there isn't much to complain about with those routine plays.
Game trailer: MLB 10: The Show
We really enjoyed MLB 2K10's new MLB Today feature, that (with an Internet connection) keeps your game fully updated with the latest rosters, scratches, and injuries. There's a certain satisfaction in playing with a lineup that reflects what's going on in spring training, opposed to playing MLB 10 with fully loaded teams and players who won't be healthy in time for opening day.
MLB 2K10 has completely revamped its presentation, and the end result is a more TV-centric experience than what's found in The Show. MLB 10's overall action is probably a bit more realistic, speaking from a baseball sim standpoint, but 2K10's packaging felt more like a broadcast.
It should be clear that we're very pleased with both baseball games this year. Ultimately, the decision to buy should be made depending on which console you own and whether you prefer button-based action or the adoption of the right thumb stick. Sure, both games offer improvements over their predecessors, but the advancements in MLB 2K10 far outweigh those in MLB 10: The Show.
Every season for at least as many years as I can recently remember, MLB 2K10 and The Show have faced off, with The Show becoming widely regarded as the premier baseball game, and 2K10 holding court as the only multiplatform option. From the perspective of simple, easy-to-pick-up play, MLB The Show 10 still wins out. The reason, simply enough, is the continued Madden-like adoption of most old-school controls rather than inventing new ones. This lets old players and even PSP players slip right in and get comfy, and spend the time saved on nuances in gameplay. Graphically, The Show still looks fantastic, with realistic ball travel and perfect lighting, but the step forward from '09 isn't as dramatic as last year's.
MLB 2K10 was a pleasant surprise; the presentation and even the graphics seemed better than expected, smoother and less buggy. Between innings, the game even felt like a broadcast. The default reliance on analog-stick moves for both pitching and batting, though a noble effort, are still extremely difficult to use. We've seen similar ideas in the Sega Olympics games and in the Fight Night series, but in a game so timing-based as baseball, split-second quick button presses seem like a better match than mushier analog. Either that, or I'm a terrible player, which could indeed be the case. Both games have a number of real-time roster update options, but focusing on the main nine-inning event, The Show still feels more fun, but by degrees rather than by a landslide.
Well, for starters, I should say that I played 2K Sports' MLB 2K2010 first (on the PS3), which was probably a good thing. I'd gotten an early look at MLB 10: The Show a few months ago, but it wasn't fresh in my mind, so I came at the 2K title from a somewhat unbiased perspective. My initial reaction was OK, this is pretty good, definitely improved from last year, and much better presentation overall--from the graphics to the features and commentary.
Since the million-dollar contest mode is still available, I mainly played that, but my longest perfect game only lasts three innings. Some people are really turned off by the gesture-based pitching mechanics using the analog stick, but it didn't bother me that much--or at least as much as it bothered other editors I've spoken with. I didn't mind working a bit to pitch and actually found the hitting more bothersome and less natural than the Show's hitting mechanics.
The interesting thing about MLB 2K10 is that if you were reviewing it in a vacuum, it would actually comes across as a very good game of baseball. But alas, as soon as you move over to playing Sony's title, your impression of the 2K game starts to diminish. From a pure presentation and gameplay standpoint, The Show is just incredibly impressive. And though there's always room for improvement, I think it ranks up there with the best sports games ever created. The players just look better, the stadiums feel more true-to-life (like 2K Games, Sony has improved the crowds), and the overall gameplay just feels smoother. It's hard to say exactly how much Sony's game is enhanced over last year's, but there's enough of an improvement this go 'round to justify spending another 60 bucks, particularly now that there's a Home Run Derby on board. Also, on the pitching end of things, you can call a game from the catcher's perspective (it's kind of cool, but I think the majority of people will prefer to be the pitcher).
For all of you who own an Xbox 360 and aren't quite ready to add a PS3 to your gaming arsenal, MLB 2K10 is still a decent game that's probably worth picking up. However, at the end of the day, though the gap between the two titles has narrowed--and 2K Sports is definitely moving in the right direction--Sony's game is still in a league of its own.
For more on MLB 2K10 and MLB 10: The Show, be sure to check out live game demos of each title on this week's episode of preGAME!