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JasonSGN View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote JasonSGN Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: MLB 2K9 First Hands-On
    Posted: 01-27-2009 at 9:52am
Pitching and batting get some tweaks in our exclusive hands-on with MLB 2K9.

If it has been a while since you've played 2K Sports' MLB 2K series, don't be surprised if the first pitch you throw on the mound is a strike. OK, allow yourself to be a little bit surprised; after all, the long-running baseball series has been chasing the virtual pitching sweet spot for nearly as long as Vlad Guerrero has been chasing curveballs. While it's too early to put the final judgment on our pitching prospects in MLB 2K9--as well as the rest of the game's lineup of features and improvements--based on what we saw last week during a demo of the game with 2K producers, things are looking up.

Like all of the core titles in 2K Sports' roster of sports games, MLB 2K9 has been pulled into internal development. The result is a baseball game that, at least graphically, has been built from the ground up. Producers told us that while the AI code has been modified and built from previous entries in the MLB 2K series, the look and feel of the game are new. That includes the new front-end menus, which are reminiscent of those found in NBA 2K9.

There's no jaw-dropping feature in MLB 2K9 that looks to reinvent baseball games entirely. What the development team has done, instead, is pay attention to the complaints about MLB 2K8 and directly address them. While the preview code we played still looked and felt early (with graphical hitches aplenty), producers told us the development aims to deliver a smooth gameplay experience running at a full 60 frames per second. In addition, all of the cutaways during gameplay--from the crowd, to the players warming up in the batter's circle, to the batboy running up to home plate--will be real-time renders, not prerendered cutscenes.

Real-time cutaways are nice, but it's the nuts and bolts of pitching, batting, and fielding that will make the difference with MLB 2K9. We sampled all three, and while fielding remains virtually unchanged, the pitching and batting controls have received some subtle tweaks that improve both. The focus is still on the right stick, with each pitch in your pitcher's arsenal having a unique pattern to follow. Unlike in MLB 2K8, however, the timing is much easier. Last year's game featured an expanding and contracting onscreen ring in the strike zone, which determined both the effectiveness and the timing of your pitch. In MLB 2K9, the contracting ring has been removed, effectively removing the "timing" aspect of pitching and thus the rash of meatballs you would unwittingly throw in last year's game. Producers told us that pitching is still a challenge, but the game will focus more on the accuracy of your right stick movement than the timing of your release. Considering our intense dislike for last year's pitching system, this felt like an improvement to us, though obviously more time is required to see how the system plays out in the long run.

Batting, too, has received a face-lift. As with pitching, you still use the right stick to swing the bat. Unlike in previous games, however, you don't need to time your backswing; instead, you can hold the right stick down and your batter will stay in his prepared backswing stance. Then, when the ball crosses the mound, you can swing as you normally would. While the batting in MLB 2K8 was probably more true to life, it's more fun in MLB 2K9, and in this case, we'll go with fun over realism. Another new feature: the ability to influence the path of the ball when you make contact by moving the left analog stick in any direction. Move it up for a fly ball, down for a grounder, left to send the ball toward the third baseman, and so on. Naturally, the timing of your swing and when you make contact with the ball will still come into play here; the left stick will be just for influencing the path of the ball.

Our hands-on time with MLB 2K9 was limited to an inning or so. Afterward, producers gave us a tour of some of the other features that will be part of this year's game. As in previous MLB 2K games, the Inside Edge scouting service will be a big part of the action in MLB 2K9. Using the Inside Edge feature, you can get a detailed breakdown of the tendencies and history of every big-league player in the game. Producers told us that the Inside Edge feature also had an influence on the player ratings that the team came up with for this year's player roster. In addition to the Inside Edge player rating, MLB 2K9 will use sabermetrics, the highly specialized stats made famous by baseball analyst Bill James. These stats are essentially different ways of analyzing players and include value over replacement player, stolen base runs, game scores (average game score for a given pitcher), and more.

Both Inside Edge scouting and sabermetrics statistics will be ideal tools for use in your MLB 2K9 franchise, which has a look and feel much like that of NBA 2K9. Using an MLB.com front page, you'll get caught up with all of the latest news in your virtual franchise, generated on the fly from stats and game results as the season progresses. You can control up to 30 teams in your franchise (up from four in MLB 2K8), and as in NBA 2K9, you can customize what you control and what you don't in your franchise. Don't want to deal with the minor leagues? Automate it. Don't want to deal with player trades or your pitching rotation? Automate them.

Another similarity between NBA 2K9 and MLB 2K9 involves player ambitions. As in NBA 2K9, every player in MLB 2K9 will have individual desires based on factors like financial security, team prestige, and playing time. How each player measures up in each of these categories will determine just what he's looking for when it comes time to sit down and negotiate a contract. The smart GMs will tailor their offers to their players' individual needs. Add to that the MLB version of the living roster feature that was found in NBA 2K9, and you've got a baseball game that goes deep with the stats and will be constantly updated to keep up with the real sport.

Good news for fans of the playing-card feature in MLB 2K8: The feature is returning for MLB 2K9. Even better news? It's going to be easier to earn cards and build your playing-card team than it was last year. For those who missed it last season, the trading card feature lets you earn player cards of real MLB players by completing various challenges, and then field your own unique team in the game (or take online against other players' trading card teams).

Last year, you had to complete a challenge with a certain player to earn that player's card; in MLB 2K9, you'll be able to earn a card by either completing a challenge with that player or completing a different challenge against that player. For instance, to earn Ryan Dempster's card, you'll need to either pitch four consecutive shutout innings with the Cubs starter or get six earned runs against Dempster in a single game. While we'd still prefer to buy cards in packs with in-game currency and leave a little of the trading-card system to chance, this new system will at least make it easier to build a decent team quickly. You'll naturally start with a full set of cards to build a playing-card team, and you'll be able to substitute in better players as you go. As in last year's game, you'll be able to get cards only by earning them in a game--no cards will be awarded for simulating games.

With Gary Thorne and former Mets GM Steve Phillips replacing Jon Miller and Joe Morgan in the booth, MLB 2K9's commentary will have a fresh new sound to it. And, of course, the game will still have all of the online features you've come to expect from the folks at 2K Sports. Still, it's the control changes that we're most curious about. We hope to get a better idea as to how these new tweaks change the gameplay in MLB 2K9 and will be bringing you more on the game ahead of its release in early March.

Source: Gamespot


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Derek View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Derek Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-27-2009 at 10:43am
*&!%#%(&)^!%%&!%&#
 
The  (*!^(^#)_ FIRST SENTENCE of the preview is enough to piss me off.
 
I'm never going to get a game that allows me to throw walks, am I?  NEVER.
 
All they needed to do was to make the 'meatballs' simply balls.  The nonsensical 'meatball' pitch as a result of ill-timed or incorrect user input may be the worst convention EVER in baseball gaming.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote JasonSGN Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-27-2009 at 10:48am
I'm glad they didn't touch the fielding, which was the best aspect of last year's game, but I'm not happy with the pitching and batting changes. I agree with Web, they should have kept the pitching the same as last year and just eliminated the "meatballs". Taking away the backstep timing while batting doesn't make much sense either, but at least they have zone-hitting this year.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Derek Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-27-2009 at 10:56am
If the Show comes through with a harder difficulty level this year that is actually playable, this might finally be the ps3 year for me.
 
However, with the comments I've seen about the new Show difficulty level, I have a fear (and feeling) that the goal for the new difficulty level was 'So some forum posters think our game is too easy, huh?  Yeah, well BEAT THIS you schmucks!' and they designed the difficulty level out of spite. :D
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Post Options Post Options   Quote K_Mosley Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-27-2009 at 11:51am
I've learned.  I'm staying far away from 2K Sports, and I won't even pick up the box until I've read about 100 accounts of what the game is really like. 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote JasonSGN Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-27-2009 at 12:21pm
Well, I'm embarrassed to admit I'm going to jump on this one when it's released unless I hear some incredibly bad things about it first.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Slumberland Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-27-2009 at 12:30pm
Originally posted by Derek

However, with the comments I've seen about the new Show difficulty level, I have a fear (and feeling) that the goal for the new difficulty level was 'So some forum posters think our game is too easy, huh?  Yeah, well BEAT THIS you schmucks!' and they designed the difficulty level out of spite. :D


They are welcome to try.  They probably still undershot. 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote K_Mosley Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-27-2009 at 10:24pm
Originally posted by JasonSGN

Well, I'm embarrassed to admit I'm going to jump on this one when it's released unless I hear some incredibly bad things about it first.
 
I haven't checked many reviews, but the word is that this game is getting hammered.  You might want to check out gamerankings or something before buying...
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote TedSGN Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-28-2009 at 1:54am
How can a game get hammered that isn't released for another 6 weeks?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Grambo Bastille Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-28-2009 at 4:41pm
Originally posted by TedSGN

How can a game get hammered that isn't released for another 6 weeks?


Maybe because there doesn't seem to be many improvements on what was already a mediocre product (and believe me, I am itching for a good baseball game).
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