Reviewed: April 1, 2007
Released: February 27, 2007
Itís that time of year again. Spring is in the airÖ or maybe thatís the smell of pine tar. Iíve kind of lost touch with the world of baseball. My Dad used to take us up to see the Cleveland Indians play (and often loose) back in the early 80ís. It was a leisurely game to watch; certainly a game for a more relaxed time. But now it seems that most people are interested in speed and constant motion. At a fairly young age I even got bored with baseball and moved on to soccer and hockey.
Even now, my enjoyment of baseball is limited to the playoffs and stunning photographs by Walter Iooss Jr. But still, playing a videogame does bring back my fading memories of hot dogs covered in stadium mustard and the occasional 9th inning comeback by the Tribe.
Being the only baseball game on the 360 certainly has its advantages. But having seen EAís lazy efforts with other exclusive sports titles, it can be a frustrating experience for the fans. Iíve been much more impressed with 2K Sportsí recent efforts, so I had high hopes for a trip down baseball memory lane with Major League Baseball 2K7.
First off, let me assure all you baseball fans that this is a far better baseball game than last yearís effort. MLB 2K6 was a bug filled mess. With MLB 2K7, everything from gameplay to graphics has improved.
MLB 2K7 has a number of play modes, including the quick game exhibition, a full season, a franchise mode, GM career mode, a home run derby, manager showdown, tournament, and a set situation mode. Basically we have a game that is good for everyone from the basic gamer to the hardcore baseball fan.
A few things have been kept from last year. The right analog stick is still used to swing, pulling it back and pushing it forward for a power swing or pulling it back and releasing to just make contact. It took a few innings for me to get used to this system. Some players may prefer to switch back to the old standard button-based control scheme, but for me, the swing stick feels a little closer to swinging the bat.
Pitching is also the same as last year, and thatís a good thing. You can follow your catchersí suggestions for a pitch, or shake him off and hope you donít get shelled. In high-pressure situations your aim will jump all over the place making it difficult to throw a strike. You can also get scouting reports on both pitchers and hitters.
The number of odd glitches has gone way down compared to last year. There is still the occasional overrun or missed play, and the number of broken bats and wall-climbing home run thieves tends to be a bit high, but overall this is a really fun game to play for any baseball fan.
MLB 2K7 includes all the current MLB teams, 10 unlockable Classic teams, and 5 All-star teams. It does not include the international teams as were in last years 2K6 game.
All the rosters (even the classic teams) use the real player names so none of that silly name pick list programming is needed. I assume that the contract with the players association is different than it is for other sports. In hockey, football, and basketball, the only player names that can be used are current players. All classic players would have to be contracted individually to include their name in the game, thus 2K and other sports developers include the capability to program in names.
Apparently the contract with the MLBPA is structured to include the player names. Classic teams include the 1927 Yankees, 1946 Boston Red Sox, 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, 1961 Yankees, 1969 Mets, 1976 Cincinnati Reds, 1986 Mets, 1988 LA Dodgers, 1989 Oakland Aís, and the 1995 Cleveland Indians. As you can see, it is a well-rounded list, however given the history and number of fans interested in Americaís pastime, I had hoped for considerably more classic teams Ė at least one per franchise. Well, maybe not the Cubs.
MLB 2K7 also has several All-Star teams including the current AL and NL All-Stars, and two classic Cooperstown teams filled with great players like Stan Musial, Brooks Robinson, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan, Ozzie Smith, Reggie Jackson, Johnny Bench, and many others. There are of course, countless other great players missing from the game entirely.
As it should be with any sports game, there is a huge amount of statistical data for you. Everything from your tendencies to how often you lead off the base is tracked. This should have all you stat hounds drooling all over your controllers.
You can also create a player, but not a team. Every little detail is customizable right down to the type of lens used in eyeglasses. 2K really knows how to pile on the features.
As expected, 2K Sports continues to provide an extensive manual with their games. MLB 2K7 includes a nice 38-page manual. While MLB is a bit simpler to play that most sports games, itís still nice to actually have a manual thatís worth the paper itís printed on.
One of the standard features in 2K games is the Skybox. This is where all your stats can be tracked, you can play some mini-games, or use earned virtual cash to buy some enhancements to the game.
The unlockables section includes 24 interesting cheat devices (which is some cases like the big head cheat are more for fun than strategy). There are also 25 classic uniforms available and the 10 classic teams. If you go to the game room you will find some playable mini-games. 2K Sports this time decided to include a dartboard, a trivia machine, air hockey, and shuffleboard. Each of the games works for a short distraction.
Xbox Live play includes leagues and tournaments as well as the usual quick match. You can also download updated rosters. Baseball really works well on Xbox Live. Lag isnít really a factor since baseball is a much slower paced game.
It is amazing how much a year can make. The TV style presentation is impressive. Certain aspects of it are used to disguise load times, but looking at the beautifully rendered ballparks in the pre-game show is a real treat.
The player models are nothing short of amazing. Individual players have many of the unique look and style of their real life counterparts. When playing in an outdoor stadium often you will see the playersí shirts blowing in the wind. I can only hope they will be using these techniques to pump up the 2K8 releases later this year.
This years announcers include Jon Miller doing play-by-play, Joe Morgan with Color Commentary, and Jeanne Zelasko in the studio. I actually was amazed at how much the commentary in baseball differs from other sports like soccer. Miller and Morgan put the time in for some good commentary with many references to specific players and situations. I rarely heard a repeat phrase.
Crowd noise seems a bit underplayed. They donít sound as excited by the game as I remember from real life. There are plenty of comments coming from the rear speakers Ė even some not so subtle references to Ferris Beuler and Caddyshack.
2K Beats includes 21 songs to be played when youíre digging through the extensive option menus. 2K Stadium Beats includes over 70 songs (including some variations on the regular 2K Beats) from bands such as Nirvana, Sublime, and Wolfmother, which are played over the stadium speaker system during games. Songs can be customized to play during specific situations in specific stadiums, even down to what is played when there is a 2-run homer, which is different that what is played when there is a 3-run homer.
MLB 2K7 is packed full of features. Yes, It would be nice to have more classic teams, but otherwise everything in this game just speaks volumes about the dedicated development team.
There are 33 achievements totaling 1000 achievement points. Most of them can be unlocked just in the course of playing a few games. But some of the more difficult ones involve playing on the Pro skill level and completing certain tasks.
Online downloads currently include roster updates and team themes (150 Microsoft Points each). Itís too bad there isnít more classic team available for download. Everything else is just as it should be. Once again, 2K Sports packs as many features as possible into a great game. The only thing missing is the stadium mustard.
Playing a good recreation of Major League Baseball really stirs up the memories of all the smells and sounds of my childhood. Back then nothing beat a day spent at Cleveland Stadium during a doubleheader. But Major League Baseball 2k7 comes very close.