For a while there, we thought that 2K Sports' Major League Baseball 2K series was headed to the showers. Following the release of last year's 2K12, there was hardly any word on the future of the franchise, leaving us wondering if Sony's MLB 13: The Show would be the only simulation in town.
Thankfully, to the delight of fans of the series, 2K Sports reached an agreement with the baseball league and its players association, and early next month, we'll once again be throwing crushers off the pitcher's mound for the latest installment in the franchise, Major League Baseball 2K13. Although it doesn't have any significant changes over previous releases, its gameplay will continue to be dedicated, while additional items, like MLB Today and My Player, will deepen the experience.
If there's any major part to the game, it's the pitching. As with previous games, the execution of your pitch relies on sheer perfection with the analog stick. You'll choose from one of many available pitches, depending on who's on the mound, then pull them off by performing a motion with the right analog stick, whether it's a circular motion for a curveball or a straight up-and-down movement for a fastball. Do it right, and position your cursor to get it past the batter, and you'll get the easy three strikes and "K" out. Screw up in even the slightest, however, and your opponent could easily crush the ball and send it out of the park. Practice definitely makes perfect here, but going with a lighter difficulty doesn't hurt either.
Batting is rather simple. You can simply press the analog stick up for a quick hit, if you feel like your player is good contact hitter or not so good on the power (a lot of pitchers are known for this), or lean back on the stick and press it upward for a power swing – which is excellent for those that can truly devastate the ball upon contact. You can also bunt if you feel like your runner can get to the base, or if you feel like a sacrificial play to score the crucial run. The batting controls are just as good as ever, relying on solid analog mechanics to get the job done.
As for fielding, MLB 2K13 definitely has the feel nailed down. There's not much hassle when it comes to lining up your guy for a catch, or hustling in the field to pick up a roller that's coming your way. Errors do happen, though if you're playing on an easier difficulty, you'll find your team responding better. Then, to lob it to a base, you simply hold the analog stick in the direction of the base you want to do to, like down for home base, right for first base, etc. There's a power gauge that activates, and releasing at just the right time flings the ball to the base just right. Overcook it, or throw with less power, and you're not guaranteed to get to the cutoff man in time.
Again, some changes to the gameplay might've been ideal for certain players, but this is a system that works, and, provided Visual Concepts, the game's developer, ironed out some of the kinks in MLB 2K12 (mainly with pitching), we'll be in for a powerhouse performer this year.
Other features, as we mentioned above, really bring together the fundamentals of the game. MLB Today covers the day-to-day statistics from the world of baseball and applies them to the game, including rosters and line-ups, as well as statistics and commentary that explains how well – or shoddy – your team is doing. You can also change your Dynamic Tendencies over the course of your season, as your stats add up, in real time, depending how you perform. This could have an effect on your player, so keep an eye out if they're dragging a little.
Franchise and Postseason modes will make a return, allowing you to either build a champion team from scratch or immediately head into competition mode for the championship. And if you think your batting's a little rusty – or just want to see how you compare with others – you can enter the Home Run Derby and smash a few out of the park.
Finally, if you want to see how you'd fare with an MLB career (but without the need to buy chewing tobacco), you can jump right into My Player, which lets you take every step with your player, from Minor Leagues all the way to retirement in the MLB. You'll improve stats, take part in drills, and essentially become an All-Star – if you work hard enough at it.
It's nice to see that 2K Sports is offering a fun alternative baseball game for players to choose from, since it's the only one being offered for Xbox 360 this year. (PS3 owners still get the comfort of choosing between this and Sony's The Show.) There may not be a huge list of changes, but the familiar feel, backed by great online and offline features, should still make this a fun Sunday afternoon in the park.
Major League Baseball 2K13 will hit stores for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on March 5th.