At last, the wait is over. The GameCube version of Major League Baseball 2K6 is finally on store shelves, approximately two months after the Xbox, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, and Xbox 360 versions shipped. The developers wisely took advantage of the extra development time to fix all of the bugs that plagued the other versions, transforming a formerly haphazard game into a solid baseball simulation. For some reason, however, they hardly did anything to spice up the game's sleepy atmosphere. They also didn't bother to update the team rosters, which is a no-no for a version that doesn't have any online features. Of course, at the end of the day what matters most is that the game portrays the nuts and bolts of the sport really well. It's just a shame it doesn't do so in an exciting or up-to-date fashion.
Player bodies and stadiums are fairly accurate, but the presentation lacks energy.
From a technical standpoint, the graphics aren't all that bad. Player faces are accurate and their uniforms look sufficiently clothlike. Play animations and the transitions between them are fluid in the GameCube game, which marks a significant improvement over the jerky animations found in other versions. There are also just more plays to see, in general, in this version of the game. Spectators look like actual people, and they gesture independently of one another. Stadium dimensions and architecture are spot on, for the most part. Texture quality is so good that you can actually read all of the stadium advertisements and scoreboards, which update throughout the course of a game. Overall, the graphics are crisp and pleasing to the eye.
Unfortunately, while the graphics are decent in the technical sense, the atmosphere they serve to convey is utterly lifeless. After a play is made, the players just stand there. Other baseball video games at least attempt to make the players seem lifelike, by having them loiter about or toss the ball around. Broadcast-style cutaways are limited to home runs, double plays, and the occasional strikeout replay. Incredibly, there are actually fewer broadcast-style cutaways in the GameCube game than there were in any of the other console versions of MLB 2K6. There aren't any batter walk-ups or post-strikeout reaction shots, for example. The game doesn't even show a score recap between innings. After the last out of an inning, the sides just instantly change without any sort of visual segue. Compared to other baseball video games, the presentation here is absolutely conservative.
The audio portion fares better. In general, there's a satisfying range of sound effects, stadium announcements, and player-specific crowd catcalls. In exciting situations, the volume of the crowd turns louder and stadium speaker cues become more frequent. Compared to other baseball video games, the stadium music and announcements in MLB 2K6 aren't as loud or as frequent, but they get the job done. ESPN's Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, arguably the best commentator team in baseball today, have the in-game play-calling duties. They keep pace with the action fairly well and have a lot to say, especially if you put down the controller and let them talk. Even though their calls don't exude much in the way of emotion, their conversational rapport is still eerily lifelike.
You can't play online, but there are plenty of offline modes, such as season, franchise, and homerun career.
While its portrayal of the sport is sleep-inducing, MLB 2K6 does manage to provide a good selection of play modes and a deep gameplay experience. The 10 different included play modes are quick game, season, franchise, GM career, World Baseball Classic, playoffs, home run derby, home run derby career, manager showdown, and situation. All of the online modes were stripped out of the GameCube version, but you can still play against your buddies on the same console. A number of built-in player- and roster-editing utilities let you create and trade players, which is a good thing, because the default rosters are accurate only as of opening day. Aspiring general managers will enjoy the GM and franchise modes. They don't let you set concession prices or sell advertising, but they do implement player morale and fatigue as day-to-day variables, which you can subsequently manage by shuffling lineups and adjusting how much time off your players get. In the majority of play modes, you can choose to play the game, spectate, or manage from the sidelines. Stats are automatically tracked in more than 100 individual categories and subcategories. Various settings menus let you tweak the difficulty, control configurations, and multiple tuning sliders to your liking.
On the field, you can literally control every aspect of a ball game. Managerial functions let you make substitutions, warm up pitchers, and visit the mound whenever you like. If the umpire makes a close play or a batter gets beaned, sometimes the game will prompt you to argue the call or charge the mound. Doing so, however, may result in your manager or player being ejected. The fielding and baserunning interfaces are mostly identical to those in other games. Leadoffs and stolen-base attempts can be queued up before the pitch, and you can command a player to make a diving catch or slide into a base just by pulling on the C stick. As in previous years, MLB 2K6 is the only baseball game that lets you compel runners and fielders to kick in an extra burst of speed by rapidly tapping the relevant buttons. The risk of injury or fatigue is higher when kicking in the afterburners, though.