2K Sports' MLB 2K6 left a lot to be desired when it made its first appearance on the Xbox 360 last April. The game didn't take advantage of the system's power, and there were numerous bugs and problems that plagued the gameplay. With another year of development behind it, the series is back for another season on the Xbox 360 and making its first appearance on the PlayStation 3, too. The feature set hasn't changed much, but the presentation is outstanding and has been vastly improved. The gameplay has also been tightened up, and while there are some noticeable quirks, it's a solid game of baseball. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions are mostly identical, though the PS3 version includes tilt-control support and a nasty frame rate. All in all, MLB 2K7 is a nice improvement over MLB 2K6 and well worth a look for any baseball fan.
Player close-ups look amazing.
There isn't a whole lot of new content or gameplay modes, but there's still plenty to do in 2K7--and everything is easier to use this year thanks to an improved interface. You can play a quick game, season, franchise, GM career, manager challenge, and even five different types of home run derby. In the franchise mode, you can now set ticket prices, and doing so is much more user friendly thanks to a nifty drop-down menu that runs across the top of the screen, as well as a new layout that displays a large amount of pertinent information in an easy-to-view manner. You can also negotiate contracts, call up players from the minors, sign free agents, keep tabs on your players' moods, make trades, and more. Making trades is a snap thanks to the trade finder, which lets you pick the player you want and then find out what that team wants in return. You can also find out how much interest there is for one of your players without going through the cumbersome process of trial and error.
Overall, franchise mode is good, but there are a number of quirks that will frustrate those looking for a true simulation. The current roster download cuts player salaries to 10 percent of what they're supposed to be, so rather than A-Rod scraping by on his $25-million-a-year salary, he's practically homeless and makes just $2 million. Unless you turn trades completely off, the CPU will make some questionable trades, sometimes trading for players you don't need and other times trading your best players for little in return. There also seems to be an issue with the game setting up odd lineups based on whether there's a left- or right-handed pitcher. Players will end up in odd spots in the order and will sometimes play out of position, too. Finally, injured players will sometimes not return to the team, seemingly content to hang out in Triple-A rather than the bigs.
2K Sports games typically have a full-featured online component, and MLB 2K7 is no different. You can play a quick ranked or unranked match, join or create tournaments, and even participate in and set up your own leagues with up to 30 teams, complete with trades. The one catch is that the game doesn't play all that well online. It's tough enough to figure out if a pitch is going to be a ball or a strike offline and then decide to swing or not swing, but lag makes it almost impossible online. And even if a ball is a strike, trying to time your swing is difficult--again, thanks to lag and people who like to use pitchers that are adept at changing speeds, like Orlando Hernandez. It's also difficult to find anyone who doesn't want to play anything less than nine innings, which stinks if you're not looking to spend 45 minutes or more playing a laggy game of baseball.
On the field, 2K7 plays like a cleaned-up version of last year's game. The pitching interface, which requires you to press a button to determine pitch speed and break, and then another button for accuracy, is mostly the same as it was before. It's not as intuitive as EA's right analog stick mechanic from MVP 07, but it works fine. Your catcher will call a pitch and set up their gloves where they want it, but you're free to shake them off if you'd like. For the most part the catchers call a good game, but they call for a few too many pitches outside the strike zone and occasionally ask for a ball that's right in the hitter's wheelhouse. Even pitchers with high stamina ratings and low pitch counts have a difficult time getting past the seventh and eighth innings. Granted, pitchers these days rarely pitch complete games, but it still happens occasionally, and it would be nice to see here.
The swing mechanics work fine, but it's really difficult to judge pitches.
When it's your turn to bat you can use the classic timing-based method or pull down and release (or push up for extra power) the right analog stick. The PS3 version also lets you uses the Sixaxis tilt controls to push the controller forward to swing. This works OK, but you don't feel as though you're really swinging and it doesn't add much to the game. Whether it's the fact that pitches come in faster, the camera is zoomed in closer, the difference in timing one player's swing to the next, or a combination of the three, it's extremely difficult to judge whether or not a pitch is going to be a ball or a strike and still properly time your swing. This means you'll probably end up swinging at a lot of bad pitches. The game's pretty forgiving on the easiest difficulty setting, but on the harder levels you'll have a hard time getting by swinging at everything that comes your way. If you do happen to make contact, there's a pretty good chance the ball's leaving the park, because there are a lot of home runs in 2K7. Some games end up feeling more like home run derby than a baseball game, but at least the game's balanced and lets you hit as many taters as the CPU.
Baserunning has been improved this year, and while it's still a tad complicated, it works well once you get the hang of it. Small displays pop up on the side of the screen that correspond to the base's location and an icon appears over each player. All it takes to move them is a press of a shoulder (or trigger) and a face button. One small issue is that when you're playing against another person online the game shows what base your runner is headed to well before they've made the turn, which tells your opponent which base they need to throw to.