I love video games. I play them often, and I have for years. I play a moderate variety of games. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the best one I've ever played and is probably the best one ever made, and do not argue this with me, but for the purposes of this post, I'm concentrating mostly on sports games.
As I mentioned last week, when I was younger I played Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents Major League Baseball on the Super Nintendo, and most of my childhood baseball opinions were based on those experiences (my first reason for hating domed stadiums was that I couldn't hit home runs all the way out of the stadium).
I played RBI Baseball and Blades of Steel on the NES (though in the latter, I'd typically just do in-game fights with my dad). And now, I play FIFA 09 and MLB 2K8 on the XBox 360. So I know something about sports video games.
And because of that, you can take my word for it that the MLB 2K series sucks. Big time.
Honestly, probably the biggest problem with the series is that it's not EA Sports' MVP Baseball series, which is one of the shorter-lived sports franchises in video games (it was only produced in 2003, 2004 and 2005) but also one of the best.
The gameplay was great, and it was one of the more innovative series in sports gaming. It was, in 2004, the first to include minor league affiliates. It was also the first to eliminate the button-mashing pitching interface in favor of a more realistic system that involved a power/accuracy meter.
After EA got exclusive NFL game rights, though, Take-Two obtained similar third-party rights with Major League Baseball. Thus was born the mediocre 2K baseball series.
Like I mentioned, I bought MLB 2K8 last year, and at first was pretty happy with it. I thought the hitting and pitching interfaces (using gestures with the XBox's right control stick) were even more realistic than the EA version, because they allowed mistakes like in real life and factored in stamina more accurately.
The more I played it, though, the more its imperfections annoyed me. There are several in-game glitches. For example, in the seventh inning of each game a "game changing moment" highlight is shown, and in my game, every time the announcer claimed the play took place in the bottom of the seventh (which hadn't happened yet) and when the play was a home run, he claimed that it was an inside-the-park home run, which was obviously almost never true.
Diving is near impossible to do correctly, and when a diving player doesn't make the catch, he stays on the ground for several seconds. Once (with Moises Alou, shockingly enough) I missed a dive and the player never got up, turning a single into a home run.
There was no injury. I don't remember the last time that happened to someone not named Manny Ramirez in real life.
Also, the game claims from the first week of the season that basically every high-level player in the league is demanding a trade, while most of them have incredibly high morale ratings.
The worst part of the game, though, is the voice-overs. The in-game commentators are Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. I am not a huge fan of them (though I hate them significantly less than most baseball fans). But even I get annoyed after a while, especially by Morgan's inanities and stupid or incorrect advice.
If he tells me one more time not to throw a low fastball, I may scream. At least he doesn't talk about Dave Concepcion or anything like that in the game. Way, way, WAY worse than that, though, is the inclusion of the worst baseball telecaster in the history of baseball or sports journalism in a completely superfluous role.
That's right; Jeanne Zelasko is, for reasons that confound even the brightest minds, in MLB 2K8. This perfect storm of suckage has forced me to mute my TV every time I play this game. I miss Dave Niehaus.
This all came up because I noticed last night that the demo for MLB 2K9 had been released. I haven't played it yet, so I don't know if any of the tangible flaws in the game have been fixed. One, though, has gotten way, way worse. The announcers for the game? Gary Thorne and STEVE FREAKING PHILLIPS.
It wasn't bad enough already, but they had to add one of the least knowledgeable analysts in ESPN's stable? The only way it could possibly be worse would be if Thorne was replaced by Hawk Harrelson and/or Chip Caray. Just seeing that told me that there was no way in hell I would ever pay money for that game.
The state of MLB video games is poor right now, and I have no idea how it could improve, unless someone can wrest third-party rights from Take-Two and sell them on the cheap back to EA Sports. Because those guys know how to make a sports game.