2K Sports didn't give us a lot to speculate on with the release of MLB 2K13. The announcement that it would be released went public on Jan. 31, and there was never an announcement regarding new features.
We do know that the Perfect Game Challenge is back, and it starts a month after release, but as far as core game options, things have been kept on a low profile.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried, but I was also eager to take a look for myself.
I've been playing it for about four days, and aside from the online aspects of the game, I can say I have a pretty good handle on what the series is offering this season.
The overall online picture won't be completely clear for a week or so, and it's always good to allow a full load on the servers before judging just how well the online features perform.
Here is how the game shakes out as of now.
Graphics and Animation
More than any other part of the game, the visuals are the most criticized and disappointing aspect of the series.
Unfortunately, that is still the case with MLB 2K13. The player models, lighting and textures just don't stack up favorably to other games in this generation of consoles. We are deep into the volumes of this series, so it is difficult to understand why more improvements haven't been made.
A few of the facial renders may have been enhanced (Justin Verlander is one that sticks out), but most of the players aren't as accurately re-created as most gamers will like. Their bodies are too bulky, and that is even more evident when they are in motion.
The animations are still choppy, and again, not quite on the level of what you'd expect from this generation of gaming consoles.
This is a rough spot for the game, but at least we can say things look up from here in regards to the other categories.
Graphics and Animation—5.5
Gameplay and Realism
There are some aspects of the gameplay in MLB 2K13 that are very good. The pitching engine is still the best amongst all baseball games. It is a very good balance between skill on the sticks and blending in the ability of the pitcher.
This is unchanged from previous years. It is one of the components that didn't require an overhaul.
The fielding around the bases is very sharp as well. Exchanges between infielders are smooth, and the actions are responsive.
On the downside, the ball physics and flight are inconsistent. It sometimes looks as if the flight of the ball slows down in an effort to make it catchable. Grounders sometimes appear to roll slower, or faster, but not necessarily in accordance with how hard the ball is hit.
I do enjoy the observance of space and distance in the field. The ballparks feel appropriately large, and this makes for realistic plays as it relates to balls hit in the gap, etc.
Here are a few videos that demonstrate the gameplay for MLB 2K13.
The ever-important component of the game is a mixed bag.
While the pitcher-to-batter process is very good, the ball physics hamper things a bit. On the positive side, many of the bugs in gameplay from previous versions don't appear to be as prevalent.
Depending on how you look at that point, it could be cause for excitement.
Some may feel underwhelmed, as many expect games to be glitch-free from the beginning. All in all, MLB 2K13 plays decently, but it falls short of a strong gameplay experience for me.
Perhaps these issues I raise are merely stylistic differences, but they were too big to ignore again this year.
Gameplay & Realism—6.75
Sound and Presentation
As usual, 2K Sports nails the sound and presentation in a sports game. They should release an instructional video on how to incorporate TV-style presentation in the genre. They clearly have the concepts and the know how to do it correctly.
The three-man commentating team of Gary Thorne, John Kruk and Steve Phiilips again shines brightly here. Their work sounds like a conversation, and the banter is relevant to the situation.
Take a listen to the commentary in this video. It is hard not to appreciate how fluid this sounds.
They make comments that are centered around the current play, players and situation. But they also break off into dialogue about things on a larger scope of your baseball gaming experience.
I'd say this commentating team is second only to NBA 2K's team of Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr and Kevin Harlan in the world of sports video games.
This audio performance is only augmented by a healthy amount of stat overlays, swing- and pitch-feedback windows and other visual goodies. There isn't much to complain about with MLB 2K13 from this standpoint.
Overall, this is an excellent presentation package, but then again, it always has been.
Sound and Presentation—8.75
Modes and Options
This is really a tough one, simply because there aren't any new modes this year. It does appear the MLB Today Season mode is functioning better this year than it did early on in 2012.
Then again, the final verdict for that can't be determined until the servers have enough gamers online to truly test it.
The My Player mode is largely unchanged from MLB 2K12. There aren't any notable enhancements to editing options, and the mode functions exactly as it has in year's past.
Many gamers I know are addicted to My Player, and they are anxiously awaiting the newest version. But others may be a little upset that there aren't a ton of new bells and whistles.
Take a look at this video showing the options available as I create a My Player.
Gamers can also play an All-Star Game, Home Run Derby or Postseason with MLB 2K13. Surprisingly though, the presentation isn't quite as sharp in these modes. Things seem a bit scaled back here, and they could benefit from a little more personality.
Another blow to this category is the absence of online leagues. For gamers that mark organized online play as a major part of their experience, this will be a huge hit to their overall enjoyment.
Franchise mode returns as the meat and potatoes of the experience, but it also hasn't undergone many changes from last year.
There were a few issues with the functionality of multiple modes from MLB 2K12, so if the features are as advertised, this will be an improvement. Perhaps this is a glass half-full approach, but at least there is more polish to the final product.
Modes and Options—6
MLB 2K13 really functions as an extension of MLB 2K12, and not a full addition to the series. Beyond the roster updates and possibly refining the functionality of existing modes, it is hard to find a ton of drastic differences from MLB 2K12.
That said, for those that are die-hard MLB 2K gamers, there will likely be enough here for them to enjoy; that would especially be the case for baseball gamers that only own an Xbox 360.
As the only baseball simulation for that system, there is no competition on the virtual diamond.
Though there are some struggles, MLB 2K13 won't make Xbox 360 gamers skip the baseball season altogether. But it may very well leave them wanting more from the series.