Disclaimer: This being the gaming forum and all, here goes the longest post that hardly anyone will even see.
So I downloaded the MLB 2K9 demo yesterday...
I deleted it last night.
If you can, please resist any impulse to buy this game, I'll explain why later. But for now let's run through a brief history of baseball gaming.
To start, baseball is not a very difficult game to translate into a fun video gaming experience. My personal association with it started when I was probably less than 3 feet tall with the brilliantly titled Baseball for the Atari 2600. If you held the joystick directly to the left and timed it right, you could hit a homerun every single time. Doesn't sound like it, but it sure was fun for a 3 year old... You could also throw the most disgustingly wicked curveballs.
(on a side note, Atari also provided me with my first exposure to hockey. 2-on-2 stick person action by the name of Ice Hockey. It, too, was ****ing awesome)
Then when I was around 4 feet tall, the most brilliant invention in the history of mankind came about:
I probably played almost every baseball game ever made available on this thing, but the highlights have to be Nintendo Baseball, RBI Baseball, and the Bases Loaded series. I could write a book on how awesome each of these games was. But I won't, because that would be a boring book. I could, though, and that's the point.
To cut to the chase, on the SNES my game of choice was Ken Griffey Jr Presents Major League Baseball. At the time, probably around 5 feet tall, I was convinced that there was no way they could top that one for realism. Then N64 came out and, while it didn't have the greatest baseball games of all time (in fact I don't even remember which baseball game I played most, but I think it was another Griffey one), it was definitely still an enjoyable enough time. Moving on, along came the Playstation years in which there were always at least two decent, solid games to choose from, etc, etc, all leading up to a game that, in my opinion, sits comfortably in the Top 3 Video Games of All Time:
Holy ****ing **** was this an amazing game or what? And when did I get so tall?
Now, backtracking a bit, MVP 2004 was solid, but the fact that your left-handed hitters couldn't manage to hit more than 1 or 2 homeruns per season did leave a little to be desired. So did EA promote the follow year's offering with "A Whole New Engine!!!"?
They had an extremely enjoyable base to work with and did what we, as sports gamers, often complain about but is really a blessing in disguise: not very much at all.
They updated the rosters, fixed the lefty-glitch, made some minor gameplay adjustments and we ended up with what is arguably.... no, scratch that. There's no argument. MVP 2005 is the greatest baseball simulation to date. Possibly even the best sports game ever made, but NHL 09 is reeeaaally good (Here's to hoping EA follows their own past successes and makes minor but effective gameplay tweaks for NHL 10).
Now let's look at the other side of the coin... 2k Sports.
Long (and sad) story short: They made a cool football game that gave Madden a run for its money. EA got scared and a year or two later, bought up the exclusive rights for NFL games. 2k responded by doing the same for the MLB. Luckily both ignored the NHL. And now we have this endless battle in which we're left without a choice (yes, I'm aware of MLB The Show, but I'm talking about sim baseball here, and that's not available on all platforms, most notably the one I own, anyway).
I know that the real one to blame here is EA for their response to 2k football, but at least the Madden series has something to offer. And I don't really like football anyway. Yeah, it has its problems that could conceivably be ironed out if the pressure were on via a 3rd party competitor (or would it be a 2nd party, in this case?). But the bottom line is this:
2k Sports' baseball games are inexcusable.
If you buy up the rights and eliminate the competition, GIVE US A ****ING PLAYABLE PRODUCT!!!
2 years ago they released MLB 2k7. I'll admit, it has its appeal. It's an awesome looking game, pretty good gameplay, if a bit repetitive, but fun... Worth $60? No. But I got it on ebay for less than $10. The problem is, you can't complete a single damn season without the thing freezing up. Hell, you're lucky if you make it to the all-star break.
So what do they do for 2k8? They sure as hell didn't take a page from MVP's book and make minor but extremely effective tweaks to refine their product. Nope. They completely overhaul the damn thing, sending the graphics engine back to previous-gen quality (that's supposed to be grass?!) while somehow simultaneously sending the framerate down on an elevator seemingly destined for the center of the Earth, further **** up the gameplay with retarded fielding controls, add in a clever but clearly untested new batting and pitching interface, and still didn't fix the effing freezing problems?!?!!
Now on to last night's experience with the demo...
The Rays vs the Phillies?
Okay, fine, I won't pin that on 2k. But really now... the Rays and Phillies?
The graphics are.... different. Can't pinpoint it but a little more cartoony than the past couple years. I'd actually say this might be a slight improvement. But the gameplay. So bad. If you can figure out the pitching interface, the CPU hits everything. Batting, you can hit everything. In contrast to real life, you're lucky if you can get through an inning throwing any more than 10 pitches. In fact, I couldn't throw 10 if I tried. They just hit everything and its almost always a fly ball. Once they hit it, the CPU 9 times out of 10 will select the wrong fielder for you so you'll end up intuitively running away from the ball. If you do actually get on base and can figure out how to try to steal second, you won't make it. You'll be gunned down with the ball being in the 2nd baseman or shortstop's glove when you're hardly half-way there. There's more but I don't want to get into it. It's bad. Try it out for yourself.
Now I'm not one for staging protests, boycotting products, telling people what to do and what not to do.
But don't buy this ****ing "game".