MLB 2K9 is a deeply flawed funhouse-mirror distortion of baseball.
- Lots of little control problems add up to a huge amount of frustration
- Hit results can seem canned
- Crammed with bugs
- Homeruns are much too prevalent
- Laggy online multiplayer.
Scientists have long pondered the existence of other universes where the physics are totally different than they are here. In these strange dimensions, up would be down, fast would be slow, and Major League Baseball 2K9 would be a realistic depiction of the national pastime game. In our own mundane reality, however, 2K Sports' latest look at the grand old American game skews baseball so much that you seem to be viewing the diamond action through a funhouse mirror. All of these distortions become more glaring the more time you spend with the game, resulting in a deeply frustrating experience that never feels like the real thing.
Most features are identical to what they were in MLB 2K8, so you still have the options for single games, franchise play, playoffs, and the home-run derby, as well as multiplayer matches, tournaments, and seasons against buddies on the couch or over the Internet. Living rosters have been added, so you can enable this feature and see your rosters mirror those of the real Majors this summer. If the Twins and Jays pull off a trade in the real world, it happens in your franchise league, too. The interface has been refurbished with the addition of nested menus similar to those on display in NHL 2K9. Everything is a lot easier to find here, however, with all of your GM and manager duties split up into separate lists. Some items aren't where you might expect them to be, but after you spend about five minutes figuring your way around, you can navigate the interface with a gamepad almost as smoothly as if you were using a mouse.
Hitting, pitching, and fielding are carried over largely intact from last year, although everything has been made a little easier. As with most sports games these days, the default controls make just about everything reliant on the right analog stick. Hitting is a straightforward pull back to get set and a shove forward to swing, with the extra option of pushing the left stick around to pull the ball, slap it the other way, keep it on the ground, or get it into the air. Pitching works in a similar fashion, although it is a bit more involved in that you have to move the right stick to sort of mimic the motion of the ball. So for a fastball, you just pull back to fill up a yellow circle and then push forward to release the ball, while change-ups are handled by making the same movements in reverse, and breaking pitches are thrown by twisting the stick in a circular motion. To field balls, you guide players around with the left stick and then throw to the base of your choice by pushing the right stick in the appropriate direction. You hold the stick to fill up a meter and determine how hard your throw will be. Overall, the controls are intuitive and simple to dive right into, but they don't have a good feel and can be extremely imprecise.
Hitting is too easy on all difficulty levels. Games often wind up being slugfests where the teams combine to clock something in the neighborhood of 30 hits. You don't have to be a good twitch gamer, either, because it's a snap to time your swings right and get big-time wood on the ball even if you're going up against a fireballer like Jonathan Papelbon. The left stick makes it easy to call your shot and place the ball wherever you would like, as long as you don't try to do something physically impossible like pull a hard outside pitch. Hit results tend to feel canned. While there are a good variety of flies, fouls, and grounders to cycle through, it seems like you're getting roughly the same results. A single to left is a single to left, in other words. You need to play a couple of dozen games to generate even a handful of "Huh, I've never seen that before" moments. And top sluggers get on absurd hot streaks. We hit multiple home runs with players many times, including a spectacular four straight in one match with A-Rod and three in a row in a game with teammate Nick Swisher. Expect these homer explosions to happen consistently. It's so predictable that if you send a ball over the fence in the first or second inning, you can pretty much bank on being able to hit a couple more with the same player before the end of the game.