Thanks to games like MLB 2K7 on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox it's no wonder sports games are often criticized as being little more than roster updates. Actually, MLB 2K7 can't be to blame, because even the rosters aren't as up to date as they should be. The game plays virtually the same as it did last year, which means there's still a good game of baseball to be found; but other than some minor tweaks here and there, this is the same game you played last year.
There isn't a whole lot of new content or gameplay modes, but there's still plenty to do in 2K7. You can play a quick game, season, franchise, GM career, situation mode, manager showdown, tournament, and even different types of home run derby. Only the PSP's franchise mode received the snazzy interface upgrade that the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions got, which means the PS2 and Xbox menus are less user friendly and look a bit dated. You can 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. Player ratings are all kinds of goofy on the PS2 and Xbox, with players like Frank Thomas and Moises Alou rated 100. The PSP version somehow doesn't have this problem, rating Thomas 83 and Alou 81. The rosters are also pretty out of date. Randy Johnson is on the Yankees, Jeff Weaver isn't on the Mariners, and David Wells isn't on the Padres. Although you have the ability to download new rosters, there are no current rosters available on the Xbox or PSP at this time.
2K Sports games typically have a full-featured online component, and MLB 2K7 is no different on the PS2 and Xbox. 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 catch is that the game doesn't play all that well online, and we weren't able to get an online game started at all on the Xbox. 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. The PSP version supports infrastructure and ad hoc play, but the only play options are exhibition and home run derby. The game plays fine in ad hoc mode, but online play is hampered by lag and a lack of opponents.
On the field, 2K7 plays much like 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. It's disappointing that catchers don't automatically call for pitches as they do in the 360 and PS3 versions, and pitchers tire too quickly. 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. 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. Given that it takes two full pages of the instruction manual to tell you how to run the bases, it's still too complicated. It works OK once you get the hang of it, but really, it could have been better.
Like pitching and hitting, fielding is much like it was last year. The controls are simple, but they're not always responsive; players sometimes won't pick up a ball that's right in front of them, and sometimes you just can't get control of the player nearest to the ball. The controls for moving your players are pretty touchy on the PSP thanks to the analog stick. Conversely, they're not touchy enough when it comes to button presses, and it sometimes takes a while for your input to register. Other small issues include outfielders that feel a little too fast and rob a few too many hits, and it can be tough to see ground balls sometimes.
Player models are slightly better than last year, and they look nice, though there isn't a whole lot of difference in player size and body types. For the most part players animate smoothly and realistically, unless they're throwing the ball, which just looks off for some reason. The presentation isn't bad and there's a decent variety of camera angles, but as a whole it doesn't feel a whole lot different from last year. The ballparks are very accurate and nicely detailed, though there are some low-quality textures here and there that really stand out. The Xbox version of the game looks much nicer than the PS2 version. It supports progressive scan, the colors are more vibrant, the lighting is better, and the player models are more detailed. The PSP version is no slouch in the looks department and looks remarkably similar to its console counterparts.
Thanks to the announcing duo of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, MLB 2K7 sounds great. Jon and Joe have worked together for quite some time on television, and their comfortable rapport with each other comes across here. Their commentary sounds very natural, and though they fall behind sometimes, particularly on the PSP, they're timely and accurate, too. The sheer amount of dialogue the pair recorded for the game is impressive; they'll tell stories, analyze plays, toss out some trivia questions, and even have in-depth commentary for rare events, such as no-hitters. Jeanne Zelasko and Steve Physioc provide a TV-style pregame introduction for each game, and though their commentary is sometimes a bit long-winded, they dispense a surprising amount of team-specific information. The crowds and stadium noises sound just fine; you'll hear individual fans yelling, and like in so many other 2K Sports games, there's a pretty realistic-sounding PA announcer as well.
MLB 2K7 is a solid baseball game, but the effort the developer put into improving the game is minimal at best. Xbox owners might want to pick the game up simply because there's no other choice, but PlayStation 2 owners should look to the far superior MLB 07: The Show for their baseball fix this year.