CES 07: MLB 2K7 Hands-On

We go hands on with 2K Sports upcoming hardball game for the Xbox 360 from the floor of CES 2007.

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LAS VEGAS--A chilly morning in Las Vegas during the first day of the 2007 CES show makes us pine for the warm days of spring. It won't be long before the grills get fired up and the baseball players report to spring training; and it won't be long before 2K Sports fires up its next hardball offering: Major League Baseball 2K7. Yankees' shortstop Derek Jeter was recently announced as continuing his streak of cover appearances for the series, but other than that, we didn't know much about the game. That changed today, as we had a chance to check out the Xbox 360 version of MLB 2K7 at the Microsoft booth on the floor of CES, and the game looks like it's coming along well.

The first thing we noticed about MLB 2K7 was its look. The game is looking pretty sharp, especially the player models, which look more authentic than last year's game by a large margin. Jason Schmidt on the mound with the Dodgers has his trademark round face and chin fuzz, and the Cubs' Derek Lee is long and lean just like the real powerhouse first baseman. They don't just look good, either--they move well. The MLB series has always come chock-full with animation, and 2K7 is no different. At the same time, the game seems to move at a more deliberate pace than the other baseball games we've played this year. Whether this is due to a slower frame rate or just a more measured approach isn't yet clear. That said, the game has its quick moments--such as the pitchers being very skilled at keeping you honest when playing as the base runner. Pitchers are prone to checking the runner and adept at quickly throwing players out at first (as we discovered to our dismay).

Those who played MLB 2K6 should fall right in with the controls in 2K7. Successful mainstays such as release-point pitching and the momentum-based batting take some getting used to, especially if it's been a while since you've played 2K6, but it isn't long before you get back in the groove and rediscover your appreciation for the 2K approach to baseball. More so than any baseball game, 2K7 puts a premium on the weight of the players, whether at bat or in the field. Player momentum will affect how quickly they can switch direction when chasing down a ball in the outfield or running the bases. When at bat, you'll want to remember to first push down to take your initial step at the plate to set up your momentum for the follow-through.

On the mound, pitching works similarly to last year's setup. The trademark release-point pitching is in effect here--so where you aim the baseball icon before beginning your windup is actually where the ball will break. As a result, you'll need to know the movement on a slider or curve to ensure correct placement. The Inside Edge feature, which provides you with crucial scouting information on players (and can be selected by spending points before the game begins) is here in 2K7, as well. As a pitcher, having a batter scouted will cause the catcher to call pitches that should be effective against that batter.

With as much of MLB 2K7 that is returning, there are some new features. Periodically, an "intensity" rating will show up on the screen, and we weren't sure what to make of the feature, except that the numerical rating for the intensity would change constantly. Perhaps this is a feature looking to simulate the pressure of various baseball situations and will offer some sort of bonuses to teams who perform in a clutch. Until we unravel the mystery with the folks at 2K Sports, however, it's all speculation. Hopefully we'll find out more about this intriguing feature, as well as more about MLB 2K7, in the near future. Stay tuned for more on the game in the weeks leading up to its release.

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