MLB 2K7 Hands-On: Sixaxis Batting Spotlight

We check out the new batting system in 2K Sports' upcoming hardball game for the PlayStation 3.

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Baseball fans like to point to the pitcher/batter duel as one of the most intense in all of sports, and hitting a major league pitch is commonly referred to as one of the most difficult things to do for any professional athlete. With the upcoming release of Major League Baseball 2K7 for the PlayStation 3, baseball gamers will get a taste of what it's like to stand in the batter's box and face some of the league's best and brightest pitching phenoms. We took our turn in the box to try out the new Sixaxis batting system that will be unique to the PS3 version of the game, during a demo of MLB 2K7 with 2K Sports.

You might not be swinging it like Ichiro right away, but you can always pretend with the Sixaxis batting controls in MLB 2K7 for PS3.
You might not be swinging it like Ichiro right away, but you can always pretend with the Sixaxis batting controls in MLB 2K7 for PS3.

Before we get to the batting, it's important to note that the game arriving in March on the PS3 is nearly identical to the Xbox 360 version of the game. What this means is that the signature style animations and excellent-looking player models we saw in our previous look at the Xbox 360 game will all be in place for the PS3. Pitcher windups will be more accurate and true to life than ever seen in the series before, as will the various fielding and batting animations. On top of that, the PS3 game will include all the same features and control tweaks that are in the Xbox 360 game. This is especially relevant for the online game, which, like in the Xbox 360 version, will feature online leagues--good news, indeed.

The key difference between the PS3 version of MLB 2K7 and all the others, then, comes down to the Sixaxis controller. The developers behind the game put a lot of thought into just what aspects of hardball could be translated to the PS3 controller, but they ultimately decided that, at least for this year, batting would be the area of focus. Here's how Sixaxis batting works: Before the pitcher lets loose with his pitch, you can aim your hitter's eye icon to guess where the pitch will break. Once the pitcher begins his windup, the hitter's eye is locked on, and it's just a matter of swinging the bat. To swing, you push the Sixaxis controller forward--the quicker you move, the harder the batter will swing the bat.

At its essence, the new motion-controlled swing is quite simple. However, as you might expect, there's more to it than simply pushing forward and watching the ball go yard. One of the main points you'll want to keep in mind is the angle at which you hold the Sixaxis controller. For a normal swing, you want to make sure the controller is level with the ground--something that takes a few swings to get used to. This is important because bunts are executed by tilting the controller back slightly. If you fail to keep the controller level, your player will automatically go into a bunt stance, which we unwittingly found out a couple of different times. You can control the direction of your bunt by swiveling the controller left and right before you make contact to make a sacrifice. The final piece of the batting puzzle is the loft of the ball. To hit a fly ball, you move the controller up at more or less a 30 degree angle through your "swing"; to keep the ball on the ground, you push the controller down at a 30 degree angle.

Beyond the optional batting controls, the PS3 game will be virtually identical to the Xbox 360 version of MLB 2K7.
Beyond the optional batting controls, the PS3 game will be virtually identical to the Xbox 360 version of MLB 2K7.

While there are a lot of options, getting the hang of the swing doesn't take too long. Making contact with the ball is another matter, but the actual mechanics of the swing aren't that difficult. And while you can hold your Sixaxis with two hands and simply push the controller forward to swing the bat, it's actually much more fun to stand to the side, hold the controller in one hand, and actually "swing" the controller in an approximation of how you might swing a real bat. Just make sure you keep a good grip on that expensive PS3 controller. Of course, you'll always have the option to turn the Sixaxis swing system off and use the traditional system if you wish.

The relatively limited range of the Sixaxis makes it tough to see how more complex movements such as pitching might work in future iterations of baseball games for the Sony console. Still, having spent a little time with the PS3 version of MLB 2K7, it's clear that batting was the right place to start. Who knows? Maybe we'll all be doing our best impersonations of Tim Wakefield and tossing virtual knuckeballs in the future. Expect to see more on MLB 2K7, including a look at the game's franchise mode, later this week.

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