IGN Review of Major League Baseball 2K7
Rafael Furcal batted backward for a pitch.
Michael Barrett forgot to tag a runner crossing home plate right in front of his face.
Randy Johnson is still on the Yankees.
Announcer Jon Miller is calling the wrong game.
And worst of all, JD Drew is rated 100.
It's a mystery why so little effort went into polishing MLB 2K7, a game that features a solid gameplay engine but is ridden with strange and inexplicable bugs. When you get past those bugs, if you ever do, you can have fun with the solid pitching and batting mechanics and the improved fielding. Unfortunately, the mistakes in 2K7 are glaring and numerous. One has to wonder why the game hits the streets in February when fans would trade in their baseball card collections for MLB 2K7 to be properly bug-tested with accurate rosters and ratings even if it came out in April. And seriously, JD Drew is rated 100?
In fact, why are there 62 players rated at 100? You don't see this on the next-generation versions of this game, but on the Xbox and PS2 guys like Troy Glaus, Garret Atkins, Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui, Jermaine Dye and Ken Griffey Jr. are all maxed out. Sure they are solid players but Griffey is far from the most dangerous hitter in the game. He's lucky to get an 85 at this point in his career. There's a serious problem overrating batters here: Cliff Floyd is a 99! Shawn Green is a 98! I repeat: Shawn Green is a 98. Floyd had an abysmal season at .244 and 14 jacks, and Green often came off the bench. It's as if the guys in charged of rating players on the Xbox and PS2 overdosed on ecstasy pills before they came into work. "Man, that Carl Crawford -- he's so dreamy. And Ryan Zimmerman looks so good in red. The colors are so pretty. Let's make 'em both 100."
Before I lose my mind on the player ratings, let me say that MLB 2K7 can be a lot of fun. The Hit Stick batting system still works well, as does the innovative pitching mechanic. Inside Edge scouting reports are make hot and cold zones look like kindergarten research. But every now and then, a bonehead mistake kills your game. Click on the video link below to see an Xbox flick of Cubs catcher Barrett (rated 96!) stand on the plate with the ball in his hand, staring at fans in the right field bleachers as a runner slides in without so much as an attempt at a tag. The guy was out by not one but two miles.
Anyway, let's talk about what this game does right. The Inside Edge scouting reports can be purchased in franchise mode (you can get a report on two or three players in exhibition as well). The real-life statistics tell you how likely a pitcher is to, say, throw a curve on a 3-1 count and what his most likely locations will be. When pitching, a catcher will call for pitches the hitter is least likely to hit. On defense, your fielders will shift into proper position based on the batter's tendencies. The information is fantastic.
The hitting, controlled with the right analog stick, is simply a blast. With a new batting view moved closer toward the strike zone, ala old school World Series Baseball, it's fun to work the count, guess the pitch location with the Batter's Eye, and swing away. The system works as well as any game out there, although it does take some time to get used to it if you're a button-presser, which is so 2005. And if you are a button presser, you can switch to classic hitting.
On the mound, the Payoff Pitching system returns and continues to shine. To throw a curve, you have to aim up and away, allotting for the break. The amount of break is decided by how long you hold the pitch button. So if you're a curve-ball master like Barry Zito, you actually aim at a lefty's head and snap one off. It'll scare the bejeebus out of the batter and land right in the middle of the zone. You can also move your catcher's target around. If he's lining up outside and you throw in, you're likely to be charged with a wild pitch as your catcher hustles to the backstop to collect your mistake.
Baserunning still suffers from the same awkward presentation style as MLB 2K6 and 2K5. The runner windows are situated like a square rather than a diamond, which is disorienting at first. While no game has yet to really nail handling multiple baserunners at once, 2K7 does an adequate job with advance and retreat all options as well as the old select-a-runner-and-advance-with-D-pad move. Directional slides play a role in the game, but too often it seems as if they are inconsequential. If you slide into the tag or away from the tag, we've yet to see it make a difference. Sometimes you slap a gapper to left and slide to the right side of second base, but there doesn't seem to be any advantage and we've yet to see a runner actually avoid a tag.
Fielding has been improved as the physics system is toned way down. That means in 2K7, you can actually control your fielders. How novel. One great touch is the ability to call off your teammates. We've had some nasty collisions that can easily be avoided if you wave off an overeager shortstop. These collisions can lead to some nasty injuries in franchise mode, so hit the button often. Still, diving is not nearly as intuitive as in MVP 2005, EA's last great MLB game. Back then, if a player was in range and he dove at the right moment, he'd come up with the ball -- or at least knock it down. In 2K7, you are prompted to hit the right stick to dive. If you do it in that split second, you'll come up with the ball and make a web gem. There are too many instances, however, when you want to dive and are not prompted to. So you hit the stick anyway and your fielder dives right next to the ball but fails to register that it's actually there. It appears that the diving is still too heavily based on an animation. Instead of diving short for a ball just out of reach or really leaping for a ball, there's just one hit-or-miss dive animation.
That said, you'll see some amazing plays in the field. Players will suck in grounders and throw runners out from their knees. Outfielders will jump the wall and pull back homers. Third-basemen will lean over the rail to collect foul balls in the stands for awesome, jump-out-of-your seat plays.
Visually, 2K7 looks decent, with a mix of great animations (fielding) and awful animations (throwing). There's a few bugs here and there. One time batting with Rafael Furcal we noticed he was facing the catcher and actually standing backwards. After the pitch, he transported back to the correct position, but it was good for a laugh. Player models move well though, although 2K7 still suffers from rather generic player models. The faces are nowhere near as gorgeous as in the next-gen versions (or even MVP 2005). The stadiums and crowd look fairly decent, but there are no real improvement over last year's version.
Jon Miller and Joe Morgan hit the booth with some good yet recycled commentary. This really is the best duo in baseball, but when Miller says its game seven of the series when it's really game six; when he says "He boots it!" every time an outfielder simply reaches down to pick up a ball; when he calls balls fair that are foul by 30 feet -- well, that's when you know it's time to get in there and clean up the bugs. It's a shame too, because the two have a lot of good stuff to say, especially from the color man Morgan (although much of the good stuff is from last year's game). A little bug-testing would have made these two sound a lot better. The crowd noise and stadium atmosphere is also lacking. Sometimes the crowd sounds like it's muted and you simply hear organ music and Jon Miller's voice. And this was in the World Series. There is a fair amount of crowd chatter, but we'd like to see 2K really focus on the atmosphere next season.
Online, the stout 2K Sports options like online leagues and tournaments return. While 2K has done little to improve the online experience, it's still the best out there because of these two features alone.
The other gamemodes include a deep franchise mode, GM Career, Home Run Derby, Manager Showdown and some forgettable modes like Tournament and Season (why not just play a franchise?).
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