MLB 2K7 Provides Fun Despite Obvious Flaws

MVP Baseball ’07
(EA Sports, $29.95)
PS2 only

(2KSports, $19.99-$59.99 depending on system)
PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, PSP,
Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS

On a home run to center field, Alfonso Soriano got to the wall and kept running, mindlessly churning his feet against the wall as the ball sailed over the fence. Announcer Jon Miller screams about errors on obvious hits and calls double plays when the runner is safe at first. Kevin Mench has been stuck in a time-warp after catching a fly ball’"he stood frozen while everyone else continued to run around him.

And after multiple attempts, I still can’t figure out if there is any way to successfully double switch if I pinch-hit for a pitcher.

If you’re looking for perfection, sit MLB 2K7 back on the shelf. It has all the flaws of a game that was rushed out the door. But if you enjoy baseball video games, like me, you might be willing to ignore all the problems. For despite its flaws, MLB 2K7 (reviewed on the PlayStation 2) manages to entertain with one of the best batter/pitcher battles I’ve come across in a video game in quite a while.

Probably because of the complicated programming involved, getting a computer hitter or pitcher to feel real is one of the toughest tasks in a baseball game. Too often you find computer hitters who always lay off pitches an inch off the plate on an 0-2 count, or react the same way if you throw 10 straight curves or mix your pitches.

And when a computer is pitching, there’s the constant battle in any video game to ensure that changes of speed and location force the batter to work for a hit, but without making it so complicated that every pitcher becomes Sandy Koufax.

2K7 has managed to find a balance. Computer hitters can be set up’"if you bust a guy inside, you can sometimes get him to chase a pitch off the corner for a strikeout, and hitting straddles that line between difficult and impossible. A changeup will often catch you swinging too early, while a good fastball is a struggle to catch up to. But as you go along, you get used to a starting pitcher and his release point. When a new pitcher comes in, it’s always a battle to pick up the pitches from a new release point and react quickly enough.

The game has a franchise mode and does include minor leagues, although the scattering of prospects is pretty sparse thanks to licensing rules (guys have to be members of the Major League Baseball Players Association).

The best endorsement I can give is that despite all its flaws, I always wanted to play one more game because the game managed to replicate what makes baseball fun.

While 2K7 is an interesting if flawed product, EA Sports’ newest version of its college game, MVP Baseball ’07 can give you a sense of déjí  vu if you have a PS2 (unlike last year, this year’s version does not support the Xbox or any of the next generation systems).

Last year’s game was great because it gave college baseball fans an unexpected chance to play with their favorite teams. In the new version, the game play is very similar to last year’s MVP ’06. That’s not an altogether bad thing, as last year’s game had a solid batter/pitcher interface, which included the clever idea of flashing a color on the ball as the pitch left the batter’s hand’"the color allowed you to figure out if you’re facing a curve or a fastball, and it did a good job of replicating a batter reading the seams as a pitch comes to the plate.

The one change this year is that last year’s pitching used a sliding scale target similar to that in many golf games. You hit the button once to begin your motion, a second time to determine how hard you threw, and a third time to complete the pitch by hitting a target’"the closer to perfect you were at hitting the target, the better the pitch.

This year you simply draw back the analog stick and then push it forward to pitch. It’s simpler and more similar to actual pitching, but last year’s version seemed to do a better job of ensuring that you didn’t always hit your spots.

But the problem with MVP Baseball is that everything else is just the same as well, including the rosters. The standard complaint about sports games is that new editions are often just a roster update with some bells and whistles. In the case of MVP Baseball, it doesn’t have the roster update’"last year’s teams were simply swapped into new uniforms based on this year’s team rankings. And last year’s rosters were actually based on 2005 lineups, so even then, everything was a year behind.

Most fans will probably never even notice because the game can’t use real names, only jersey numbers, thanks to NCAA regulations. But for the diehard college baseball fan (like many Baseball America readers), it’s disconcerting to figure out that former Texas’ greats J. Brent Cox and Taylor Teagarden now play for Oregon State while Florida’s Matt LaPorta is on North Carolina (this year’s No. 1 team got last year’s No. 1 rosters, etc.).

There are some new graphical glitches as well, with shadows for the batter and umpire being displayed over the pitcher.

MVP Baseball is priced inexpensively, but with few new updates, you’re better off finding a copy of last year’s game on eBay or at your local software store.