2K Sports kicks off the 2009 season with MLB’s latest refinements for the Xbox 360. Last year’s MLB 2K8 had frame rate issues. This year, however, everything is up to speed. The biggest improvement you’ll notice is the game’s core presentation. Characters move considerably well and loading up on the action appears to be flawless! Baseball never looked so good on Xbox 360 and we’ve got 2K Sports to thank for it. From the swing of the bat to the crowd racing to catch a foul ball, the amount of details is immeasurable. However, there is a mix reaction to the game’s artificial intelligence. On one hand, you’ve got an AI that you can count on to make those nearly flawless catches. On the other hand, you’ll have to deal with a computer that gives you hardly any room for a base hit! Fortunately, the game has adjustable sliders, which bring down the pressure to a more comfortable level.

The majority of the fine-tunings are welded into the batting, pitching, and fielding mechanics of MLB 2K9. Last year, players had difficulty hitting the ball because of awkward timing. 2K Sports has finally fixed that, making it easier for everybody to swing for the fences. As a result, the game is a bit more forgiving on clobbering for home runs. The batting aspect feels much steadier. With some good composure, newcomers are guaranteed to have a great shot at the World Series. The subtle enhancements of “Inside Edge” give MLB 2K9 a good definition in what scouting in the major league is all about. In this game, you’re not only a player but a manager as well. Whether you are pitching or the one hitting the ball, you definitely want to take advantage of the “Inside Edge” as it provides you with a better outlook on what to anticipate at the plate. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in a slump.

What’s ncie about Inside Edge is it offers a pre-stat risk-reward system between hitting and pitching. Last year, this feature acted more of a cheat engine to hit a home run as opposed to being utilized as constructive scouting reports. There are so many positive changes in MLB 2K9 that you’ll begin to love baseball again. As much as we wanted to commend this game for its improvements, they are also a number of technical issues that need to be pointed out. The fielding portion of MLB 2K9 is great with regards to animation – very fluid, very life-like performance; however, it has its own shares of spoiled moments. You’ll occasionally notice clipping issues such as outfielders getting stuck in the wall or the ball becomes irretrievable in certain corners of the field. This only happens when you play defense as human – conversely, the computer is devoid of or immune to these situations as they work flawlessly manning the outfield. There is also a sort of imbalance between computer AI and human AI.

It’s not hard to notice the computer has too much edge and athleticism – what looked like a hard-to-reach catch turn into an ordinary pop up. The same cannot be said for human-controlled player; your team seem to make quite a few errors, even on routine ground outs. The best way to compensate for this issue is to adjust the sliders and that made our experience balanced again. Pitching has been totally reworked in MLB 2K9. You feel every curve ball, knuckler, and sinker has a punch to it. Executing the pitch motion feels more relax and the time of release is no longer a struggle. Pressing LB brings up the type of skills a pitcher accommodates and shows his expert throws. There is even a catcher suggestion that will assist you in how to rundown a heavy hitter the best way possible. Of course, you can always go for the manual approach and dictate the kind of throw you want from the mound.

Graphically, the game is outstanding! The various sleek angles truly deliver an incredibly exciting ESPN-style atmosphere. If there is one way to get MLB fans back, this is it! The new interface is brilliant! With just a touch of a button, you can access loads of information in a user-friendly format. With the d-pad, you can access virtually any stats on the fly (in both pitching and batting) to determine what strategy you could apply to give you the most ground. What’s more is that this year’s presentation brings in more emotional content out of the athletes. High-profile batters would sometime argue with the umpire for getting a strike out. Pitcher shows a strong outburst of satisfaction to an unbelievable pitch. All these reactions are translated very well on the field. The animation is superb and you’ll see several other nice little details such as regular check swings, doable batter pickoffs, and infielders ducking out the way from an incoming bullet throw, which are occurring more frequently in MLB 2K9.

The environmental settings and the layout of the stadiums are more defined this time around. The game uses great particle effects to its advantage; from transitional lightings to dusty trails triggered by a base runner trying to steal second, including the Pepsi ads on the billboard, they all add up to a realistic baseball experience. What’s nice is the game even shows us a clip of our hitter what he did the inning before. The fast loading time certainly helps keep the game’s excitement up and the amazing camera views capture not just the highlights of the previous innings but the exhilaration of the sports. Crowd interaction has been tweaked a bit. You’ll notice that people in the stands will only be punctuated by certain elements of play. For instance, when you hit a foul ball, only a particular section of the crowd will go after it, as opposed to last year, the whole crowd got up and just watched it land onto their face.

The graphics are not the only thing that MLB 2K9 tries to show off. The game’s audio mechanics have also brought in its own tenacity to the way the sport is played. The most noticeable improvement to this year’s baseball game is the commentary. Gary Torne and his partner Steve Phillips deliver an amazing play-by-play calls; they are so in-tune with the action, it is as if you’re hearing the broadcasting live. Never before in the history of baseball game where real-time analysis has received this much admiration among fans other than MLB 2K9. Sometimes, there would be dull moments on the field, but the incredible colorful commentaries will keep your players consciously excited. The insightful broadcast and the much improved sound system definitely complete the presentation package.

When it comes down to choices, MLB 2K9 is a viable option. The franchise still has what it takes to play hard ball. The seamless pitching and hitting are two of the most appreciated instruments that you’ll find in this year’s baseball season. Everything is up to speed where the animation runs at a smoother frame rate and loading is practically non-existent. Most of the exciting highlights are in the game’s glistening presentation; baseball never looked so good on Xbox 360 and the audio is right up there with it to complete the sports package. Obviously, there are still a number of lingering issues that need to be worked out in the gameplay department, but this is something you can easily overlook. The bottom line is that MLB 2K9 is a good baseball game. It’s still addicting as ever and definitely gives you great insights to what it feels like to be in the major league. With impressive graphics and amazing real-time commentaries, it’s certainly a true-to-life baseball experience you don’t want to miss.


Emmanuel Flores
Emmanuel Flores

Emmanuel joined the team in 2004. He helped design the website during the time when video games magazines were still in print format. Besides writing reviews, he is responsible for quality assurance and content distribution.