Review: Nope, no performance enhancing here...
Since acquiring the exclusive rights to third-party Major League Baseball titles, the MLB 2K series has... struggled. While the games themselves have never been outright bad, the franchise has faced serious competition from Sony's MLB franchise ? a byproduct of their contract with baseball allowing first-party publishers to still make their own licensed MLB games. With 2010 being the tenth anniversary of the 2K Sports series - starting when Sega possessed the franchise back in the Dreamcast days - it seems the company is finally interested in stepping up their "game," so to speak, and compete with The Show. MLB 2K10 is arguably the best game in the series since the exclusive contract was signed 5 years ago. While it's still not great, it does have enough good content to appease those who either are unable to get access to The Show, or perhaps don't think much of Sony's hardball. It's got some issues and obnoxious design choices, but at least this year 2K Sports decided to get off the bench and really compete.
With that awful 2K Sports navigation system leading the way, MLB 2K10 is full of features people expect. A multi-season franchise is the most time consuming mode of play, but 2K's take on Road to the Show ? dubbed My Player ? comes pretty close. Within the My Player universe, your created Future Big Leaguer starts off down in the minors, moving his way upwards by playing well. Like RTTS, you only play when your own guy is up to bat or on the mound to pitch, and the game skips around between appearances. It makes flying through a season pretty fast, especially compared to a long, drawn out 162 game season in Franchise mode. The game also features a full suite of online options, be it your basic quick match all the way up to online leagues. It's nothing you haven't seen before but at least it's all there.
MLB 2K10 makes use of all the mechanics they've set up in recent years. Batting is still tied to an analog stick by default - pull back to begin the swing and push forward to actually make contact. It's... all right, but it wasn't long before I went to the much more traditional ?Press X to swing? - but again, only after suffering through the abomination of menus. Either way, hitting is enjoyable enough, and with enough practice it's possible to spread the ball around to cause some damage. The ball is easy to see coming from the pitcher, though by default it seems to come a little slow ? but if you change anything in the sliders it disables Trophies, so if you're into those... hope you enjoy the default settings. Running the bases after contact is fine once you get used to how it all works ? one of the most annoying things about baseball games is that nobody has perfected baserunning controls. 2K10 is no different, though at least it's possible to figure it all out with extended play.
Pitching also uses analog stick throwing by default, which is a frustrating exercise that is not fit for those of us who aren't so good at keeping the stick perfectly straight... not that the other options are much better. You can use more traditional methods, but even those are bogged down in gimmicks that tend to be unresponsive. There's no pitching meter; instead, it's all about how well you fill a circle to make sure the throw goes where you aimed it. Whatever happened to the days of High Heat Baseball? Anyway, pitching is a frequently frustrating aspect of the game, with pitchers having the endurance of... well, you know... even if they're known to be warriors that can go eight innings every time out. If somebody like Roy Halladay is on fumes by the fifth inning, something is wonky. The only way around it is to take a little off your pitches, but that just results in being hit hard by the other team.
However, after spending enough time with the game ? if you have the patience, that is ? MLB 2K10 does reward you. The action maintains a semblance of realism and it's possible to whip through games pretty fast if you skip all the replays, batter intros, and the like. The action does sometimes seem a little too fast ? the infielders seem to whip the ball around faster than a throw from a pitcher ? but otherwise MLB 2K10 is a decent enough game of baseball. In a different era where competition is heavy, perhaps the game is ignored, but when it's one of just two games in town, it's given a pass. It still has a long way to go before coming close to The Show, but it's a start.
MLB 2K10's visuals are... janky. The players are kind of stocky and the overall ?look? is bland and barely seems to be a game from this generation. At least the frame rate is consistent and again, it's easy to see the ball when hitting and playing out in the field. So while it might not be anything to write home about, it's enough that the game is not unplayable for any technological reasons. On the other hand, the audio is tremendous. Using ESPN's Gary Thorne, John Kruk, and Steve ?Pimp Daddy? Phillips (formerly of ESPN), the trio deliver realistic and accurate commentary that doesn't constantly repeat. They call the game as if they're watching it live and in person. It's a bit crazy that this is the best part of MLB 2K10, but with The Show still getting by on recorded lines from MLB 06, it's a welcome thing to hear such solid audio when playing. The in-game menus feature a decent soundtrack of alt-rock, but little of it is memorable. It's all about the commentary with 2K10's audio.