Go Phillies: Major League Baseball 2K9 Demo

Duh duh duh duh, duh duh duh duh, duh duh duh duh, duh duh duh duh, BADDA-BAD-DAD-BAD-DAAAAH!

2K Sports’ Major League Baseball 2K9 has a demo out this week, letting you play a three inning match between the Tampa Bay Rays and my beloved Phillies. Which was nice of them. Although maybe it’s a psychic demo, and it automatically picks your team when you download it. It’s literally impossible for me to say based on the evidence of my download, so let’s say, given the evidence, that there’s a 50% chance it’s psychic, and 50 that it’s a coincidence. That seems reasonable. Anyway, blimey, I enjoyed it.

Before the positives, a thousand rubbish-points to 2K for the terrible presentation of the demo. If there are instructions hidden in there, I’m buggered if I could find them. And despite seeming desperate that you play it with a 360 controller (the whole game is based around using the analogue sticks), it a) wouldn’t tell me which button did what, and b) would only let me change the keyboard controls. It’s quite an impressive misunderstanding of the purpose of a demo, determinedly alienating a player from the start. Oh, and why do all games have to emulate EA Sports’ ghastly opening menus? Affronting me with something that sounded like Sum 41 when it loaded wasn’t quite what I was after.

However, I’m glad I persisted. This is quite a bit of cartoonish fun. Once I’d fathomed what button did what, and thus lost a game 8-0 in the process, I felt most of the way in control. I’m still not entirely sure I’m pitching completely correctly, and it doesn’t help by only very rarely telling you your pitch speed. It’s hard to judge quite what the yellow circles meant.

I love the man in the State Farm adverts. This commercial might even work if I lived in a continent where it existed.

Fielding was slightly more simple, especially once I’d figured out that each base was mapped to one of the four action buttons, making throwing the ball in the right direction pleasingly simple. Catching fly balls was also nice and easy, just a case of placing the fielder underneath the ball, rather than having to perform some intricate spell. Batting is a lot more clear, although I haven’t quite figured out exactly what to do with the left analogue to get a good ground ball.

It’s not going to win any approval from hardcore simulation players. It became clear that it’s about being accessible (with some instructions), emphasis on arcade over simulation, which is precisely what I want from a baseball game. It’s not reviewing well on consoles, so presumably it’s not what everyone else wants. But from a position of baseball game ignorance (I can’t find even this one on sale in the UK, much like most baseball games), the demo worked for me.

The ballpark details are oddly sparse. The backgrounds are poorly textured, and extremely plain. But the field, the players (but for their faces, but that’s of little importance most of the time), and the action all looks great. A large shot of the crowd still looks like cardboard cut-outs in a diorama (the first sports game to figure that out wins a special prize), but slightly closer up when people get up off their chairs to fight over catching a foul ball, that’s pretty damned awesome.

All the vital licensed details are in there, with accurate 09 teams, rosters, management, etc. Cuddly Phillies manager, Charlie Manuel, huffed and puffed across the field after I called him out to calm my pitcher down on the mound. Pitchers were warming up in the bullpen. Realistic weather rolled by. I even got Phillies’ opening pitcher Hamels on base a couple of times, just underlining my maverick theory that his batting was the key to their glorious victory last year.

Cricketball, the mutant hybrid of two nations' sports.

But most impressive, and this feels like the sort of sentence I’d never thought I’d ever type, the commentary was extraordinary. Sporting commentary is normally the first thing I turn off, for fear of hearing the same awkwardly shouted, peculiarly clipped phrase appear inappropriately for the third time in the last thirty seconds. ESPN’s Gary Thorne and Steve Phillips are like nothing I’ve heard.

Not only were they chatting about the Phillies’ 08 victory between pitches, commenting on Chase Utley’s recent form, or having a thought on Manuel’s management, they were… saying relevant things about what I was doing! I had Hamels deliberately hit the Rays’ pitcher on the plate (fnarr), and there was a seamless comment about how pitcher hitting pitcher was an unusually risky move, and pondering on whether there would be revenge at Hamels’ next at bat. Later, I’d pitched away from a batter, trying to get him to reach. That failed so I followed up by pitching tight inside. The play-by-play commentary observed this, described exactly what I’d done, and why a pitcher might have followed one pitch with the other. The back-references extend a lot further too, with events late in an inning being connected to those that happened earlier. Having let in a couple of runs at the start was factored in when an RBI cropped up with later with two outs. Of course, this is based on a couple of three-inning games, so perhaps in the full version the usual repetition might kick in. But in this brief experience, I was blown away.

It’s left me really interested to play the full game. It’s time to start getting worked up for the new season, start not going to bed before 4am again for the first couple of weeks before I come to my senses and start watching games from the MLB TV archive rather than live, until September when I just give up on the idea of sleep altogether. It’s good for the mood! Anyway, it’s a hefty 1.25GB, and possibly of limited interest to non-US readers. Did it for me.

22 Comments

  1. ascagnel says:

    The MLB 2k* series has never been as good as the more sim-y “MLB: The Show” games made by Sony, or the excellent “MVP Baseball 2005” from EA. MVP05 is still in heavy use at school, and we usually get 4 or 5 9-inning 2-person games in during a busy week. Sony’s titles hit the sweet spot between sim and arcade in 07-08 (have yet to try 09), but from your comments, I think I’ll give 2k9 a pass.

  2. Mister Yuck says:

    It’s gonna be the Cubbies’ year this time. I can feel it.

  3. pb says:

    This might be a dumb question, but is the demo for PC? or for console?

    Thanks

  4. Plopsworth says:

    pb: Psst, look at the top banner, “PC gaming since 1873”, and it doesn’t mean politically correct. ;)

    This blog is an oasis of PC-based fun.

  5. Rob says:

    It’s sad that EA don’t make baseball game anymore.
    Because MVP series was the best baseball game EVER!!

    it’s 2009, I still play MVP 2005. [with fully updated roster and player’s name audio]

  6. Rob says:

    Having said that.. I might still give 2k9 a fair go. Since it’s the only baseball game on PC.

  7. TinnionA says:

    It’d be nice if they released The Bigs 2 on PC, too. Though I suspect I’d still just get it on 360, assuming they do the same as last time and release an version with PAL region-coding. MLB 2K8 was very good fun, although I turned off the swing stick and right-stick pitching due to finding them quite shit to play with. At least they’ve simplified those aspects of it.

  8. Ian says:

    Base-to-ball?

    That doesn’t really work. =(

  9. Hunty says:

    As has been mentioned, MLB: The Show is apparently the choice of most our rounders-loving brethren. I’ve always wanted to check it out, as I love a good sports game, and a simmy-style one is a good way to get an understanding of a sport I have little chance to watch and less chance to play, but find interesting nonetheless. Probably give this demo of the alternative a miss, given the interface issues and my lack of a 360 pad.

  10. Super Bladesman says:

    The prize for making a good crowd scene in a sports game ought to go to the very enjoyable NBA 2K9 – OK, it’s basketball not baseball, but the level of detail really is quite impressive in my opinion. Best I’ve seen.

  11. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    John, I’ve always wondered, where did you get your interest in baseball from? I don’t think I know any brits who even knows the rules of base to ball, let alone watch it.

  12. Premium User Badge

    John Walker says:

    I went to see a game when I was 21 (at Wrigley) and fell in love.

    Edit: Wait, that’s a giant fat lie. That’s what confirmed it for me. It was when I’d failed my A Levels, and was stuck in Guildford when all my friends were at university, and Channel 5 started… well Channel 5 started that year. They showed ESPN’s Weds night and Sunday night games, with the wonderful Tommy Boyd in a studio in the UK with a Canadian baseball expert. As C5 didn’t have to go to commercials as often as the US feed, they’d cut back to the studio and Boyd, who knew nothing about baseball, would ask Todd what had happened, why that guy was out, what an RBI was… I learned as Boyd learned. It was an amazing way to be introduced to the sport.

  13. Cigol says:

    MLB 09: The Show on the PS3 is one of the best sports games around, but you do have to import it from America/Canada. You can get a demo of it off of the American PSN if you’re not convinced.

    …and it uses the exact same features as the great (if now ancient) MVP Baseball on the PC leading me to believe they are the same game – but wikipedia doesn’t back me up on this and nobody else seems to mention it… so hey maybe it’s just a coincidence?

  14. Ian says:

    I’m with baseball where I am with many sports that I “don’t like”. No interest in watching them on TV whatsoever but I’d like to go and see a big game. Same reason I can go and sit in the cold and rain at some miserable little bumhole of a football stadium and enjoy myself. Attending sport is usually good fun when you’re there, be it because of being closer or the atmosphere or whatever.

  15. Nelson says:

    Wow, a decent sports game on the PC? What is the industry coming to? :P

  16. Jason Moyer says:

    Is it possible to actually get realistic pitch counts and walks? Because if not I’ll just stick to MVP05 and High Heat 04.

  17. Jason Moyer says:

    Oh yeah, re: PC baseball, I hope you guys do a little coverage of OOTP 10. I think the whole German-guy-making-the-best-baseball-sim-in-existence part of the series fits well with RPS’ coverage of innovative and groundbreaking games.

  18. MooseDrool says:

    Baseball and Fishing are the two things that get me through the shitty winters here. I picked this up for PC for $19.99, can’t go wrong there. I don’t mind it not having living rosters and online play, don’t want to play against some whiny kids anyway.

    The mod community has already started improving on this title at mvpmods.com It’ll take a little bit to make some tools and editors but once they do I think that this game will be the new MVP, I know big words but with the shiny new graphics it’ll get a large following. IMHO

  19. Chris Livingston says:

    Is a 360 controller absolutely required? Or just favored?

  20. RealHorrorshow says:

    link to youtube.com

    link to youtube.com

    link to i40.tinypic.com

    Can’t say whether or not the game’s good or not, but these made me laugh my ass off.

  21. inle says:

    Awright, a Phils fan!…though I’m finding it hard to believe anyone would voluntarily choose said fandom. Is bile and failure part of your upbringing, Mr. Walker? (Or perhaps, more seriously, the magical summer of 1993?)
    Anyway, you’re dead wrong about Hamels’ bat–it was the lumber of Mr. October himself, Brett Myers…

  22. Headwoünd says:

    What do you mean you feared “hearing the same awkwardly shouted, peculiarly clipped phrase appear inappropriately for the third time in the last thirty seconds”?
    That’s the only reason I still play International Superstar Soccer 64 on the – you might have guessed it – Nintendo 64!

    link to youtube.com

    GOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLL!!!1 He finished that beautifully!

    God I love it, that was the peak of soccer video games, ladies and gents. ^^