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MLB 2K13 PS3 Review

About.com Rating 2 Star Rating

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MLB 2K13

MLB 2K13

Image © 2K Sports
The "MLB 2K" franchise was reportedly shelved after the relative failure of "MLB 2K12" and years of negative buzz but was surprisingly rejuvenated in time for a concurrent release of "MLB 2K13" alongside the more-acclaimed "MLB 13 The Show." How did a game that almost never was come out so quickly? Well, the answer is clear minutes into playing this year's edition -- it's the same as the last one. I recently accused "MLB 13 The Show" of being a bit too much of a roster update instead of a stand-alone release. Having played the far-inferior "MLB 2K13" now, I feel bad for even suggesting that re: "The Show". This year's game is almost identical to last year's "MLB 2K" release, complete with inferior graphics, awkward cameras, inconsistent controls, mediocre presentations, and general frustration. The core gameplay is sometimes effective (if you're a big baseball fan, as I am) but there is literally not a single element that is superior to the same one in "MLB 13 The Show." And the complete lack of effort to deliver something new or even fix the problems of the past is remarkable.

Game Details

  • Publisher: 2K Sports
  • Developer: Visual Concepts
  • ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
  • Genre: Sports
  • Release Date: March 5, 2013
  • Pros: Great Pitching/Batting Mechanics
  • Cons: Nearly Identical to "MLB 2K12," Which Is Not a Good Thing

For years, I defended the "MLB 2K" franchise against claims that it just didn't compare to "The Show". Can't we have both? We have the American and National Leagues? Why can't we just enjoy both games? That wall of denial fell with "Major League Baseball 2K12" and it truly crumbles to dust with one of the most lackluster sports game offerings from a major studio in the entire PS3 generation. "MLB 2K12" was a mess but it at least hinted at a developer trying to correct flaws of the past. There's not even a whiff of effort here. New title, new rosters, Houston Astros are in the AL West -- that's about it. And the problems from last year persist with awkward camera angles, a lack of depth in gameplay, and some unacceptable glitches, particularly in the unprofessional audio tracks that can't keep up with the game in any way. The pitching mechanics are still the best thing about the game but it's become impossible to recommend it on that basis alone.

Gameplay

MLB 2K13

MLB 2K13

Image © 2K Sports

Pitching in "MLB 2K13" continues the form of the last few editions with different pitch types performed with different control stick configurations. Fastball is up and down. Change-up is down and up. More complicated pitch? More complicated control stick maneuver. I love the pitching mechanics in the 2K games and not just because I'm wicked-good at it. It's a clever way to capture the difficulty of pitching. Similarly, batting has a nice, smooth motion, using the control sticks with a push forward for basic contact and a back-and-forth motion for a more powerful swing.

As for modes, "MLB 2K13" features the expected array (especially if you have last year's edition) with a focus on "MLB Today," the actual games being played on that day in the real world of Major League Baseball. Season mode, exhibition play, online games...wait, believe it or not, 2K Games can't even be accused of directly importing last year's edition since they removed online leagues, possibly because they couldn't get the support together for it in time between near-death and release. The game also includes "My Player," which is a dismal cousin of "Road to the Show" in Sony's version. To make sure I was comparing apples to apples, I started a player at the same position in both games. Everything about "The Show," down to the camera angles behind the plate and at 2B as you're trying to field a grounder, is superior. "My Player" has quicker load times (which matters when you're on a team playing small ball and you're trying to get from first to home) but it's just nowhere near as enticing to put in the many hours it takes to get a minor league newbie to a major leage star.

And then there are the clearly-cut corners in "MLB 2K13." I can't count the number of times that the announcers got things straight-up wrong. It's usually situational -- talking about how there's a lot of time left in the 8th inning or incorrectly labeling a player on 1B as a stealing threat -- but it's also often specific and embarassing, like calling a ball fair down the line that has been caught. And baserunning in this game is pathetic and annoying. Players take way too long to get baserunning cues from the controller, making quick decisions, like breaking for home when you realize the throw isn't going there, simply impossible.

Graphics & Sound

The presentation of "MLB 2K13" just feels lazy. I'd like to think that the developers are working hard on how to make "MLB 2K14" memorable for the PS4 and Xbox 720 but this game looks nearly identical to the one the year before...and that one didn't look great. Player's faces often look dead, completely blank of expression, and the fielding and running animations are wooden and unnatural. Even crowd detail is nearly absent. It's just an ugly game, which is a true shame given the intensity that the pitching and batting mechanics can bring. When you're in a clutch situation, the realism can easily be cracked by a faulty bit of visual presentation to remind you of the flaws of the game.

Overall

MLB 2K13

MLB 2K13

Image © 2K Sports
Sports games often get criticized for their annual cycle. "I already have last year's game, why do I need a new one?" EA Sports, with games like "Madden NFL," "Tiger Woods," and "NCAA Football," have found ways to stay both fresh and familiar (and the "NBA 2K" series is the best of them all at this) -- the true balance needed in a sports game. We don't want to reinvent the wheel every time but we also don't want to learn how to play all over again. Somehow, "MLB 2K13" manages to do neither. It doesn't feel familiar because "MLB 12 The Show" so stole the scene last year that anyone who had the chance played that over "MLB 2K12." And it certainly doesn't feel fresh. You know how some athletes come out of retirement to take one last stab at winning a ring? You know how often that works out?
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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