As the 2010 Major League Baseball season gets ready to begin, I thought I’d take a look at MLB World Series 2010. If you played last year’s edition of the game, you probably had complaints similar to mine: no real player names; only a handful of stadiums; no ability to bunt or steal, or order a hit-and-run; no fielding errors; and no stat lists during season play. Obviously, there are even more things I could have mentioned (double switches, anyone?), but those were the features that I expect from even a basic baseball game.
Unfortunately, while MLB World Series 2010 has addressed the first two issues, bringing in much-needed player names (all rosters are current as of March 27), along with all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums, the developer didn’t address the other problems. The gameplay mechanics and graphics are also largely unchanged, leading to an experience that is like ordering a hamburger at a restaurant known for their steaks: it might be a really good hamburger, but you leave knowing you could have had a great steak.
Where the Rubber Meets the Pitching Mound
Let’s start with the gameplay mechanics. Most baseball games tend to have a good way of mimicking hitting, but when it comes to pitching, they’re all over the place. In MLB World Series 2010, you bat by tilting your handheld to move a dot around the strike zone and then tapping the “Swing” button. Unfortunately, you can’t bunt. I really enjoyed that arcade method of hitting; the movement is fluid, and there’s a satisfying crack when you make contact.
Sa-wing, batta batta
When pitching, you slide a finger up, down, or across the screen, depending on the type of pitch you want. You must stay on the line to keep it green. Then you tilt your device to move a crosshair around a sectioned strike zone; the blue areas favor the pitcher, while the red areas favor the hitter, and the gray areas are neutral. While it’s simple to keep the crosshair in a blue area, if your swipe is off while choosing a pitch, your final throw can wander into the wrong spot. That will spell trouble when you’re pitching to a guy like Ryan Howard, whose strike zone is mostly red.
The artificial intelligence is adequate, so you can let your base runners and fielders make their own decisions, rather than take control yourself. In fact, it seems a bit improved from last year’s version: I saw a runner at third tag up and score on a sacrifice fly, which never happened in the 2009 edition. Base runners also seem more aggressive on the base paths, often taking that extra base when an opportunity arose. However, fielders still never commit errors, and the computer continues to make boneheaded management decisions, such as leaving in a pitcher to hit while losing, and then pulling the guy for a reliever when you come up to bat.
If you want to simulate a half-inning of play, you can now do that, which can come in handy if you’re winning 10-0 and just want to finish the game. The options on the main menu are still the same: exhibition, World Series (actually, a full playoff), and season. You can take the helm of a 16-, 29-, 82-, or 162-game season, although the stat tracking that makes such endeavors fun is still missing; personally, I enjoy playing a season and checking out my players’ spots on the hitting and pitching lists along the way. However, the game does track players’ cumulative hitting stats, which you see when they come to the plate.
Of course, I had to replay last year’s World Series,
to ensure my Fightin’ Phillies beat the Yanks
More of the Same
On the graphics side, nothing seems to have changed from last year, aside from the inclusion of all the MLB stadiums. The player models are all still nondescript, aside from skin color, and hitters still hold their bats in a funky way. A big guy like Ryan Howard doesn’t look much different from a skinny one like Jimmy Rollins. The stadiums all seem true to their real-life counterparts, however.
The bottom line: If you still have MLB World Series 2009, your only strong reasons to spend the money on the new version are getting to see the players’ names (which is very helpful when you’re looking at a list of pitchers with nothing but uniform numbers to distinguish them from each other) and checking out all the stadiums. If you can live without those things, then you’re not missing much. However, newcomers will enjoy this game, as long as they understand its drawbacks before making their purchase. Hopefully future versions will live up to the MLB name.