It’s sad to watch a once-proud franchise struggle. In years past, the MLB 2K series was a hallmark of progress, featuring crisp visuals and depth of gameplay that seemed to foreshadow consistent greatness. Quite the opposite has happened, however: The latest from 2K Sports is a forlorn title trapped in an impossible situation. As the embodiment of the most insulting term that can be hurled in this genre--“roster update”--MLB 2K13 is also the most disappointing console sports game in recent memory.
From the moment you step on the mound in a standard game or start a career in My Player, the lack of any difference whatsoever from its predecessor is stunning in its completeness. It is, literally, the same exact game as MLB 2K12 with updated rosters, schedules, and uniforms. Each one of the complaints listed from last season’s review is still present, with uninspired visuals, a choppy camera when following the ball in motion, and many awkward animations. Strange bugs pop up at regular intervals involving players magically gliding across the diamond or facing the opposite direction that they’re throwing. Ugly hitches take place at the moment a hitter makes contact with the ball. In many areas, MLB 2K13 is simply a mess. Just like last year.
Naturally, everything positive from last season remains the same too. The battle between pitcher and batter is exceptionally gripping, from the pre-pitch planning until the moment the bat is swung. Helpful statistics and analyses drench every interaction, as you’ve got a tremendous amount of information at your fingertips to work through every situation. The My Player career mode is terrific in many ways, reducing much of the game’s biggest weaknesses by always focusing on one player, while enhancing its strengths as a series of pitcher-hitter duels. My Player also provides clear goals, both in-game and during the season, to lead you down the path of success and make it to the major leagues. Just like last year.
The back of the box, typically the place where all the new features and improvements are clearly listed in exciting ways, is creatively devoid of any words that indicate improvements to the platform. In fact, MLB 2K13 is shipping with less options than last year’s, as Online Leagues have been removed. Any opportunity to track stats and wins amongst your friends for kicks is gone. While it’s obvious few people took advantage of them, killing off Online Leagues entirely seems excessive, especially given the lack of any innovation or improvement to other areas of the game.
Newcomers to the series can certainly have some fun playing baseball with their favorite team or creating a player from scratch and taking them through a career. Unfortunately, many fans will walk into a store and pay full price for a game that they won’t know has all the same problems-- and less features--than last year’s game. Also, it’s a shame that Xbox 360 owners have nothing close to the quality of MLB The Show on the PS3, the gold standard of baseball games.
Perhaps 2K Sports has something up their sleeve for baseball on the next Xbox, or perhaps MLB 2K13 is the last gasp of their baseball franchise. If that’s the case, it goes out not with a bang, but with a whimper. It never should have gone out in the first place.