Major League Baseball 2K8 - hands-on

Now that football season has ended, it’s about damn time America’s got it’s priorities straight and focused on hot dogs, apple pies and shagging foul balls. 2K Sports hasn’t forgotten what the ol’ red, white and blue is about and has worked tirelessly on adjusting the finer points of new baseball sim, Major League Baseball 2K8 (aka MLB 2K8). Set for release on March 4 - just in time for spring training - 2K has spent the year tweaking everything from throwing the ball to swinging the bat. Honestly, about the only thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that the player’s still wear hats and make ungodly amounts of dough.

Perhaps the biggest change 2K made was its pitching game, which deviates from boring, old school button tapping; i.e. choosing the pitch, then throwing. To begin your wind-up, pull the stick back and a transparent circle pops up with a smaller circle inside it. The smaller circle begins to expand. Once it touches the larger circle, a quick swish of the thumbstick (the gesture is different for each pitch) causes the smaller circle to rapidly collapse into a "bulls-eye" that appears at its center. When the shrinking circle reaches the same size as the bulls-eye, you release the stick and watch the batter whiff trying to lay wood to your filth.

Admittedly, the pitching is a bit tricky and takes some getting used to but it does feel more natural and makes you earn every pitch. Thankfully, the option’s there to go old-school with button presses, but where’s the fun in that? What’s slick is that gestures correspond to how they’d be thrown. For example: pull straight back and push forward for a Fastball. To throw a Slider, pull left and then push counter-clockwise like you’re throwing a Hadouken. A neat touch is that your pitcher has a confidence rating for each pitch. The higher the rating, the better he throws it.

Batting is similar to throwing a fastball. Pull back on the right thumbstick just as the pitcher’s arm reaches the top of its arc and push forward right before the ball crosses the plate. If you hear a sharp "crack," then you’re well on your way to becoming the next Sultan of Swat. Again, timing is everything in this year’s MLB, so you may have to play a few exhibition games before launching into Franchise mode.