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Major League Baseball 2K9 : Simple Game. You Throw, You Catch, You Hit.

Company: 2K Sports

If the near daily news stories of steroid accusations wasn't a big enough hint, baseball season isn't too far off. A new season means another installment of 2K Sports' MLB 2K series. Last week, we were able to talk to 2K Sports' Erick Boenisch (Lead Features Designer) and Jonathan Rivera (Gameplay Producer) about their goals for this season and to discuss what fans can expect.

This year's game is the first time that Visual Concepts has taken a swing at the company's MLB franchise and rather than build on the past, the team decided that the jump to Visual Concepts was an opportunity to scratch everything and build from the ground up, allowing the team to build a strong foundation for later titles. Gameplay was a focus from the start. Though this may result in a few missing play modes or elements that don't seem as revolutionary, I'm fairly certain that most players would rather a game that plays great as opposed to a mediocre one jam-packed with modes.

Chief among Major League Baseball 2K9's gameplay changes are the improved batting and pitching mechanics. Rather than throw in numerous control mechanics aimed at various skill levels, Visual Concepts took a broader approach and went for something that was approachable by everyone. Although the base mechanics are similar to last year's game, both pitching and batting have been tweaked so they make more sense to the player. Neither feature any arbitrary on-screen timing indicators; instead you can pull back and release the stick at any time, allowing for something that feels much more natural. When at bat, this allows for more hit control and also removes the frequency of "canned" home runs. Everything is based on timing.

On field changes are accompanied by a number of other franchise changes. The Trading Card system is completely different. Player cards can now earn cards on both the defensive and offensive sides of the ball, so players can earn more players for their created teams. Visual Concepts sees online play as an on-going process, but has made a number of improvements to the mode. Players can share rosters and created players online or join in thirty member online leagues and tournaments.

Listening to Erick and Jonathan discuss MLB 2K9, it is hard to not get excited about the game. I'll readily admit that I've been a fan of Sony's The Show for the last two seasons, but the more I heard about what 2K has in store for MLB 2K9, the more I couldn't wait for my copy to show up in the mail.

Look for a demo on the Live Marketplace and PSN this week and a full review sometime this March.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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