Major League Baseball 2K6 is the yearly professional baseball game pushed out by publisher 2K Sports and developer Kush Games. Currently, it is the only baseball game that 360 owners can get, due to 2K gobbling up the MLB license. While the title does try to do some interesting stuff with the “Swing Stick” batting, the game has too many problems for this game to be recommendable.
The core gameplay in MLB 2K6 is solid, but some of the bugs just bog things down. In terms of batting, the game introduces what they call the “Swing Stick.” With the right stick, you pull it down to “step” into the hit and then you let it go to execute a normal swing. If you push up on the right stick, you will execute a power swing that will obviously make the ball go further is you time it right. The major problem with the swing stick is that because of the tremendous differences in wind ups between pitchers, it is really hard to time your swings and hit for power or average with any regularity.
Thankfully, though, if you are like me and cannot get used to this set-up, you can go into the options and switch it to the classic controls of just clicking one button and using the left stick to direct where you want to hit the ball. It would have been extremely helpful if Kush would have included a tutorial for the Swing Stick because as it stands, a lot of people will just go straight for what they know, instead of trying the Swing Stick which is actually a good idea.
Another thing that could have used a tutorial is the pitching system. When I was pitching it seemed like I had no accuracy even with Randy Johnson of the New York Yankees. I though to myself, “He is a great pitcher! Why am I throwing wild pitch after while pitch?” After a while, though, I figured out that instead of just clicking “A” for a fastball and choosing the location of that pitch, you must first choose the point you want the ball to “break” (For example, a power curveball will break down and to the left.) and then you click once to lock in effectiveness and speed, and tap it again to lock in accuracy. This system works great once you get it, and is quite intuitive.
Stealing bases in the game is also done quite well. Once you get a runner on base, you can hit the B button to bring yourself in a third-person view of the base-runner. If you have more than one runner on base, you can continue to hit B button to choose the runner you want to be. As for the controls of being a base runner, the left stick is used to take leads off of the base. The right stick is used to steal a base, or the left trigger makes you lunge back to the bag if the pitcher tries to pick you off. You also have the option to tell the AI batter to bunt, to swing, to not swing or to be selective. One of the nice touches when you go into this mode is you hear the players heart beating and he is thinking about swiping a bag. Even though this system was done well, stealing bases is not tremendously smart, as catchers have pinpoint accuracy and will catch you stealing if your player isn’t maxed out in speed. Another oddity is that you have to quickly tap the A button to sprint. Shouldn’t their speed just be determined by stat points and not how quickly you can mash the A button?
Fielding is done well, but it is not without its problems. It is not unlike any other baseball game you have played. When the ball it popped into the air, you will see a shadow where the ball will be landing and you have to make the player run under it to catch it. On groundballs, the bases are mapped to the face buttons on the Xbox 360 controller. (A button goes to home base, for example.) However, one of the problems I encountered was the outfielder would sometimes overrun the shadow and wouldn’t be locked in as it normally would be. It could be a major issue for someone in a tight match and have this happen to them and shouldn’t be included in a final copy of a game.
Graphically, the game looks fine, but it is not something to really showcase what the Xbox 360 is capable of. All of the 30 MLB stadiums are drawn true to life, which is to be expected. However, the field doesn’t look overly impressive, even in HD, with a lot of undefined edges in the infield plaguing every stadium without fail.
The crowd is actually pretty remarkable, though. The lower bowls of the stadium are in full 3D and every character is animated. On the other hand, you can occasionally notice some of the crowd going from low to high resolution when a foul ball is hit into the crowd. Furthermore, they don’t really act like a crowd at a baseball game, as all of them are mysteriously waving their hands around. Overall, though, 2K6 features a really good looking crowd.
Player models are a bit mixed, though. Personally, I think the models of the bodies look very sharp at a distance, but when you get up close, you realize that a lot of the faces on the players do not look remotely like the player. It really just drags down the whole experience if you cannot get Manny Ramirez, who is one of the biggest stars of the MLB to actually look like Manny Ramirez.
Another drag on the visuals is some poor animations that really lack polish. When a player hits a home run in real life it usually seems effortless. In 2K6, the batter’s body contorts in weird ways that looks more like the batter just got a piece of the ball rather than crushed it 425 feet. The game never really captures the fluidity of hitting a home run. An additional problem with the animations is when you field the ball. Sometimes the fielder just seems to air walk when fielding a groundball, especially while throwing the ball to a base on the run. One exception to the animations, though, is some really nice animations on the jerseys and pants of the players. When they move around, they crinkle like they normally would.
The game uses Joe Morgan and Jon Miller for commentary. While they do a good job calling the game, if you play the game enough you will have heard everything they say in the game within the first couple of games. The game also does a nice job with making sure the home runs sound powerful. The crowd taunting away players and encouraging home players is a really nice added touch to the audio.
MLB 2K6 features a lot of different game types to keep players interested for a while. It boasts your standard “pick up and play” exhibition games, a season mode, franchise mode, a “GM career” mode and “Manager Showdown.” All of these are for the most part similar; each is just boasting a different amount of seasons for you to play. “Manager Showdown”, however, it just one game and you don’t physically play the game. You have the options of when you are pitching to choose whether to pitch to the current batter, pitch around, walk that batter, or hit the batter, along with making any necessary substitutions. While batting you can choose to swing for a hit, swing for a home run, hit and run, bunt or pinch hit. This probably won’t be something for most fans of baseball simulations, but it is a very nice addition and adds some value to the game.
The online portion of the game is just like the single player portion of the game, and I have experienced no lag while playing the game online. It features online leagues that will keep diehard fans of this game coming back for months until Major League Baseball 2K7 hits the shelves next spring. If you are looking for more challenge than the AI can give you, you owe it to yourself to see how good you really are online.
MLB 2K6 only features five achievements, but they are all pretty difficult to achieve if you do them legit. If you are points hunter, though, looking for quick 1000 points and don’t mind being a dirt bag and adjusting the games difficulty sliders, all of these achievements are very easy to get.
In the end, MLB 2K6 is an enjoyable baseball game. However, there are just too many weaknesses in almost every facet of the game that just holds it back. If you must have your next-generation baseball fix, MLB 2K6 is your only answer. Sadly, it will not be what you are looking for.
Originally Written By: Art Green