|System: Xbox 360Z*, PS3|
|Dev: Visual Concepts|
|Pub: 2K Sports|
|Release: March 5, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Josh Engen
When I sit down to write a review, I try to choose my words very carefully. I understand that video game developers sink hundreds of hours into making these games, and I'd rather not be the type of person who disrespects their process by casually chaining a string of adverbs together. This doesn't mean that I pull my punches when a title is bad. It simply means that I try to give it the respect that it deserves.
But I'm not going to do that this time.
See, after spending a good deal of time with MLB 2K13, it's become fairly obvious that 2K Sports, MLB 2K's publisher, doesn't have the same respect for baseball fans that I've been giving to video game developers. So, instead of carefully choosing my words, I'm going to borrow from 2K’s approach to video game development and apply it to my review; I'm simply going to reuse much of last year's material.
Here's part of the introduction from my MLB 2K12 review:
“Well, if you know how to operate a calendar, you know that 2012 has arrived, but, in a lot of ways, it seems like another MLB title has not. Sure, MLB 2K12 is technically in my Xbox 360 as I write this, but it's essentially just a slightly more polished version of MLB 2K11, which was a slightly more polished version of MLB 2K10.”
Unfortunately, we're going to need to add yet another year to that list. MLB 2K13 is nearly identical to last year's addition. In fact, when it comes to laziness, it's a far greater offender than any of the previous spit-shine editions. Sure, the rosters have been updated, the Astros have been shuffled over to the American League, and many of 2K12's bugs have been polished out. But the game itself is nearly identical. In fact, most of the changes in MLB 2K13 are so minor that it feels like they would have been better handled by patching the previous title.
The graphics, though, are probably the biggest offender here. It's not that they're terrible. They're just lazy. Visual Concepts, the developer behind the MLB 2K franchise, hasn't made any major graphical improvements since 2010, and the graphics weren't even good back then. Here what my 2012 self had to say:
“Graphically speaking, MLB 2K12 leaves something to be desired. The stadiums are impressive and realistic, but when you take a closer look, the field is rife with torn textures and jagged edges. And, I don't know about you, but I wish that Visual Concepts had dedicated a little more development time the player's faces. I'm not exaggerating when I say that everyone on the field looks like a serial killer.”
Now, as much as I hate to disagree with my former self, I need to challenge one thing; the stadiums were not impressive in 2012, and they still aren't. In fact, when compared to modern titles, like MLB 13: The Show, it's easy to see how antiquated 2K13 actually is. The textures are broken, the animations are constantly twitching, and there are graphical hiccups on a fairly regular basis. This franchise has been churning out yearly titles since 2005, so the fact that Visual Concepts and 2K Sports thinks that these graphics are passable is slightly embarrassing. It's far too late in this console generation to let this kind of laziness slide.
Also, yes, the characters still look like serial killers, which makes MLB 2K13 scarier than Dead Space 3.
Visual Concepts does deserve a bit of credit, though; the controls are still as crisp as ever. MLB 2K's pitching system is one of the best mechanics in all of sports gaming. It's intuitive enough for any newcomer to pick up quickly, but it has enough depth to give the hardcore players a challenge.
The same is true for the other gameplay elements, but to a much lesser degree. I'll let last year's review do the explaining:
“The controls, for example, are simultaneously esoteric and intuitive. They have a certain flexibility about them that allows newcomers to make incidental contact with a few passing curveballs, but they require an academic approach to truly get a handle on their intricacies. When you first pick up the bat, your only responsibility will be to time your swing with the approaching pitch. But as you grow more aware of the interface, you start to catch on to the subtleties that the MLB 2K12 interface is feeding to you. Soon, you'll be able to differentiate between a fastball and a curveball and predict whether a pitch will land outside of the strike zone.”
But even though the graphics are subpar, even by mediocre standards, 2K13 does manage to deliver a fairly immersive experience. The camera work mirrors what we've come to expect from watching Major League Baseball on television (though, The Show is far more authentic), and the colour commentary is as good as it ever has been. Everything from last year's review applies perfectly:
“Perhaps the most impressive feature from MLB 2K12 is the audio commentary. This year, the game features over 80 hours of unique lines from commentators Gary Thorne, Steve Phillips, and John Kruk. The game's engine specifically tailors each line to your ongoing matchup, which means that no two games have the same commentary, and repeated lines are very rarely heard.