Hitting is as simple as swinging your stick; literally. You push forward on the right analog stick for a contact swing and push back and then forwards for a power swing. You bunt via a button press. You can also direct the ball left or right using the left analog to pull the ball or go the opposite way while swinging, or lay down the appropriate bunt to advance the runner. The difficult part of hitting is timing the pitches and differentiating balls from strikes. You have just a couple seconds to identify a pitch and figure out if it’s a strike. From there, it’s all about timing it to get the ball in play. The action of hitting very much has the feel of being in a game.
There are a lot of great display features that add to the feel of watching the game while hitting. When you’re hitting there are feeds in the top corners of the screens when there are base runners. When you swing and miss, there’s a video replay in the bottom right that shows how far off you were and where the ball was in the strike zone, just as you’d see from any TV broadcast.
The rest of the game is fairly graphically appealing as well. The uniforms look realistic with close ups showing the patterns of the stitches. The animations are generally correct for the motion in question. Many of the animations actually tie very crisply together; I still can’t get over how sharp the action of scooping up a ball on the run from short and gunning over to first for the out looks. It’s so fluid and seamless that for a moment you actually think you’ve seen a live event.
Unfortunately, the graphics and animations are where the game also falls down the most. There are multiple times throughout the game that your player will suddenly go into an animation that doesn’t fit with the rest of the play. For example, if you’re off by just a small amount to catch a pop-up, instead of adjusting a bit, your player will make a sudden jump move to catch the ball. Even worse, if you call for the ball as the cutoff man, the outfielder will still follow through with an animation pointing towards another player, but the ball will come to you. It was jarring to see, because it looked so unnatural.
Base stealing is an area where the game does a nice job. Stealing a base is hard, and unless you have a very fast player, you’re going to fail most of the time. Even with a big lead-off and timing your jump perfectly with the start of the pitchers motion still doesn’t guarantee a steal. You need to be fast.
When you jump in and play a game from the MLB Today option, you don’t have control over the stats of your players. To really get into the game, you need to choose the My Player option and start your own custom player. As has become typical for these modes across the spectrum of sports games, you can customize your player down to the moustache, but what matters most are the position you play and the stats.
My favorite position is shortstop and my favorite team is the Tigers, so I created a player and chose for him to be drafted by Detroit. When you start the My Player mode, you join a AA level club mid season, not long after the draft. You start with a generally lower level player, but one with lots of potential. The game gives you some points to customize your skills initially and you earn more through making plays during the game.
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