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Swinging for the Fences: Latest MLB dreams big but doesn't deliver

My first mistake was deciding to play as a catcher. The "My Player" feature, which joins Major League Baseball 2K10 in addition to its basic "play ball" mode, allows me to develop my own character from a generic nobody into a superstar.

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My first mistake was deciding to play as a catcher. The "My Player" feature, which joins Major League Baseball 2K10 in addition to its basic "play ball" mode, allows me to develop my own character from a generic nobody into a superstar. I assumed that catcher would be a good position to witness various hitters' styles and learn the idiosyncrasies that can tip off whether a pitcher is winding up for a fastball or a curve.

But the life of a "My Player" catcher isn't that insightful. The game only allowed me to play my turns at bat and my chances to run up and grab bunts. Not only did I not get to watch the entire game unfold, but I had very few opportunities to be an active part of the outfield. Trying to move from the bush leagues up to the big leagues was obviously going to be a long, slow stretch if I stayed behind home plate.

So I decided to switch to batting. My second mistake was assuming that videogame baseball intends to simulate the actual game of baseball. What MLB2K10 simulates is actually the telecast of baseball - baseball as it happens on the TV instead of on the diamond. Despite its familiarity, this presentation eliminates the sense of immersion in a virtual space that videogames are better at simulating than any other art form.

As a result, I was always swinging too early or too late. It was easy enough to judge where the ball was going in the strike zone, since the camera was placed directly behind me. But timing my swings was an almost arbitrary activity as I attempted to judge the head-on approach of the pixelated ball. My failures prompted my coach to tell me to "work on seeing the ball better." I wish he had told that to the game's designers.

My third mistake was assuming that my own skill, state of mind, nerves and know-how would matter when I undertook the role of pitcher. Pitching is perhaps the most intuitive part of MLB2K10, asking me to trace a pattern with my thumbstick for each specific pitch. Afterwards, I'm shown a map of how my actions tracked versus the ideal course, and over time I was able to improve my accuracy.

But as I advanced my career, I learned that investing points in "My Player" was the only reliable way to improve my playing. Perhaps it was an attempt to account for performance-enhancing substances - just shoot up with points instead of actually getting some skill. It wasn't my ideal method of becoming a better pitcher, but I have to admit that it was a lot more fun than being catcher.

THE GOOD: The game's simulated telecast commentary includes excellent advice on overall game strategy. Finally, the Statler and Waldorf side of sports gaming is starting to serve a purpose.

THE BAD: In "My Player" games, players approach home plate without bats and glide through each other as they slide onto base. This sure doesn't look like the major leagues.

THE BOTTOM LINE: MLB2K10 lands a few runners on base, but its lack of an overall gameplan keeps it from bringing them home.

Major League Baseball 2K10

★★✩✩✩

Rated Everyone; 360, PS3,
Windows PC

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