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It’s spring. The boys of summer have taken the field. Now that 2k Sports has the MLB license, we’re reliant on them to bring the sport to our TVs. Do they succeed? Like an ugly 1-0 scraper, sort of.

MLB2k6 does sport an impressive feature list. It includes the World Baseball Classic rosters, official Inside Edge scouting reports on all of the players, a touched-up franchise mode, and VIP (Virtual Identity Profile) play style tracking that allows to you play against yourself, or anyone else who has made a VIP file through play. With all that going for it, how could they go wrong?

The biggest offender, to me, are the graphics and presentation. It may just be me but allot of the text in the menus come off extremely blurry on a standard TV. Sometimes it’s to the extent that it becomes hard to read what’s written. That’s a minor problem, however, compared to the failure of the in-game graphics. 2k Sports can’t seem to get it together with their baseball art team. Like every game in this series going back to World Series Baseball 2k2 (yes, it does trace it’s lineage back to that series on the Dreamcast), the game is a blurry mess. The textures are muddy, and the look overall is that of an unfinished product. EA’s MVP Baseball series was always sharp and crisp, so what happened here? Also, they players continue to look almost nothing like who they’re supposed to be. If the game didn’t tell you who was who (and the names on the jerseys were gone), you’d have no clue you were playing with real MLB players.

The game does have interesting gameplay, though. The Swing Stick is fairly intuitive once you know what you’re doing (I didn’t read the instructions at first and was winging it… wrong thing to do). You get a feel for actually having to time your step with the pitcher’s delivery, and since each pitcher’s delivery is different, you need to adjust like you would in real life. The pitches don’t exactly move realistically – they have fairly exaggerated movement – but they do serve their purpose. You can also easily adjust the experience to your skill level.

The Inside Edge feature does have an impact on play. If you have the scouting report on a hitter, when he comes up to the plate your catcher will call which pitch is best and where. If you have a report on a pitcher, you’ll see what pitches he’s most likely to throw in your particular situation and again, where. It all helps you think like a real player without hours and hours devoted to learning the game’s tendencies.

All in all, where it matters – gameplay – MLB 2k6 holds it’s own. I just wish the graphics and presentation were better. The Skybox option, studying your VIP profile to identify your weaknesses so you can fix them (or to exploit your friend’s), all add up to an interesting experience. The package comes together ok, but – and perhaps I should have mentioned this earlier – the game really doesn’t break away from last year’s edition. A few new features and new controls are nice but kind of make it seem like 2k Sports is resting on it’s laurels. Still, if you like baseball, you’ll enjoy the new gameplay, despite it’s flaws.

past that, Out of the Park 2006 is the finest baseball management sim on the market, bar none.

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