Online Play Report: MLB 2K8 and MLB 08: The Show

Posted March 7th, 2008 at 1:12 pm


As I’ve focused on pointing out on several occasions, online play is something that is practically ignored by reviewers and the online details you get prerelease are those that have been regurgitated from fact sheets. Occasionally the topic will come up in interviews but it ends up being more of the same. It isn’t until the community actually plays online that the true sense of what is offered is known.

Now that the two baseball titles have been out for a few days we can look at the online play for both of them. Needless to say they both need work but one seems to be coming along better than the other (and it’s not the one I would’ve guessed).


I’ll start with the performance side of things. Lag issues have been prevalent and that is only accented by the new controls and framerate issues. I had worried that any lag would really make it difficult to pitch with how precise the movements have to be. However I haven’t had too much trouble with the pitching as I’ve been able to adjust to the timing differences. It’s the hitting where the game really suffers.

The swing stick and hitting system is flawed in that it oversimplifies things and requires you to commit so early to the swing that there is little to no chance to read pitches and work the count. You just end up swinging at pretty much everything and hoping for contact. And since the majority of contact results in fly balls you end up with either crushed homeruns and doubles or pop-outs. With “Meatballs” always ending up in the strike zone you can guess what happens given the approach that has to be taken. That is an issue in the offline game but online you see it even more clearly because of the adjustments that have to be made due to the lag.

There is an issue currently where challenges made from lobby rooms result in freezing up the console. So I would recommend everyone avoid attempting to get games in that way. It is unacceptable that such a severe issue has been allowed to surface in the first place let alone how it has yet to be addressed. If they need to lock up the lobby rooms in the meantime that should be done to prevent this from happening to people.

The setting specific lobby rooms such as “Strikes Only” and “Classic Controls” were added in this year. Of course right now attempting to use them would be foolish but they will be nice to have as options. Unfortunately they are less than had been hoped for. Games are unranked and settings can not be changed. This means you’re stuck playing with all classic controls or all new controls. I would want to play custom games with the new pitching and throwing but the classic hitting which isn’t possible. I’m still of the belief that there should be either ranks for every game type or at the very least stats and records should be tracked for all games not just ranked ones. The only way to play ranked games is through quick match, you can’t even do them through friend list invites.

One thing that still bugs me about 2K Sports games is their insistence on clearing records and stats at the start of every month. It baffles me why they would do that. I’m someone who likes to track those stats over the course of the full year. If they want to do that they should just clear the rankings (which I’d guess is the reason they wipe everything out) but leave the records and stats intact.

I still like the idea of the card team battles a lot. The problem is that it is going to take a good deal of time and effort to build a team out fully. The cost to purchase a pack of cards is so high that I don’t know whether I’ll ever earn enough points to buy one. People who commit a lot of time to playing the game offline I’m sure will work up to that but it will be tough for me. That is still a goal of mine though because an online team battle night could be a lot of fun.

Online leagues of course return although I have not gotten to run through an attempt yet. Given the history of 2K leagues not functioning correctly around release time I wouldn’t put much confidence into those right now. I do know that the website for the leagues still has yet to go live. Also it seems that they’ve removed some options this year including the league specific sliders which doesn’t make much sense.

Given 2K Sports’ track record for online play I would expect it to begin performing much better soon. Despite that though with the way the game is built this year and the restriction on options I’m definitely disappointed. I had gone into release time with the expectation that 2K8 would likely end up being where I spent most of my time for online play. I just don’t see that happening now given the circumstances.

MLB 08: The Show

The game crippling lag that was present in the days leading up to and through the official release date seems to have improved. There are still problems though as I’ve backed out of about 1/3 of the games I’ve started up once it was obvious it was going to be a terrible experience. The others though have run relatively well. Out of the games that have a smooth consistent experience the only drawback seems to be a sync issue.

The most prevalent is not seeing the bat swing (or seeing it swing late) which makes it really difficult to judge what you’re doing wrong at the plate and adjust. You can check the swing analysis after but that doesn’t give the same feel that you would get from watching what you’re doing wrong. This is witnessed both realtime and during replays. It makes it tough to react when playing defense too since the ball just comes out and you don’t get a sense of the direction it’s going for a split second. The commentary also seems off with instances stating that the ball was in the dirt when it was actually out of the strike zone high or after a pickoff attempt claiming the tag was almost there in time when no tag was even attempted (not sure if the commentary issues are related to the problem).

Despite that when you get a good game going it is a really satisfying experience. Check out the recap of my game against MarinerFan for an example of that. You get the sense that you aren’t getting cheated by the game or doing well just based on luck. Even with the sync issue it is still possible to read pitches and work the count as you don’t have to commit too early for that element of the game to be nonexistent.

One of the coolest online-related aspects is the SportsConnect website. Here you can view your profile and upload a photo, look at your game history including basic stats from those games, and pull up the same for any other user. You can even keep track of games as they are taking place live and see the current inning and updated score. This is even better if you do it from the in-game buddy list where you can monitor live games and see the full game status including the score and situation as well as who is on the mound, on the bases, and at the plate.

There are online leagues however they have some really strange restrictions. The first is that your SportsConnect account has to have been active for 14 days to be a commissioner. So no leagues will be starting up through their setup for over a week from now. The next is that you are required to have a 3 star rating to be a commish. Interestingly that would mean yours truly would not qualify to run a league due to a low star rating which is ridiculous. Why they would want to prevent people from running leagues I don’t know. But if you get bad ratings following games out of spite from your opponents like I have then apparently you aren’t worthy of running a league.

So overall I’m really pleased by what The Show offers with SportsConnect although I don’t understand the league thing. They just need to get online to run smooth on a more consistent basis. The bottom line is that the game is so good that the most important thing is going to be how well it runs. If the games play well online then people are going to enjoy the experience.

So both games have online play issues to deal with. Lag seems to be the common issue and it is frustrating to see reviewers ignoring online play completely yet again. At least SCEA responded on release day and worked to improve the performance while not much has been heard coming from the 2K side. If The Show can continue to improve and maybe even figure out that sync problem then it quite possibly becomes the most genuine and enjoyable sports title I’ve ever played. However the more time I spend with 2K8 the more I’m starting to realize that the initial sense of fun I got from it is not going to last and has already begun to wane.