MLB 2K8 vs MLB 08: The Show

Posted March 9th, 2008 at 10:04 am


While I’ve previously gone through my initial impressions of MLB 2K8 and MLB 08: The Show, I figured it would be interesting to match the two games up in different categories and determine which came out on top. Of course those with only a 360 don’t have a choice in the matter, but it’s important to know what is being done well and what isn’t both on their own individual terms as well as competitively for the future of these franchises.

The two games headed into release taking completely different paths. 2K8 dramatically changed the central mechanics and practically hid the game as very few videos could be found along with (intentionally or not) submitting the demo too late for it to be out prior to release. The Show stayed the course while improving its already stellar gameplay, was very open with media, and the demo was several weeks out in front of the release date. Generally those are signs that can be read, and in this case the assumptions that were being made seem to have been accurate.

The most significant change this year was 2K8 switching to Total Pitch Control which solely uses right analog motions. It requires some practice and patience to learn and get comfortable with. I feel they had good intentions and it works relatively well (except for occasions when it doesn’t register correctly) but the concentration and precise nature that is required takes away from other aspects of the game. The “Meatballs” are the biggest problem as they always end up in the strike zone and the end result is generally a home run or double. Ultimately I think the revamping just wasn’t necessary. The Show has the basic meter pitching that people are familiar with and they did a good job this year making it a little more difficult to spot pitches.

Prefer: The Show

This is the area 2K8 really suffers the most, with a hitting system that is oversimplified and lacks a sense of user control as it is predominantly based on timing. As such it ends up resulting in a disconnected feeling. Then you have how almost every hit is lifted into the air which means a ton of home runs (again this year) along with a lot of doubles into the gap with a noticeable lack of grounders. The swing stick mechanic is just right analog overkill. The button method has always worked well, is more responsive, and offers more options for a user at the plate. The satisfying feeling that you get when you connect well is a bonus with the buttons that you don’t get with the stick.

Prefer: The Show

2K8 changed it up this year with another right analog feature as you now use it to throw to the bases along with a meter displaying the power. That is the best change they made this year. It just feels really responsive and natural. The Show’s generic button corresponding to bases works fine but there is a lack of a visible meter and sometimes the fielders take too long to get rid of the ball.

Prefer: 2K8

Both games have similar systems that work pretty well and are easy to get comfortable with.

Prefer: N/A

Last year this category would’ve went the exact opposite way. The Show has made a significant graphical leap while 2K8 has actually regressed. Most assumed that was due to making sacrifices for the sake of the framerate, but as will be discussed later apparently it wasn’t enough.

Prefer: The Show

2K did absolutely nothing with commentary, unless you count editing out the word “Devil” when discussing the Rays (literally all they did was pull the word out and splice the remaining audio back together). The commentary flows well most of the time but there is a lack of excitement surrounding critical moments. It also is riddled with errors. In just the second game I played they called a batter by the wrong name. Over with The Show the commentary is top notch. Of course there is still room for improvement but it’s definitely the better of the two being much deeper and varied, more current, and more accurate.

The crowd reaction and atmosphere is much better in The Show as well. Presentation wise both games do a pretty good job with replays of highlights from earlier in the game, and 2K’s win analysis and game recap after the 7th inning is quite cool.

Prefer: The Show

I don’t play franchise modes so it wouldn’t be fair to make a judgment here.

Prefer: N/A

This mainly comes down to the Road to the Show mode vs the 2K8 trading card feature. I like both of these things but a deep independent mode is clearly of more value. RTTS is what I spend the majority of my offline time playing. It offers something completely unique as you work to progress and advance your individual player through their career. It makes the The Show almost like having two games in one.

I was quite intrigued by the trading card feature in 2K8 and still like the achievement feel, the ability to use card constructed teams online, and that it gives a reason to play more games with a variety of teams. There is now incentive for doing so and it adds to the replay factor. However I’ve also been discouraged by some of the incredibly difficult requirements that I can’t see myself ever completing as well as how it has changed the way I play the game from just trying to win to attempting things I wouldn’t have otherwise in hopes of earning a player’s card. Still though it has an addictive quality and it was a good feature addition for this year.

Prefer: The Show

It would be a mistake not to discuss the framerate somewhere in a comparison of the two games. Clearly this is the issue that has the 2K8 community most upset. Once the ball is hit into play the game chugs and skips along. The game also pauses following each cut scene as it transitions. While those things haven’t made the game unplayable to me it is annoying and unacceptable. There just is a lack of fluidity to the entire production. The Show seems to run smoothly with a consistent 60fps.

Interestingly it was pretty clear heading into release that the framerate was a known problem on the 2K side. Of the few rare videos that were released by media sites they were limited to about a minute long and even then the problem was quite noticeable. As I even noted Ben Brinkman was less than confident in his response to the topic during the conference call.

Prefer: The Show

Online Play
For full detailed analysis of the online play experiences presented by both games read my online play report. There are multiple issues to be addressed with each but the SportsConnect website and improving performance has The Show on top right now. I wouldn’t have guessed this would be the case given the track record of the two companies from their previous online offerings. The weekly roster updates with The Show could be included here as well which are far more detailed and frequent than what 2K offers.

Prefer: The Show

What is up with 2K8’s tiny menu and lineup card text? All the flashbulbs in the crowd that do nothing but distract and aren’t realistic are bothersome, along with players all of the sudden all sprinting back in unison to their defensive positions (bizarre looking). Then there’s the manual that talks about a nonexistent contact swing and has confused many people as the Swing Stick 2.0 doesn’t differentiate between contact and power. I do like how the circle disappears when an outfielder is running with his back turned to the ball.

The Show has poor collision detection compared to 2K8 as players can basically just walk through each other. That is probably the most visible thing wrong with the game.

2K8 has some fun elements but it is just too inconsistent. I really wanted to like the game and had gone into release hoping to be surprised because of the low expectations that had been created. In a way I actually was initially as I enjoyed learning the new pitching mechanics and appreciated the effort they put into that and the right analog base throwing. However the issues with the game have already begun to overshadow those enjoyable aspects and that doesn’t bode well long-term. I don’t think it’s as bad as the community is making it out to be but I’m hard pressed to find many things it does better than The Show.

The Show is a genuine representation of baseball. It feels like the real thing and the attention to detail is impressive. You get the sense that that the results on the field are earned and not based primarily on luck. In the end it provides a very rewarding and worthwhile experience.

Prefer: The Show