Monday, March 05, 2007

Take me out to the ballgame...

Hands down, one of the BIGGEST benefits of living back in the United States is the beginning of March.

As we begin to push the little daisies and make 'em come up, this man's thoughts turn to Spring Training and America's Pastime.

Being back in the South gives us immediate access to my Atlanta Braves, and as evidenced by the photo above taken a couple summers past at Coors Field in Denver...few things in this world are better than taking in a ballgame with my bride. Yep, she's a fan. Jealous? You should be.

Numerous outings to Turner Field with the Lu are on the plate for this Spring, Summer and (here's hoping) Fall. And how amazing is it going to be to take Scout to the ballpark and teach him the grand old game...well, when he's old enough to actually enjoy the outing with his daddy.

In the meantime, during those inevitable rain outs or just when I feel like gettin' my game on away from the Ted, bring out the computerized contenders, the byte sized versions of the Boys of Summer: the ba
seball video game.

After spending a few days with 2K Sports' latest hardball offering on the XBOX 360, I've got to say that I'm floored with what the guys at Visual Concepts and Kush have done this year with MLB 2K7.

A few stadiums aside (Shea has always been an eyesore, in both games and in reality), the graphics are the best yet in a baseball title. Sure, I could do without the close ups on the lower polygon fans, but otherwise...absolutely beautiful. True next generation power on display as the diamond comes to life in a way it never has (or could) before. The presentation here is so solid via camera wipes and zooms, overlays and replays, even ESPN should take notes.

The pitching interface is quite intuitive, and I'm nuts for the catchers actually calling for pitches and setting up where they want you to bring your best stuff! I never really thought about that missing element from all previous baseball titles, but now that I've played with such interactive backstops, I can't imagine not having them. AWESOME.

I don't really care for 2K's swing stick mechanic (using the 360 controller's right analog stick to swing) at all, but once I switched over to the old school button interface, hitting felt quite good. Not only could I clearly see where the ball left the bat each time I connected, but that's also exactly where the ball went in the field of play.

This also worked quite well on the fielding side of things. Since I could pick up the ball so easily, I didn't really have an issue with ground balls as I could get the jump realistically and position my fielder to make the play. I can see how the default camera angle could be frustrating to some, but it worked for me.

The team of John Miller and Joe Morgan are, as always, a sound (get it?) team in the booth. In the past (well hell, ever since Sportstalk Baseball on the Sega Genesis) delays in calling the onfield action have been commonplace, but not here. My only beef with the commentary would have to be the lack of emotion on display in big game winning situations. But then again, it's an issue that can be addressed in next year's version. But even if it isn't...I'm loving this baseball title for the shear fun of it.

If you have the means or the desire, this latest incarnation of Major League Baseball on the 360 comes highly recommended. And for those on the fence, there is a solid demo available for download on XBOX Live. For anyone who isn't immediately floored by the graphics, the night game at Shea (in the demo build) may well be the cause. I understand and appreciate that Kush was trying to do something a bit different with the demo by placing the player in the throes of last year's NLCS, but I absolutely ADORE day baseball (both real and virtual). And a day game in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field may go a long way towards changing your mind. Just maybe.

In the meantime, the beer's a hell of a lot cheaper (and colder) and you won't need your sunscreen. I'll see you at the yard.

buy me some peanuts and crackerjack, i don't care if i ever get back.


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