Point Blank Review: MLB 2K7

As always let me preface this review by saying I have been very disappointed with many of games I have purchased for the 360. Yet another console that had mega hype surrounding it, but in my opinion did not deliver. Again, that is the way of the PC/console world, it’s about the all mighty dollar, not the end user. I also prefer to play my sports games on a console as opposed to the PC because this is one area in which consoles do excel over PCs. Over the 18 months I have owned the 360 I have continued to bash my head against the wall each time I bought a new game. You think after a few hundred dollars in games I would get a clue or the increasing size of hole in the wall would be a reminder.

I have softened my stance a bit with my attitude (my wife calls is negative) towards the 360 recently with the selection of Kush Sports MLB 2K7. After Madden I was pissed another quality sports game was ruined and was dying to get my hands on a baseball game that could rival MLB ’06 from the Xbox. This game is shaping up to be that sort of sports game.

Now after playing MLB 2K6, I was rather turned off how it was designed. The models were stiff and unrealistic, the game play was horrible and the controls, well not much better. Many of those areas have been addressed in 2K7 to the point I am rather impressed, this game brings the heat!

In order to get me ready for my new franchise and upcoming season, I decided to play a few exhibition games to learn the game and the controls. There was a small learning curve, especially with the pitching and newly implemented ‘swing stick’ control. I had some mixed feelings the first time Petco Park loaded up, the graphics, while a bit cartoonish were beautiful and highly detailed. As the announces went through their pregame match ups, the players took the field and John Miller and Joe Morgan took control. You would think it was a match up you were watching on television.

As the game started I found myself on the mound ready to throw the first pitch. Learning how and where to throw the ball, taking into account the direction of break was a task that caused some pain early on. I got spanked all around the park, even when I tried to “paint the black.” After surviving and struggling to get three outs, I went on offense. As mentioned, the implementation of the swing stick is nothing new, as I have seen it in other games, but it did nothing for me. I tried it, didn’t like it and went back to the “class” controls of having a button control the swing of the bat, while using the left stick to determine the type of swing.

I struggled on offense just as I did on defense, but it was a learning process. After a few games, I became more comfortable and began understanding the physics behind the pitching and while I was not at all patient at the plate I was finding the gaps and knocking balls out of the park. With that, I took control of my franchise and began the season.

what use are graphics when game play suffers? Nothing, but MLB 2K7 scored a home run on both accounts! Each major leaguer I have seen represents their real world counterpart, from their stance to their physical likeness. Some amazing work to recreate most all of the players in the game today, from the wide open stance of Alfonso Soriano to the beer belly on David “Boomer” Wells.

The stadiums are also meticulously recreated. Each stadium is unique in its own respect, as they each have something different to offer the game. From the short porch and “Green Monster” at Fenway to the ivy covered walls of Wrigley.

John Miller and Joe Morgan, the two of the best announcers covering baseball today. Both have an extensive knowledge of the game, work well together and add their insights and comments during the game. Like any game, their comments do become repetitive, but that is only a minor distraction and does not really take away from the game.

The controls are above and probably have a rather simple learning curve, but it does take some time to learn in order to be effective. For example, running the bases is my current downfall. I have yet to steal a base. You can use the new “base burner” feature that allows you to take control of any runner at the base they are on. You can lead off, dive back and steal. While in this mode you can also control the batter, by telling them to bunt or swing away. I do think this is a neat feature, but one I have yet to master. The same goes with running the bases, moving all the runners up one base is simple, but being able to score the man from second, while holding the batter to a single or stretching it for a double takes some work.

The pitching controls require you to understand how a pitch is going to break, even fastballs have a rotation that could potentially take your pitch outside the strike zone. The longer you hold the pitch button, the more severe the break, if you release the button at the right time. Any slip and your ball will miss by however much you were off on the pitch. That could spell home run. Even now that I have learned how to control the pitch, the computer is still knocking my balls around, even great pitches that are just on the plate. Guess I still have some work to do.

As for batting, as I mentioned before the “swing stick” is the newest addition to MLB2K7 and I am not a fan of it at all. It requires you to pull back on the right stick to get into your ready stance and then you let it go or move it forward to swing with power. Personally, the classic controls work much better for me but your results may vary. Batting does seem rather easy, even on the higher levels (MVP). As in the past, I can’t draw a walk to save my life. My patience at the plate is still still horrible, carrying over my days of high school ball. I am swinging at everything, regardless of where the ball is.

The dominate game mode is ‘Season’ or ‘Franchise’, both which allow an entire 162 game schedule, as well as the All-Star Game and playoffs. In Franchise mode, you must watch contracts and business end of the team as well as manage and act as general manager. You do control ticket prices, which will have an affect on your attendance figures. Home run derby is also included, where you can take control of any MLB player (or your own created player) and put them up against 9 others to see who comes out on top.
Like many sports games today there are extensive records kept and you can unlock different achievements and spend your earned credits on additional items in the ‘Skybox.’ You can buy uniforms or special power ups that can be used as well.

Overall, this is a great baseball game, much on the level of MLB ’06, which I still consider a great baseball game for the Xbox. As the season progresses we will see how things play out. Currently, I am on a 7-game loosing streak and my #1 starter is on the DL for 3 months. Ain’t baseball grand? So it’s time to play ball! If you are into baseball, then definitely check out MLB2K7 it’s worth the price tag. Now where is my beer and hot dog?

Blood. Sweat. Cheers.

This is always an exciting time for the development team, as the hours tick down and we close in on release day. I wish I was scheduled different hours these past few weeks to offer up my services to BladeKiller because she has been the “heart and soul” of this development cycle. Without her strength, the mod would not be where it is right now, on the verge of release. I am quite sure she is a ball of stress and she works feverishly to get everything completed and packaged for the April 1 release.

Woekele has been a welcomed addition to the team. He works very well with TwentySeven and BladeKiller as the team continues to push forward. The same can be said for QA, many of the testers, for example [T]Stone seems to be around all the time and willing to lend his services to testing as a moment’s notice.

My stress level is starting to build as we get closer to Sunday. I am still working on coordinating the release and will maintain the files and provide those individuals with access in order to host the files. The release party on Urban Radio will get the festivities started. And if previous shows are any indication, I am sure many will be calling for the files even before the show begins. Patience my little minions, you will have to wait until the show is over.

The effort of the development team might go unnoticed once you finally drop into a server and play the new version of Urban Terror. Many countless hours of blood, sweat and more blood make it all worth it when the files are released and gamers are populating servers at a rising rate. Hopefully the decisions Frozen Sand has made over the course of this development cycle will help equate to a success and popular release of Urban Terror.

Many gamers ask me, or tell me, “Urban Terror is dead.” I beg to differ on many levels. Our core community is strong and I am sure they would follow us regardless of what game we were working on and offer up their services to help test. There are still leagues that support Urban Terror, so the competitive side of Urban Terror still lives, although it has been dwindling at a good rate, this release will give it a shot in the arm and I think we will see more clans participate. The functionality of the stand-alone files and the impending support of BattlEye means that ANYONE without Quake III Arena will be able to play the game.

These are just a few factors that lead me to believe the game will continue to see success in the community, on public servers and in leagues. Hopefully this will mean a larger community that continues to play and support Urban Terror for a few more years. The development team continues to support a game they love and I am sure the same will hold true for those in the community.

Urban Fools Day

Okay, so I am a few days late actually announcing the release of Urban Terror on my site. I figure many of you who visit already are aware of the date (time TBA) and are looking forward to the release.

As a gamer I am excited for this release. Sure there are other “prettier” games out there to play, but I still feel that Urban Terror has solid game play and that is what keeps many coming back for more. I don’t game as much as I once did, attending a LAN party on a weekly basis for 2 years, but I still enjoy sitting down and playing a game that will entertain and keep my attention. Hard to do, but it can be accomplished.

Aside from Urban Terror there have been some retail games that have made their way onto my HDDs and survived for an extended period of time. Going back “old school”, Quake II and Action Quake 2 were probably the first that kept me coming back for more over the course of a few years. It was Quake II that got me interested in PCs (as I was a Mac guy) followed by AQ2 and CTF that we played faithfully at our LAN.

More recently my attention has been focused on the console world. I bought the Xbox a few years back and had it modded, so I did not have to buy games, but rented and burned them to the 100+GB HDD I installed. For sports games, consoles are where it’s at, I never did like playing sports games on the PC. More recently it was my poor decision to buy an Xbox 360, which has been a real letdown overall. The games have not been impressive from a game play point of view. Either the controls suck or the game play just lags. Maddedn 07 is a prime example.

So while I love my PC and gaming, it’s much quicker to plop on the couch and kick out a few quick games of soccer or football than search for a server to play, say BF2 on. But I think Urban Terror will help renew that interest in PC gaming. While the mod was never the biggest, best or most popular it is something special. As a development team member for 7 years, the only original one remaining it holds a special place in my heart.

The longevity of games these days are really short lived. Developers and publishers are out to make a buck more than a good game. Ask INVIS about his experience working on Medal of Honor expansion pack. Da horror! If asked, “Would you like to be profiting from Urban Terror?” I think we would all emphatically say “YES!” But the reality of the situation is we don’t, haven’t and probably won’t unless we happen to score a development deal to create Urban Terror as a retail project.

So April 1 will be an exciting day for all. The development team members (God bless BladeKiller, woekele and 27) and community are all looking very forward to the release. It has been a very LONG time for everyone which culminates in a great professional package. No longer is Quake III Arena required. The possibility of BattlEye providing anti-cheat support could spur an entire new influx of gamers. So the prospect are looking very good for the game and community.

Cougar Sighting

Yes, believe it or not there is a ’68 Cougar sighting. While I wish I could say the Cougar was coming back from the paint shop with a brand new look, I must keep dreaming. I do have a few leads on where to get the bodywork done and the car painted. I figure in a few weeks I will put it on a trailer and take it to a few places for estimates. Of course none of the three shops are anywhere close to each other and one comes highly recommended by a family friend who had his ’34 and ’35 Fords painted there, plus it’s the closest.

As for the Cougar itself, I think I might have a rat living in the car somewhere. Damn if I have not been able to catch this sucker, but I see little tracks over the rear leaf springs and axle, which leads me to believe this rat might be making a nest, which is definitely not good news.

There is good news though…I was able to pick up a new right fender and passenger door this past weekend. The two parts I currently have, which are both original equipment have the most damage on them. The fender has a deep dent near the front and the door looks as if it side swiped something. That would not be bad, but the person who tried to fix it pushed all the dents out to the opposite extreme. So the door (glass and hardware complete too!) and fender I picked up were off a ’68 XR-7 and in great shape. I made a trip to Lodi via Stockton and picked up a guy from the Stray Cats Cougar Club who was in contact with a lady who was selling the pieces.

Absolutely no work has gone into the Cougar this year due to other priorities, but with any luck I could have this out of the garage within a few months. I also got a great lead on a white/black vinyl ’69 Cougar in Stockton. The guy is moving and wants to get rid of it for $6500. Thankfully my tax return is just around the corner. Wonder if the wife would notice.

Standing Room Only

In my days at United Airlines, I would post blog updates under the Aviation inSecurity heading. Well, since I no longer give a rat’s ass about the nation’s airlines or their security, I have taken on a new rage, in the newly created Standing Room Only.

News or shall I say opinions under this heading will deal with your typical asshat who rides public transportation, but treats it like their own car. I have made it known in the past I am now employed at BART in the Oakland/S.F. area, as of October. But I have rode the system for more than 2 years prior to hiring on. So I have seen and experienced quite a bit, being he first time I have used public transportation on a regular basis. With gas at $3.00+ per gallon (yeah, I know Euros pay more per liter) and a “free ride” on the train, I think the choice is a simple one.

From behind my sunglasses I would people watch. That always makes the trip interesting. So these columns will focus on those sorts of events that transpire. Now this is nowhere as critical about BART as BART Rage, some of those “people” are just downright obnoxious. I would consider Standing Room Only more along the lines of BART Musings, which is described as, “People watching, eavesdropping, and more on the Bay Area Rapid Transit.”

Today we start off with the mid-30s Mexican fella who was sitting across from the seat I normally take on a daily basis. Well, as the doors slide open, the smell of a taqueria hits you. I walk in, sit down and start surfing on my Blackberry. I notice his 10-speed bike leaning against two unoccupied seats and he is occupy two more, with his feet up he takes two more for a total of six seats!

This Mexican (I don’t have to be politically correct either.) must think he is at home, as he is shoving fork loads of food into his mouth, with little regard to the red and black sign over his head that reads, ‘No food or drink.’

As the train departs the station he continues eating. Prior to the next station he finishes his meal, wraps up the Styrofoam packaging in a white, plastic bags and toss it on the floor of the car. I watch him through this entire process. He then gets on his cell phone and starts talking away. About 5 minutes later, he concludes his call and falls asleep, still occupying six seats.

I was not able to follow this through to the end, as I transferred prior to his stop. Eating on the train, while not “legal” pe say, is a very common occurrence. I don’t think BART Police will arrest anyone for it, or even blink an eye. I’ll admit, prior to coming to work for BART, I too would munch on something, out of a bag, like chips or beef jerky. But not a god damn full blown meal.

What’s worse, the fact that one of the biggest complaints about BART is how dirty the cars/seats are. Well no shit, when riders think they can leave their empty containers and papers in the car when they leave. You aren’t at home and you are not in your car, take your damn trash and throw it away. This is not the first, nor will it be the last time I see this on a train, but it is one of those things that really is offensive.