Interview By Chad Zimmerman
Early next month, 2K Sports will release the latest version of its baseball franchise, Major League Baseball 2K7, for current and next-gen consoles—including Xbox, Xbox 360, PS2, PS3, PSP, Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS. Enhanced graphics, improved artificial intelligence [AI] and more online gameplay options are new features that gamers familiar with previous versions will appreciate. But MLB 2K7’s special treat is to help you beef up your diamond skills with what you learn in the virtual world. Eric Whiteford, VP of Marketing for 2K Sports, dished up some facts on what v-gaming with the new MLB 2K7 can do for your real game.
STACK: What new features can improve an athlete’s fielding ability?
Whiteford: We revamped the AI so the game plays a lot more like baseball is supposed to be played. It’s set up so the AI handles certain situations the way specific MLB teams handle it. True Fielding is the new feature that backs this up. This allows the gamer to move in the field just like an MLB player would, and the AI will react and move other players to their right positions. For example, when the fielder moves to get a ball that’s been hit, the player can choose where he’ll throw it—to the cutoff man or directly to the base. If the gamer hits the cutoff, he’ll be in the right place to catch it; if he chooses the base instead, again, all the players will be in the right positions. Also, once you throw the ball, the players will react to where you threw it. If you throw to home from the outfield, the appropriate player will be in the back-up position. It’s a great tool to understand where to position yourself in certain game situations, the nuances of fielding and how you’re supposed to behave when you aren’t the guy catching the ball.
What about hitting? What features will help an athlete when he’s at the plate?
EW: There are a few. We partnered with Inside Edge, a company that does a detailed historical analysis of every pitcher’s pitch and every batter’s at bat—what a pitcher throws to a certain type of player, how he reacts to lefties and righties, where a batter likes to swing, where he likes to hit the ball, etcetera. You can use the Inside Edge feature to give you hitting and pitching tips on certain players; it’s almost like a professional scouting report, giving you an idea of how to expect a pitcher or batter to play against you. This feature has been updated for the 2K7 version so it integrates how the gamer plays specific MLB players with how they have played historically.
The second component, which has also been enhanced from the 2006 version, is the Swing Stick. Instead of just pushing a button to hit when the ball comes over the plate, you actually pull the analog stick back when the pitch is thrown to create the batter’s movement of pulling his leg up and bat back. Then, for a contact swing, you just release it. You can also follow through with the Swing Stick to replicate a power swing, which will be less accurate, but, if your timing is perfect, you’ll crush the ball. You can also use this feature to foul off pitches purposely in those last-minute cases where you see the pitch as a strike.