What We Liked
Better Than Before: The major issues from MLB 2K8 have been addressed. Namely, hitting and pitching have been simplified. Instead of three movements, or gestures, to deliver a pitch, there are now only two. For hitting, the timing mechanism with the leg kick has been deemphasized; you no longer have to get the leg kick exactly right to make solid contact. For casual gamers who thought last year's game was too difficult, these are welcome changes. Even the playing cards have been simplified: There are no longer three levels of cards to unlock, just one for each player, and you can unlock player cards of your opponents for the first time.
Directional Hitting: The left analog stick now can be used to control the direction of your hits. Take outside pitches to the opposite field or pull inside pitches and reap tremendous rewards. Combined with the leg kick adjustment, directional hitting makes the offensive part of this game less frustrating than ever. Let's face it: Pitching duels are fun to watch on TV, but when you play ball on your console, you want to see offense.
Points for Presentation: Joe Morgan, be gone! Two new broadcasters take over -- the ubiquitous Gary Thorne and Steve Phillips. They provide a refreshing change from the past crew. The more important change is in the presentation of the game itself, which now follows the same formula as regular baseball broadcasts on TV in what 2K calls "Real-Time Atmosphere." The cameras pan across the field and switch to shots of the manager in the dugout the same way ESPN does. At the end of each half-inning you see the players coming off the field and a graphic of the next three hitters coming up to bat in the next half-inning. When a foul ball goes into the stands, the camera follows as fans jostle for the souvenir. It's a nice touch.
Tourney Time: You don't have to play a whole season to get to the playoffs. Start a postseason tournament right away with your favorite team in the mix.
New for the Wii: Trading cards are now available on the Wii version, but there is still no online vs. mode. Still, if you need the visceral experience of swinging and pitching with the Wii-mote, then this is the version for you.
Online Features: Play a 30-team league online, take on a challenger in a one-on-one Home Run Derby or just play a plain old exhibition game online. Roster updates ensure that any trade made in real MLB will be reflected in your game. Plus, "Reel Maker" allows gamers to save their highlights and share it with friends.
Franchise Mode: Since 2K9 is the only game on XBOX 360 with the official license, this is an especially critical part of the game. For the most part it's done very well. Free agents don't just sign for the highest bidder anymore; some actually care about playing for a winner. Trades aren't too difficult to pull off and there's a heavy financial aspect to keep track of for all the Moneyballers out there. There's also a full minor league system at your disposal.
Yankees vs. Red Sox on MLB 2K9:
What We'd Change
Bugs, Bugs, Bugs: This game could use a bug patch ASAP. The bugs are not always there, but they pop up often enough to warrant some concern. The worst is when your fielder crashes into the wall and starts running in place as the ball careens all over the field and the opponent gets an easy inside-the-park-HR. Then there's the rundown bug: Get caught in a rundown on the bases and get ready for some general wackiness. (Just cue the Benny Hill music when this happens.)
Patience Doesn't Pay: Much like every other baseball game ever made, it's nearly impossible to draw a walk. The good news is that pitchers will actually throw balls now, allowing you to get ahead in the count. But waiting for Ball Four to come will just earn you a lonely walk back to the dugout.
Lookin' ... Just OK: This year's game doesn't take a leap forward in graphics. In fact, at times it appears to have regressed, especially when you see pixelated puffs of dirt floating across the screen behind baserunners.
If you really crave the full franchise experience and updated rosters, then XBOX owners will want to have MLB 2K9. But PS3 owners are better off with MLB 09 The Show. And if you don't need all the simulation bells and whistles, we would recommend waiting for The Bigs 2 to come out this summer.
-- Aaron Samus