May 07, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

Videogame Review: Major League Baseball 2K7

(2K Sports; Xbox 360 and PS3; Everyone)

While the boys of summer are just starting a new season, their videogame doppelgangers have been taking the field for several weeks now on MLB 2K7. Fans will remember that last year’s version of 2K Sports’ baseball sim was something of a disappointment, hobbled by bugs, underachieving visuals, and the most heinous bête noire: a hitting system called ”the swing stick.” So is the ’07 edition an improvement? It is — though still plagued by some annoying problems.

On the plus side, 2K7 is pretty much glitch-free and has made impressive strides in its visual presentation. The hitting system, however, still drives us, well, batty. The swing stick requires you to rock a knob back-and-forth on your controller, timing it just right in order to make contact with the ball. Not to mention the complexity of a system that doesn’t leave enough time to decide whether an incoming pitch is a ball or strike. You can turn off the swing stick and use a more traditional one-button approach to batting, but the result is the same: (1) hitting is haphazard and, (2) it’s impossible to work the count and draw walks, arguably the most tactical offensive component of the game.

And should you put balls in play, 2K7 doesn’t get much better. It’s tough to track the path of the baseball, making fielding a confusing affair. Adding to the frustration is watching far too many computer-controlled outfielders reach over the wall to rob you of would-be homers (in one game, the centerfielder did this four times). Still, playing MLB 2K7 on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 is to play one of the most realistic-looking baseball games yet. Fans will easily be able to recognize their favorites just by seeing players’ batting stances, pitching windups, and mannerisms. You can only gawk at the visuals for so long, though. Players looking to find a deep and challenging game of videogame baseball should move on — just like it is in Mudville, there’s no joy here. C

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