'The Show' strikes out '2K10' in gaming

My eternal complaint about baseball video games is they require debilitating patience. All you want to do is swing away. But if you rush yourself in the batter's box, expect to hit badly and get trounced.

You especially have to be patient while playing either "MLB '10: The Show" or "Major League Baseball 2K10."

When you're batting, the only way to win is -- most of the time -- to passively wait for the opposing pitcher to get into his windup, watch him toss, and then let his unhittable ball just fly past you. Over and over and over.

If you aren't patient with that mechanical process, you'll swing at everything, and then the game's artificial intelligence will realize you are dumb and start throwing you nothing but junk balls.

When it's time to pitch, I'm more able to stay calm and composed, because every pitch is an active process in trying to strike someone out -- tossing curves from the outside of the plate inward, and fastballs at the corners.

Fortunately, this year, one game is good enough to make me want to sit patiently in the batter's box: "MLB '10: The Show."

"The Show" is by far the more entertaining and enticing title this year, outdistancing "Major League Baseball 2K10" by leaps and bounds.

"The Show" looks way more realistic. The pitching is precise and smooth. The batting requires diligent patience, but at least you can clearly see the ball coming over the plate (or heading away from the plate).

By comparison, "2K10" looks less realistic, even slightly cartoonish. The pitching is erratic and imprecise, especially when my ball-aimer quivers onscreen for no reason. The batting is fair enough, I suppose.

There are a lot of bells and whistles in both games. In each, you can create a baseball guy from scratch, play with him over the course of many games, and improve his attributes by playing well and accomplishing challenges.

In both, you can go online for individual games or leagues, although many online gamers gripe that lagging in computer servers makes the online component less appealing.

And in both, you can play stand-alone games, or in a season stretching 162 games. Season gaming isn't for me, since one game can last 40 minutes. Forty minutes multiplied by 162 games equals I-have-no-life.

Bottom line: Aside from bells and whistles, what makes a baseball game a good time hasn't changed: Fluid and intuitive pitching, fielding, hitting and base running. "The Show" has all that, and looks extraordinary, to boot.

"MLB 2K10" surprisingly offers a weird and shaky, sloppy pitching system (flip the thumbstick this way and that, perfectly, and you still might throw a wild pitch), and comically weak artistry. It's hardly worthy of my high-definition TV.

("Major League Baseball 2K10" by Take Two retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii; $30 for PSP and PC; $20 for DS and PS 2 -- Doesn't quite play fun enough to recommend. Looks unrealistic, almost cartoonish. Challenging. Rated "E." Two and one-half stars out of four.)

("MLB '10: The Show" by Sony retails for $60 for PS 3; $40 for PSP; $30 for PS 2 -- Plays very fun. Looks terrific. Challenging. Rated "E." Four stars out of four.)

Doug Elfman's column appears Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. E-mail him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.