The excitement that was next-gen baseball last year was quickly extinguished by Major League Baseball 2K6. This mess of code featured batters that all swung in the same exact choppy animation and fielders that could grab a grounder in the outfield and throw immediately to first with barely any animation between. Let’s not forget the fact that your runners lallygag around the bases slow enough to make the coach from Bull Durham have a heart attack if you didn’t mash the "run" button. Lucky for us, a few people at 2K Sports noticed and decided that they needed an overhaul.

While Major League Baseball 2K7 is a huge step in the right direction on next-gen systems, there are still a few problems that need to be fixed before it becomes the quintessential baseball game.

The first thing you notice when playing a nine inning game is the amazing graphics on the Xbox 360 and PS3. It’s almost scary how realistic some of the moments look on replay. You also have all of the extra amenities, like signature step outs, batting stances, swings, pitching deliveries, and even equipment. For example, if a player takes the field with his batting gloves hanging from his back pockets in real life, you better believe that’s where they are in the game. Pitchers even put on their warm-up jackets if they make it to first base when they’re batting.

Even with extra elements (i.e., dirt kicking up as players run across it, a puff of dust flying when a pitcher throws a heater into the catchers mitt, stains and dirt building up on player jerseys through the course of the game, the rippling effect on pants and shirts during a windy game), there are some noticeable problems with the animations. While this may be nitpicking, the field animations still aren’t up to snuff with a last-gen game like MLB 07 or even its predecessor MLB 06. While a big improvement over Major League Baseball 2K6, there still isn’t a smooth transition for many on-field moments like throwing and catching.

While batting, you’ll notice the incredible pitch speed. While it’s nice that the fastballs are just that – fast, it’s almost impossible to get a feel for what kind of pitch is heading towards you before the catcher has caught it. Thus, many times you will find yourself swinging at every thing and getting struck out by a curve. After a while you may pick up on the ball’s movement as soon as it leaves the hand of the pitcher to get an idea of what’s coming, but this is a very hard thing to learn and will have many gamers go to the options to tone the speed down.

If you do manage to learn how to constantly put the bat on the ball, you will destroy the computer on many difficulty levels. MLB 2K7 uses a batter’s eye circle to let you guess where the next pitch will be located. Guess right, and a red circle will appear to indicate the exact location. Even without guessing, however, it’s very easy to jack one out of the park by simply holding the aiming stick towards your batter and up. If your batter has as much power as Johnny Damon or more and gets contact on his swing, chances are the ball is gone. It’s disappointing to be playing a tight game and then turn it into no contest by hitting six back-to-back home runs in one inning.

New this year is the catcher’s advice while pitching. Before every pitch the catcher will put his glove somewhere, and one of your pitcher’s pitches will flash to let you know what he wants. You can take his advice or pitch wherever you desire. In pressure situations - such as two strikes on the batter or in a closing situation, you will be offered a payoff pitch. A red box will appear where the catcher wants it. You can move it around with the right stick, and as long as you hit it with one of your pitches your pitcher’s rating will go up. The 2K programmers wanted to simulate the phenomenon of hurlers getting stronger while games go on or getting confident with certain pitches. And I think it works well on that point.

While fielding, you’ll first be greeted with a disorienting camera change. The default pitching camera is behind the pitcher, so it has to quickly swing around when the batter makes contact so you can field the ball. There are also a few annoying camera changes while batting – if no one else is on base, sometimes the camera will zoom on the batter after he hits the ball and follow him around the bases. This can be infuriating if you hit a ball in between the outfielders because you have no idea if you have a double or if you can stretch it into a triple.

Jon Miller and Joe Morgan return to add their commentary during games. It’s mostly rehashed from last year with a few additions to the stats and comments on how well a player did in the previous season. There are a few glaring bugs, like Joe Morgan saying the same exact thing about hitting clutch home runs when the game replays it, not matter what the score was when said homerun was hit. There was also an amusing glitch that occurred when I hit a home run off the foul pole. Jon and Joe continued to talk about how the ball was foul and how the batter would be disappointed with himself if he didn’t get a hit in this at-bat after being so close - as my batter trotted around second.

The soundtrack for 2K7 is a great changeup to other baseball soundtracks. Instead of including questionable, lesser-known acts, 2K7 went with the solidified hits. Down by 311, Breed from Nirvana, Doin’ Time (credited incorrectly in-game as the original title Summertime) by Sublime, and even a Pixies track grace the music selection for a nice overall feel.

Overall, MLB 2K7 is a good baseball game – and that’s a great thing for Xbox 360 owners because it’s the only one they can play for now. It will be interesting to see how MLB 07: The Show performs on PS3, but for now MLB 2K7 is the king of the diamond. Note: Don’t bother with the PS2 or Xbox versions. These versions are so bug-riddled that players bat backwards and JD Drew has an overall rating of 100. Instead, check out the review of MLB 07: The show for PS2 for your last-gen baseball needs.

Overall Score: 8.7 out of 10