Sony MLB The Show
24 March 2010
As a PS3 owner, the MLB The Show series is one game that I purchase every year, and every year I both admire the game, and get extremely frustrated by it..and how bad I am with a bat in my hand. So far, this year's MLB 10 The Show keeps that tradition alive.
Many of my friends are XBOX 360 owners only, and I tell them that they are missing out on an incredible baseball product over on the PS3. To me, Sony's MLB series is the spiritual successor to EA's MVP 05, which was thought by many to be the most feature-filled, realistic baseball product on last-gen. It sure was. Since then, The Show has always lifted some of the best ideas from that now defunct EA series and included them in their game. That is by no means a criticism, because what Sony has carried over into their game is all good. You have pre-loaded throws, throw meters, pitching meters, contact swings, power swings, and an overal interface and fielding view that harkens back to what EA started 5 years ago.
The Show has a very hardcore focus. This is a great thing for MVP 05 vets and baseball hardcores, because this product is squarely aimed at them. That's a great thing, because with the heavily arcade focused mis-steps made in past years with 2K's baseball product, there has always been a need for a game for the hardcores. You want features? The Show has everything you could want in terms of hardcore baseball. It has all the strategy, all the options, all the controls. You name it, it is here.
As far as the graphics go, this game is probably the best looking sports game I've ever seen. I say that recognizing that MLB 2K10 is no graphics slouch, but it is still not on the level as the spot-on photo-realism of MLB 10 The Show. Sony even has the mannerisms of each respective player copied in the game, their plate "walk up", the way someone like Jeter looks at the ump after a terrible call, animations with opposing players having a pre-game chat. The realism in animation and 3D player representation is damn near eerie. Faces, in particular, look lifelike and photo-real, far better than their MLB 2K10 counterpart.
However, where the graphics REALLY shine is with time-of day lighting and how it plays on every surface, every uniform, every part of a ballpark. The graphic polish on this game is at a level unseen in any other sports game. This is a game that takes what the PS3 is capable of, and shows it proudly.
Now, couple all of that with an audio presentation that is also on the top of its game, and you have a sensory feast. The play by play which features Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell, and Rex Hudler, is among the best in sports gaming. Vasgersian probably has more seemingly seamless lines of useful baseball dialog than I've ever heard recorded for a sports video game. The ballpark sounds are also perfect. The crack of the bat, the roar/boo of the fans, the snap of the catcher's glove after a fastball. Hell, you can almost smell the popcorn, roasted peanuts, and beer.
As for game modes, the "Meat" of the game is directed at franchise play and "Road To The Show". Franchise mode is pretty self-explanatory, and RTTS is about creating a player in the minors and building him up to become a major leaguer, and perhaps an All Star....or maybe even a bust. The RTTS mode is fun and involving, although I'm more of a total-team control guy, if you like career modes, RTTS is where its at. One of this years' new features is also the ability to play as the catcher and call a game from behind the plate, so you can get your Jorge Posada fix, should you want it. You can also play online, and play online seasons, although this reviewer has yet to play online, so I'm not touching that aspect in this preview.
As for gameplay, the game plays very well and is very responsive. Again, on the diamond, this game controls very much like the old MVP series by EA, which is to say it controls very well. About the only negative thing I can say about The Show's gameplay involves the pitcher/batter duel. It still feels like MVP 05. That isn't a terrible thing, but the timing-meter based pitching, by comparison to 2K's gesture pitching, is starting to feel like something that has more of a place in a golf-sim swing meter/stop meter than it does a baseball sim. Again, it is very solid, but the pitcher/batter duel has stagnated on the Sony MLB product over the past several years, while 2K's has improved and innovated with gesture pitching. Sony keeps sportin' the old MVP 05 way of doing things, and that's okay, but the pitching meter is feeling pretty darn 2005 as well.
However, that VERY mild gripe aside, everything else is top notch. MLB 10 The Show's fielding is far superior to the competition's, and it just feels right. Batting might be a bit challenging for many, even on default difficulty, but this can eventually be remedied by enough batting practice and plate discipline. (Note: Plate discipline is where I often fail completely..) For me, I've always been very frustrated with The Show's batting mechanics, although I know many who like it. What many people say is to "sit" on guessing fastball w/ "guess pitch" and see if the indicator shows (or doesn't show) that you guessed right. You then also guess a quadrant of the strike zone to "guess" on as well, and if you are wrong and the indicator tells you as much..you know its going to fall somewhere else. Again, perhaps its me, and I stink at location-based hitting, but I've been ashamed of my "The Show" batting averages for the past 2 releases on PS3. So perhaps the less harcore might be frustrated by it, so that may be a concern for some as well, particularly those who feel they don't have time for repeated batting practices to try to get competent.
As far as franchise goes, it plays a great season of baseball, however, the AI of the non-user teams makes some incredibly bad personell moves. It is not surprising to find Jeter and other big-name players on waivers in your season. Also, the lack of anything other than 1 team to 1 team trades also helps hamper the realism of what goes on in the Majors. Hopefully, future patches will fix this, and Sony has been very proactive in patching the game. (So far, I count about 660mb in patches since release for the game). The answer for some hardcore realism folks I've seen is to user control all the teams to prevent wonky trades/waivers.
Overall, I feel that MLB 10 The Show is one fine baseball product and an absolute masterpiece in terms of audio-visual achievement in a sports game. If you have a PS3 and like baseball, the answer is an obvious one.