Sony’s MLB The Show series is well established, and now in its fourth year. It’s the top realistic baseball game on the market-so good in fact, that if MLB ’09 The Show had just been last year’s version of the game, it still would have been the best out there (though we would have been pretty upset at the lack of new features). Thankfully that isn’t the case though, as the developers at SCEA have been hard at work adding new features and modes for you to play with as you make your way to the majors or control the future of a franchise.
The things you loved about The Show are back, like the ability to guess the pitch your opponent is throwing, the sliding game options, the very deep player creator (that can also be used to create your player in Road to the Show) and one of the best booths in any sports title, made up of Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell and Rex Hudler. These three are actually improved this year, as there is a “Progressive Commentary System” that changes the announcer’s dialogue based on what is going on in the game, meaning that because of the new animations and situations that have been put into the graphics and gameplay, there is a larger variety of things for you to hear, and far less looping of the announcer soundtrack. Given the amount of time you could spend with this game going through all of the various gameplay modes, that’s a big plus.
Mar. 3, 2009
The pitchers are as smart as ever with the Adaptive Pitching Intelligence system that changes strategy based on the batter, thanks to pitchers that the catcher is calling. These pitches are not just randomly pulled out of the game, but are instead picked based on the context, and are based off of actual MLB statistics. As a stat junkie, this is huge, and something I love about the series. To make things even more realistic, The Show utilizes a pitcher confidence meter, which is used to affect the ability of a pitcher to hit release points, while consistent mistake pitches will bring down the confidence of a pitcher, which makes commanding your repertoire that much more difficult. If that isn’t enough realism for you, the umpires have their own personalities, and may make mistakes (though you can shut this feature off if you want things to be a bit more black and white strike zone wise). Pitchers also need to use all of their offerings if they want to be able to control them properly, just like in real life. If you skip out on a pitcher’s fourth pitch, say, a curveball, for awhile, and then want to use it in a high pressure situation, your chances of success with it will be much lower than if you had used it all the time as a go-to pitch.
Hitting is not nearly as complex as pitching, but it’s still a very realistic interpretation of what being at the plate is like. You can guess what the pitcher is going to throw, as well as the location. If you guess location right, your hitter will focus on that area without the need to move the analog stick, but you will still have to get the timing right to make the most of this advantage. If you guess wrong, you need to manually move over, which may take just a bit too long for you to do anything constructive with the pitch. If you guess the pitch type wrong, your contact meter goes down a bit, and you will need to identify what the pitcher is throwing and whether you should swing at it even, which can cause you to make some foolish split-second decisions. It takes some getting used to, but is an incredibly satisfying system that asks you to do much more than just swing at the right time. I’m a big fan of a more arcade style of baseball game, but even someone like me is enamored with this hitting system of The Show.
Franchise mode returns for the second year of its existence, with some key improvements. There is now a 40-man roster, which means you have a deeper pool of talent to pull from and more decisions to make in the offseason. There are also many things you need to do that can turn franchise mode into what is essentially a baseball simulation game, were you to avoid playing the actual games, as you need to worry about arbitration (including super-two players, which is a term that the more casual baseballs fans would not be aware of) the waiver-wire and September call-ups (which are based off of the minor leaguers on your 40-man roster). If you aren’t sure of what any of these terms mean, and don’t want to get caught off guard, SCEA has included a glossary for your to peruse at your leisure, so that you can figure out just what these ideas mean. It’s nice to not have to get up from your couch to Google the information, and can instead just continue on with what you are doing.
If you don’t want to play a franchise by yourself, you now have the option of playing a league online. You can even set drafts and adjust the schedule around so that you don’t have to spend 162 days of your year playing through the season, but can instead play the games when you want them to be played. This is much better than simply offering head-to-head exhibition matches, and has the potential to become something huge once SCEA has spent as much time with it as they have with the more established game modes.