Sony put out a pretty good product in MLB 08 The Show, but that’s the problem.
Great visuals, good player models and “little thing” movements like head nods and celebrations. Pitching is superb, with the catcher calling out which pitch he wants and where he wants it. Fielding feels natural. There’s a deep career mode that goes form spring training, to the minors, to hopefully a big career in the pros.
But every video game baseball title has built on that since the 90s. They’ve all captured faces, swings, and pitch styles. They’ve all done pitching well (though The Show does stick out in this realm).
I want more than this.
MLB 08 The Show is really enjoyable, addictive, realistic and detailed, but I’ll sum up my complaints like this:
There’s a deep minor league system, where your player starts out at the bottom of the barrel and has to work his way up by training in drills and performing well in games. But the game doesn’t include any actual minor league stadiums, just generics. You also can’t “do” anything to make your player better. The “drills” and “practice sessions” are really just big point screens where you spend reward points that you earn based on game performance. There’s no skill. Play a game, spend points. Play a game, spend points.
I want to start out as a young draft pick, maybe go through the Cape Cod league, throw some bullpen sessions with a veteran coach in Rookie League. Warm up in the bullpen during a Single-A game. Throw warm-up pitches at the start of the inning and perform better or worse based on my warm-ups. You can’t do any of that in this game.
There’s also no coaching in the game. Your only interactions with the unseen team manager come from emails he sends you or virtual conversations you have where you can complain about playing time or ask to be traded – but you never actually “do” any of this. It’s all simulated and displayed as text.
I know what it means to be asking for so much more – but at least the AAA stadiums would be a nice touch. And put the coaches in the game for Christ’s sake. Playing the career mode is amazingly repetitive as it stands. I don’t feel like I’m really part of the experience, just along for the ride.
Exhibition mode is a good bet – there’s a great arcade feel to the gameplay. Batting can be a bitch though. Just learn how to time it correctly.
Overall, MLB 08 is a visually appealing high-def title with just enough holes to keep consumers buying it year after year.