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3/25/2008 04:12:00 PM
Review: MLB 08 The Show (PS3, PS2, PSP)
MLB 08 The Show
Reviewed By Lee Clontz
Image Credit: Sony
Things We Like
Pitchers and Catchers: The pitching and batting interfaces eschew the analog innovations shown in the MLB 2K series, feeling more like the classic High Heat PC baseball series. If you don't like pushing buttons to pitch and swing, you might find the old school methods uninteresting, but The Show's controls work well and I can't say I missed using the right analog stick. When you're batting, you guess the pitch and the location and, if you guess right, you get an onscreen cue. One button for a regular swing, one button for a power swing, one button for a bunt. It's simple to learn, difficult to master and it works very well.
Mixing Things Up: The computer throws a realistic -- if confounding -- mix of strikes and balls that really makes you work the count. Swing at everything and the computer will throw you junk until you stop. If the computer has you down 0-2 in the count, you're going down if you don't protect the plate. And, for once in a video baseball game, you can actually draw walks if you're patient.
Mode Madness: This game has every mode you could possibly imagine. Quick game, career mode, franchise mode, online leagues, you name it. Outside of a Bigs-style wacky mode and a home run derby, there's hardly any way to play baseball that's missing from The Show. During the season you'll even be able to watch live games simulcast though the Sony online service. Very cool.
Modest Presentation: This isn't the most ostentatious sports game you'll ever play. It doesn't show off a lot of cinematic camera angles or close-ups of player faces, but it excels where it counts. Players move like their real-life counterparts and the animations are varied and detailed. Best of all, the frame rate is rock solid and the camera is almost always perfect. There's not a lot of pizzazz in the presentation, but what's there is very well-executed. The play-by-play is, like most baseball games, fun for a while, but repetitive after a dozen games. Ditto the soundtrack.
Control Issues: The controls are complicated and take advantage of every button on the PS3 controller, making the learning curve of the game fairly high. If you're new to the franchise, you'll need a dozen or more games under your belt before you're totally comfortable with the baserunning, and even then you'll screw up plenty until the controls become second nature. That said, they're responsive and feel good once you've got the hang of them.
On the Road Again: The Road to the Show mode is highly addictive and brilliantly executed. You create your player, assign him a position, accept and negotiate a contract, then work your way through the minors, waiting to get called up. Performing critical plays earns you points that you can apply toward training your player. The novel aspect of RttS mode is that you only play when you are actually involved in the game. If you're a pinch hitter, you'll play a single at-bat. If you're a shortstop, you'll play when there's a grounder hit your way. The sense of playing on a real team is palpable and the tension when you're on third, hoping to get driven home, is an experience I haven't had in a baseball game before.
Pick up the Pacing: If you're looking for a quick game, you won't find it here. A nine-inning game can easily take 45 minutes to an hour, but that's more a testament to the game's realism than to sloppy pacing. You can easily skip nearly all of the post-swing animations and, fortunately, you can save mid-game. Definitely not a game for the impatient, though you can have 15 minute blocks of fun with your Road to the Show character.
Check out The Show in action:
Things We'd Change
Microsoft Box Office: This game doesn't give the best first impression. First you have to wait a few minutes for it to cache itself, then you have to accept a license agreement -- a process which failed for me the first time and forced me to restart. I tried a second time and everything went well, but I've been presented with the same license agreement on three separate occasions now, and it's getting annoying.
Load to the Slow: Despite the installation process, the load times are tediously long and, unlike the 2k baseball series, there's no effort made to mask them with pregame cinematics. The Road to the Show mode is also dragged down by the lengthy pause between plays which can turn a simple pinch-hit appearance into a lengthy series of loading screens. When you're only pinch-hitting, sometimes you wait a minute or two for a loading screen, get a single at-bat, then have an end-game loading screen before you can go into your next game. That requires yet another set of loading screens.
Bad Vibrations: Since the DualShock 3 hasn't made its way into the U.S. yet, the lack of vibration-aided pitching is a disappointment. It works as is, but working the edges of the plate is easier and more fun with vibration.
You Fial at Documentation: I know no one reads manuals, but a game this complicated needs a more complete manual. The training interface in the "Road to the Show" mode is confusing and the game is littered with bewildering icons and navigation that can be more frustrating than fun. There's also a spelling error in the manual ("apllicable" on page 18), which is pretty embarrassing in 2008.
You Get What You Pay For: If you're accustomed to the niceties of Xbox Live, you'll probably be frustrated and confused by the (admittedly free) Sony network. It works, but the interface is baffling and lacks the polish of the 360's unified offering.
If you're a baseball fan and you own a PS3, this is a must-buy. Aside from the load times (which, it must be said, are pretty awful), this is the best baseball game in years. Whether you're looking to run a franchise, build up a character through the minors, or just play a simple exhibition game, The Show is a winner. It looks great. It plays great. It's a blast.