Review: MLB 08: The Show

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It’s baseball season time again and Sony has released another baseball game for their PS3 and PSP systems. I haven’t played a decent baseball game since the Triple Play PS2 days. The MLB 2K series never really caught my fancy. So when I was given a chance to review this PSP version of MLB: The Show, I took it.

This game offers a lot of options, modes and customizations. I was impressed with all the things you can do with this game. Sure you have your Season mode, but you also have Exhibition, Career, Manager, King of the Diamond and the Homerun Derby modes. You can also play online against others using a network connection. You can download the MLB Live Rosters, check the MLB news, check a Live broadcast of MLB games in progress and you can even check your mail. This game has everything.

The look of MLB 08 is pretty impressive for a handheld. The batters and pitchers look and animation is very well. Your batter has many different stances and lots of bat waggle animations that are authentic to their MLB players. The stadiums are also beautifully crafted and represent the real things with all the necessary details we come to expect. Everything from running, fielding, catching, throwing and dive for ground balls are animated with the utmost care it seems. The only things that aren’t really impressive were the crowd and the players faces. There’s really not much detail on the players face at all, but with a screen this small, that’s kind of expected. Still, there are some frame issues and flickering with the crowd and when the action hits the field. It’s not overly serious, but still a bit distracting. They got the physics right with the baseball though. You’ll hit many type of shots into the field. I’ve seen line drives, curving foul balls that just miss the foul pole and homerun bombs to the bleachers. Fielding is also pretty smooth, but sometimes the action jump to the field so quickly you can’t react quick enough to get your player in position to make the play.

Sound effect were pretty average to me. From the crack of the bat to the ball hitting the mitt, it’s all there just like the other games. The commentary is very well done as they comment on every play on the field. It sounds almost like the real thing. Sometime the timing is off between the umpire and the ball being pitched across the plate or hit for a foul. The music is a mix bag of hip-hop, rock, rap and the usually baseball tunes. The good thing is you can actually import you own music from your memory stick in your PSP. So you can hear your own favorite tunes during the menu options and pause screens. It’s a nice touch. The crowd cheers and jeers are right on the money and helps to get you into the game.

MLB 08: The Show is one of the best playing baseball games on the market. The batter/pitching duel is where it’s at. You can chose to use the old classic pitcher control or the new pitching controls. That goes for batting as well. With the new pitching there is a circular power bar (similar to golf games) that you have to time for the power and accuracy. With the classic pitching, you just select your type of pitch, choose the location and throw the ball. With the batting you can now influence the hit to make it a grounder, a fly ball or a bunt to 1st or 3rd base. One of the nice options is the ability to analyze the pitcher and batter tendencies. Just click the “left tab” button to get in-depth pitching information like strikeouts, misses, hits and percentages of each category. It’s a wealth of information right at your finger tips.

With the P.B.P. each batter is now tracked on whether they are on a hot streak or cold as ice at the plate. Depending on how well you do at the plate, your batter will be evaluated with colored icons. Red icons means your hot, while a dark blue icon means your cold and should probably be benched. Once the ball is in play, it’s time to run and field the ball. Playing the field is fun when the camera is working properly. Sometimes the camera is to slow or fast to show the field and it’s hard to react in time to get the ball. Throwing to the bases is easy, but there are chances that you could make errors. There’s no strength bar to tell how soft or hard you are throwing the ball, so errors seem to be random.

One of the key features of MLB 08 is the “Road to the Show” mode which allows you to create a player and run them through a career that increases your ability and skills as you age and progress. Goals are set for you to complete and as you play throw the seasons, you try to complete the goals and increase your skills. Of course, there is also defensive goals as well. Performing double plays and catching fly balls will all help to complete your goals and make your player better in his career. One problem I had was when creating your player there really wasn’t enough variety of heads, body sizes or face or accessories to chose from. I was expecting at least 25-30 different parts each, but only found 5-6, which is bad.

Of course with the bad, comes the good. You can now save your game at anytime. Just pause the game and save it and you can come back and complete the game from exactly where you left off. This is a wonderful option and every sports game (are you listening 2K Sports) should have this option in their game.

Overall MLB 08: The Show is a wonderful baseball game with lots of modes, features, detailed info and baseball fun. It has everything a baseball fan wants in a video game and then some. If you want baseball action on the go, I highly recommend picking this one up. You won’t be disappointed.

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