If you’ve been following MLB games over the past few years, you might have noticed that the MLB series has been quietly stealing the show (pun intended) from other baseball offerings. Despite the ridiculous exclusive contracts that only serve to ruin gaming, Sony’s MLB series has been getting better and better with each passing season. This series made a huge turn around years ago and hasn’t looked back since.
Never a series to leave out much, MLB08 returns with several great play modes. Whether you enjoy just going through a season, managing a team from all angles and over many seasons, want to create your own player and see if you can prove yourself, then try to become a star in the bigs, this game offers it all. Improvements this year include refined batting and pitch analysis, a rob home-run indicator (it was pretty tough to line up just right in previous versions), and progressive batting performance, which tracks hitters’ performance during the season and rewards or penalizes them, depending on how well or poor they perform.
Manager mode lets you give the direction for the team. It’s a one game affair, but pretty fun nonetheless. This mode is one that lets you choose the team’s direction, every step of the way. There is no gameplay during this mode, so keep that in mind as you issue your orders.
Rivalry mode lets you pick two teams, rivals if you will. From that point, you just play a rivalry showdown. I’m not sure what else is supposed to happen with this mode, though the commentary seems to stress that it’s a “Rivalry game” about one hundred times.
The Season and Franchise modes are similar to previous years. With Season mode, you pretty much take a team through the regular season and playoffs. This is a no-frills mode, though you can still keep track of stats make various roster moves. Play this mode if you want to enjoy a season of baseball without all the fuss.
With Franchise mode, different, management/owner-based options are now present, in addition to team management options that are available in Season mode. You manage everything, from facilities like exercise equipment and prices of drinks to marketing stuff like tv ads and such to what kind of loan to take out. Additionally, various contract goals are assigned, most of which are pretty challenging and/or time consuming (Win Back to Back World Series??). Oh yeah, you also play the game of baseball here and there. If you like managing numbers and all that, Franchise mode is just for you! There are plenty of areas within this mode that will keep you busy for a long while.
The Career: Road to the Show mode is lots of fun. You create a player, pick a position, then get busy trying to prove yourself, from spring training on through the season. How well you do in situational moments (like ‘steal a base’), in addition to the entire game itself, dictates how fast your character will improve. Play well and you’ll be rewarded. It’s nice to see the point system has been changed so that you’re given a fair amount of points for doing well in a game; in the past, it seemed like you barely earned any points for a stellar game, which meant the build-up process was very drawn out. At any rate, it’s fun that base-running and defense have been included into the fast-forward mode. Overall, this mode seems pretty well refined now.
Home-run derby is as fun as it’s ever been; not much more to say about that! The King of the Diamond mode is also pretty interesting and fun. You choose one pitcher and one batter from any team, against an opposing duo. From there, it’s fast-paced, arcade style baseball, complete with timers, bonuses, and cut-outs of the fielders that, depending on where you hit the ball in relation to their position, dictate what type of ‘hit’ you get. It’s actually a fun mode and I’d encourage everyone to give it a shot. Beyond all this, the standard play modes (Season, Franchise, and Career) all offer the ability to use current, default, or saved rosters, so you can create your own rosters and use your modified players, real or created, and save them for use in these modes. Also present in these three modes is the ability to use an Eye-Toy to put your real face in the game; it’s a cool idea that I wish every game would eventually adopt! Many other options exist, so you’ll just have to find out for yourself.
When it comes to controls, MLB takes the simple approach. There are refinements to the pitcher/batter interface, but it still remains easy to negotiate (no Swing Stick mechanics like MLB 2K has). The base-running feels familiar, though manual sliding allows for many different types of slides. If you like it plain and simple, you’ll be pleased to know the controls are easy to learn and very responsive. It would be nice to see an alternate control scheme put in place for those who enjoy the Swing Stick concepts, but this basic-yet-effective format that the MLB series utilizes works very well.
The Sony MLB series has positioned itself as a solid, fairly easy to learn, realistic baseball simulation over the past few years. Not only has this not changed, but it’s been improved upon once again with this 2008 version. If you have a PS2 and like baseball, MLB08 is no doubt worth picking up. You probably won’t be hitting as many home-runs as in MLB2K8, but that’s not a bad thing, unless you’re on the juice! Many modes of play and tons of great gameplay await you; you simply will not be disappointed with this game!