When EA and 2K Sports decided to both try to corner portions of the market a few years back by purchasing exclusive licenses for the NFL and MLB respectively, you can imagine gamers’ disappointment. One thing that I always loved was to see who could bring out the better game, and looking at baseball, I was sorely disappointed with the output of 2K Studios. I had been longing for that baseball game that made me feel like I felt when I used to play MLBPA Baseball on the SNES console. I just wanted a game where I felt that pure joy that really captured baseball for the game that it is.
Last year we got our first in quite some time: MLB 08: The Show on the Playstation 3 console. This year The Show is back, but will it give you that warm fuzzy feeling all over again, or is it just another game to throw on the pile of disappointments.
MLB: The Show has been known for many things over the past couple of years, but one thing that you can’t deny is that it has been an amazing graphical accomplishment. This year is no different; the game looks amazing. The player models are out of this world, the animations, especially some of the additions like players’ diving and throwing motions make this one of the best-looking on the market.
The stadiums, as well, look great; from the crowd to the umpires everything just comes to life in MLB 09. It is vital to a game such as baseball that the timing is right, so having frame rate issues can kill a baseball game, but MLB 09 runs at a blazing smooth 60 FPS. MLB 09’s looks didn’t change a ton, but as the old saying goes, "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it."
Probably the single most important part of any game is gameplay, but in baseball it is impeccable that you nail it. Baseball is such an intricate game that if you don’t get it right, you can really dampen the experience and for a baseball enthusiast — enough to make a person turn around and sell it right after buying it. There will be no selling MLB 09. The game is one of the most accurate representations that you can get in a sports video game. MLB 09 was made smart; the AI is great, knowing where to go with the ball and challenging the player to think while playing.
The pitching and batting mechanics might feel a little dated, being a button-controlled system and I do think that giving players the option of an analog stick mechanic might be a nice addition to make the game feel a little fresh, while keeping what traditionalists like. Personally, I like the controls and feel like they are very responsive and accurate. I think that while it might not be as revolutionary as using the right thumbstick, it is a proven system that works. The fielding is spot-on; the only complaint is that the ball can get lost a bit sometimes as it scoots through the infield.
Sound is where the game falters the most. The game chatter and crowds are great and the sound effects are also top notch, but the commentary is where the game feels like a broken record. The game’s commentary has changed zero percent from the previous year. In a game like this there is no excuse for zero new lines being recorded. I also experienced an echoing effect with the commentary that was very annoying.
Aside from that blunder the game is great. "Road to the Show" is back and better than ever with more challenges, and a fun, as well as different, take on baseball. It’s difficult but a ton of fun and hugely increases the replay values. Not only can you take your franchise through the ropes of a grueling season, but you can also now take it online. The online modes also work better than in last year’s game, which was plagued by router compatibility issues, and I was actually able to get online and play. That’s great, because online has so much to offer.
Overall, MLB 09: The Show is one of the best sports games yet again. We haven’t even seen the basketball or football games yet this year, but after playing MLB 09 I can see this game easily winning sports game of the year awards. MLB 09 is a must-play if you’re a sports fan and own a PS3.