MLB '07: The ShowESRB:
Developer – SCE San Diego Studios
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment
Online Play (Infrastructure)
To kick-off the start of the 2007 baseball season, Major League Baseball on the PSP returns with MLB 07: The Show. Last year's version received a positive review from our Editor-in-Chief and he passed the review duties for the newest iteration to me. After having played the 06 version for hours upon end last year I was extremely excited to see what this year's version of the franchise had to offer. At the end of the day, MLB 07: The Show is much like last years edition, however the upgrades and improvements are quite significant which' in my opinion, makes MLB 07: The Show the best Major League Baseball game on any portable gaming device to date.
Clearly the “if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it” approach was taken with MLB 07: The Show for the PSP in terms of the visuals as much of it looks the same as last year’s version of the franchise. Nevertheless, when you have such a great foundation, and it is already one of the best portable ball games around, why make drastic changes. The following visuals really stood out for me:
- The player models look good and batting stances are very similar to
their real-life counterpart;
- The big league stadiums look great on the PSP’s LCD screen; and
- The player movements are surprisingly smooth and realistic.
Similar to last year, the player models are very good in MLB 07: The Show. For instance, many of your favorites such as Ryan Howard, David Ortiz and Derek Jeter all pretty much look and hit like their real-life counterparts. Given the limitations of the PSP, the player graphics are obviously not as good as on a next-generation console, nevertheless it is the best you will have seen on a portable gaming system and the players are very recognizable when up to bat. In other words, you won’t have to wait for the PA announcer to call out the players name if you are familiar with MLB players.
The stadiums once again are bang on and look exactly like the big league stadiums in the majors. For instance, Fenway Park's dimensions look bang on; including that problematic area in left center and the green monster is there in all its glory. The scoreboards in the outfields and the bullpens all are look great and certainly add to the superb visual gameplay experience. Also of note is the grass, which is perfectly manicured in every way, and it certainly stood out for me.
Another area I was very impressed with was the player movements. All in all they are very sharp and quite realistic. The pitcher wind-up and throw is done to perfection while the in-field and outfielders all move very smoothly. They dive as they should and step into throwing the ball as one would expect. Even the players moving around and punching their gloves prior to the pitch all give you the feeling you are at an MLB game. As good as the player movements are there are some noticeable glitches and issues. First, sometimes players don’t react as they should. In a couple of instances my outfielder failed to go after the ball causing the baserunner to get an extra bag off his base hit. This did not occur often but when it does it’s very deflating. Also, there were some phantom outs during the game as there were a couple of instances where my players were called out when they were clearly safe.
If I was to mention any concerns it would have to be with the crowd. Spectators are very blocky and there is little detail. At some angles the crowd looks like they were cut out of cardboard. At a distance (e.g. when you are up to bat) it’s not an issue however when you hit a foul ball and the camera pans into the crowd the animations are brutal. I guess one could argue this is to be expected given the limitations of the PSP’s hardware. Negatives aside there is no doubt you will be impressed with the player movements if and when you give MLB 07: The Show a spin.
As far as the sound is concerned, MLB 07: The Show delivers. The game's sound is an excellent complement to the fantastic graphics. From the soundtrack to the commentators, MLB 07 The Show does a wonderful job at creating a baseball atmosphere.
As indicated above, the commentators Rex Hudler and Dave Campbell do a formidable job on the commentary. Having reviewed MLB 2K7 for the Xbox 360 recently, they are simply not as good as the Morgan and Miller ESPN duo, however Rex and Dave do a good job. There voices are clear and they comment on the game accurately and in a timely manner. The repetiveness is an issue at times and after a few games it does become noticeable. I found that I did not get as much insight or in-depth analysis as I hoped, however what is there is perfect for gaming on the go.
As for the rest of the sound in the game, I found that everything helped to bring a baseball game alive on the PSP. The crowd chatter is nice and the cheering is very effective. When you players hit the ball, throw a strike or get an out, the crowd reaction is enthusiastic. The organ music is great too and will even come on if you put the game on pause for an extended period of time. The music in between innings is good and upbeat and the stadium PA announcers are also a nice touch and add to the realism of the game.
The soundtrack for MLB 07: The Show is also very good and was a pleasant surprise. In all honesty I wasn’t expecting much, however when I reviewed the artists in the ‘Jukebox’ section to the menu, I was incredibly pleased. With artists such as Alexisonfire, Chevelle, Fall Out Boy, Jet, My Chemical Romance and Wolfmother, MLB 07: The Show has a fantastic soundtrack and is arguable the best of any sports title on the PSP. I even appreciate the little artist's bios and album covers. A great touch and it’s nice to see the developers invest some time and money into a quality soundtrack.
If you haven’t played MLB 06: The Show, you will be impressed with the gameplay. However if you have played last years version, the differences will not be incredibly noticeable as you get much of the same as last year with a few new additions and game modes.
MLB 07: The Show offers gamers a variety of game modes including my preference, a simple MLB season. Alright, I have to admit I did not play a full 162 game season. Sorry I just don’t have the time. However I did get a chance to play an abbreviated 29 game season. If playing a simple season is not your cup of tea, there are other modes such as Road to the Show and King of the Diamond. Road to the Show is a mode where you create a player in an effort to make the Big Show (the Major Leagues). You guide your player through spring training where he will spend some time in the minors and eventually gain a spot on a big league roster. It is not a bad mode and does offer up some great moments, but as I suggested earlier I prefer season mode. King of the Diamond is an arcade style game where you select a batter and pitcher and you go head to head against an opponents hurler and batter. The innings are timed and your pitcher only has so many seconds to get the pitch off. If you fail to pitch the ball in time, which I did on many occasions, you will serve up a ‘meat ball’ and whamo expect a home run for your opponent. Overall, it is a fun mode and a nice change of pace from your typical MLB season. I especially like how the field is laid out with all sorts of targets to aim for in this mode.
The pitching and batting mechanics are very similar again this year. Pitching requires you to select a pitch, then select a location and the meter dictates how strong and accurate your throw will be. Overall, the pitch system works well and is consistent with other MLB games available on other platforms. A noticeable addition this year is the catcher now makes a pitch recommendation. Prior to the pitch you will see an orange circle appear with a suggested pitch type. You can either go with the catcher or select your own pitch. In any event, a nice little addition and I found listening to the catcher increased some of my pitchers success. Another new addition is the pitcher confidence. If a pitch has been working well your pitchers confidence in that pitch will increase and will be more effective. This is very similar to a system you see in MLB 2K. Again, a nice addition and it adds to the gameplay strategy.
The hitting mechanics are, once again, very good and helps make MLB 07: The Show the best in the potable gaming baseball biz. It’s a simple system which will only take you a bit a time to master if you are at all familiar with baseball games. The base running is still a little difficult to manage when you have more than one player on the bases. I can’t count how many times a player advanced a base leaving me scrambling with the controls in an effort to get him to return to his original base.
As for the game itself there are several levels of difficulties, four to be exact. Rookie was a no challenge for me as my first game in rookie was a 23-2 win. That was the end of my rookie experience. I spent the majority of my seasons in veteran as I found hall of fame and all-star mode a little too difficult. Myself, I like to win and veteran allowed me to win a great deal of games while still losing some. Many of the games were close and the AI offered up a good challenge on most of the occasions. The pitching was varied and the AI fielding was quite competent. You certainly notice when you are up against a pitcher like C. Carpenter from the Cardinals compared to a Boof Bonser from the Twins.
The multiplayer component of the game is once again solid. Admittedly I did not spend a lot of time online with MLB 07: The Show, however the time I did spend was lag free and enjoyable. It also adds a number of new features including leagues where you can be the commissioner of a league that consists of up to 30 teams. You can also keep up-to-date with the latest news with a sportscast that updates the MLB ticker at the bottom of the screen. Roster updates, and customizable options are also new additions to the multiplayer content.
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