MLB 08: The ShowESRB:
Platform: PlayStation 2
Developer: SCE Studios San Diego
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
1-2 players online (network adapter required)
PS2 Memory card save 1389 KB
Analog control/ vibration function
USB /headset/ Keyboard
While I’m a hardcore Hockey lover I occasionally like to try some of the other sports videogames out there. As I look outside my window I can’t help but reflect that it is spring time and baseball is just getting started with 08-09 season. To coincide with the new Major League Baseball season Sony is bringing its strong running series to the PS2 with MLB 08: The Show. I keep thinking the PS2 is really going to fall by the way side as the PS3 gains momentum, but it continues to roll along with some really fantastic titles, and of course a huge installed base. So how does the 08 version of The Show fair?
While everybody raves about the visual advancements that the next-generation sports games feature, the PS2 still does a fine job of looking good. In MLB 08: The Show you won’t be getting the more life-like representations of the players that you can get on its more powerful successor but you still get a good looking game. The Show features the great presentation that most have come to expect from this baseball series. The menus have even gotten a good makeover too, giving them a nice fluid look and feel. Player models are strong and some of the new animations make the game seem quite life like. There are some texture and aliasing issues which show the graphic engine’s age, not to mention the PS2 age, but overall the game looks fine. Technically speaking the game’s framerate was consistent with very little in the way of clipping or pop in. I was pleasantly surprised with the on-screen visuals and I give kudos to the developers for not resting on their laurels and just releasing a generic update, instead they have made a pretty good looking PS2 sports game.
For me sound is a quite a big issue when it comes to gaming. A surround sound set-up for almost all of the next-generation titles is a must and if my choice in games doesn’t utilize it then I’m just not happy. Fortunately, the makers of MLB 08: The Show have obliged us with a fantastic surround sound experience on the PS2. The game includes some good environmental sounds. From the occasional heckling of fans razzing players to the sound of a vendor in the stands selling food, there are several background noises that the surround sound picks up to make you feel like you are in the ballpark for real. As for the rest of the sounds of the game, from the ball player’s chatter, a bat’s crack, a glove’s thud with the sound of a 100 mile per hour fastball hitting the leather, all are very impressive sounds indeed. The noises of baseball are faithfully recreated as if you were really in the park on a sunny afternoon.
The MLB 08 commentary trio gives the game yet another authentic feel with the in game play-by-play duties. Rex Hudler, Matt Vasgersian and Dave Campbell seem to know the game very well and are never really repetitive and boring. That being said although I’m sure with longer games or a full season you are bound to hear some repeated phrases and anecdotes.
As for the musical soundtrack in MLB 08: The Show, it isn’t quite so diverse. In fact the number of songs is pretty limited, thus it becomes rather repetitive over time. The Ramones, Hot Hot Heat, and War are just a few of the bands to grace the soundtrack, so if you are fan of any of these artists having to listen to them over and over again may not be an issue. However should you start to feel annoyed with the music in the game you do have the option to toggle it off completely in the jukebox section in the menu.
Last year the Road to the Show mode proved to be an addictive mode that concentrated the career mode onto one single player. This mode had a few small bugs and downsides that have been addressed in the 08 version. This year the coach now gives more variety in goals during games and can even ask for defensive adjustments for double plays and such. You also now earn points afterwards based on what you did in the game and for continuing streaks. While it may sound like you’ll be swimming in points to upgrade attributes, the point totals have been toned down overall so that you don’t become a godly player by the end of your first season. The greatest new change are the new examination goals, where your superiors ask you to reach certain statistical and attribute goals in a certain number of series for a chance to move to a starting position or be called up to the big leagues.
Also new this year is the Progressive Batting Performance feature. This rewards players for superior performance and penalizes them for slumps. Specific to each individual hitter, players will be rewarded or punished based on how that batter performs beyond his “natural ability” while under user control. The Progressive Batting Performance is only used in the Season and Road to the Show modes and just adds more depth and realism to the game. A big part of, and well publicized aspect of Major League Baseball, are players who are either hot or in some serious cold streaks. With the Progressive Batting Performance it is nice to see who is hot and who is cold when facing opposing batters.
There are several levels of difficulties in the game, four to be exact. I spent the majority of my season in veteran, as the increased difficulties were just a little too hardcore for me. Rookie mode is not as easy as it was last year either. Another great addition this year, which also shows Sony is listening to their fans, is in-game saves. Nothing is more frustrating then when you are playing a tight game in the bottom of the fifth and you have to turn the game off for whatever reason. This year you can save in game at any time and pick up where you left off at later date. It is a great addition to say the least and hopefully an addition that will quickly become a main stay.
In terms of how the game itself plays, The Show will feel right at home for anyone that has played the 07 version. The pitching is still meter-based, but with the addition of arrows to your cursor. This gives you a bit more precision in you pitches now that you can see how the ball may dip and or break in mid-air. Batting uses the tried-and-true formula of using the x and square buttons to hit. This is in stark contrast to the trend of other sports games moving away from button pressing and relying more on the analog sticks on the controllers. I thought it felt a bit weird to use buttons as many other developers out there really are trying to use the analog sticks for swinging motions. It took me sometime to adjust to it but I am sure veterans of the series will have zero problems. Fielding also has a few new tweaks. It allows for pressure-sensitive throws and a much better gauge for robbing homeruns. Also players will notice the ability to move before the pitch, which is a much needed gameplay tweak. Base running is still pretty much standard fair, the control felt crisp and tight with great response time from the player indicated. Overall, the gameplay feels great, and for a virtual novice such as myself easy to pick up.
The Road to the Show mode has a deep franchise mode along with the season, manager, and other modes you’d expect to see. Online still plays a huge part in MLB 08: The Show with leagues, a new matchmaker system for finding similar opponents, MLB news, and great weekly roster updates and slider downloads that nobody else seems to be willing to try out. Weekly updates are fantastic as they allow you to keep your team and league up to date with the real world of baseball. I can only hope that this kind of updating will catch on and maybe some of the other sports games on the market will utilize it as well.
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