Name: MLB 08: The Show
Genre: Baseball Simulator
Platform: Playstation 3
Last year’s installment of Sony’s MLB simulator franchise, The Show, was a competent, if not spectacular offering that gave stat-hounds and fence-swingers alike something to hope for from the future. This year, Sony took everything that worked from 07, polished it to a high sheen, and added enough new to make this the best baseball option for the PS3.
Not a whole lot has changed from last year as far as gameplay goes. The three click pitching system is intact and still performs admirably. Batting controls are similar as well, though the whole affair seems to have gotten tighter and more responsive than last year. The real improvements come in the form of batter/pitcher dynamics, Progressive Batter Performance and Adaptive Pitching intelligence systems. These, combined with the awesome stat-tracking abilities of the game, do an amazing job of simulating the ups and downs that players inevitable feel during a rigorous 162-game season.
Graphically, The Show is an absolute masterpiece. Players look like their real-life counterparts to an almost creepy degree. Baseball fans will easily be able to tell who is coming up to bat without peeking at their name, just by looking at their faces. Everything from Jason Giambi’s HGH-inflated cranium to Ryan Howard’s freaky cauliflower-nose is perfectly rendered here, and the subtle but effective lighting effects bring every feature to stunningly realistic life. Fabric animation, which is so prominent in baseball games, is the best I’ve ever seen, hands down. Players’ pants and jerseys ripple and flow with such uncanny realism that you’ll find yourself distracted from the actual game because you’re watching the folds on A-Rod’s jersey. Everything looks amazing in motion, as well, with player animations that are so convincing, you could easily mistake the game for an actual MLB broadcast from a distance. Tiny details like batters’ eyes following pitches and player-specific batting and running help round out what is without question the best looking baseball game ever.
From an audio standpoint, The Show shines almost as brightly as it does visually. Every crack of the bat, slap of leather and slide into second is extremely well done, making great use of Dolby ProLogic sound. Even the commentators, usually a weak link for baseball games, is enjoyable and impressive, with very little repetition and spot-on commentary that rarely feels out of place.
Being a true simulator doesn’t prevent MLB 08: The Show from being a full-featured game with plenty of game types. In addition to exhibition mode, you’ll be able to play through a 1 or 2-player season, an incredibly deep franchise, and equally deep manager mode, or Road To The Show mode. This play type lets you create your own player, then challenges you to struggle your way from the Minors to the Bigs, playing from your player’s perspective on both offense and defense. This will probably take up most of your playing time, as you try to achieve the myriad goals presented to you to increase your player’s stats. It’s RPG-style baseball, and it’s done extremely well.
Regardless which mode you choose, you’ll be treated to an extraordinarily realistic baseball experience with more stat tracking than just about any game ever. Everything from a batter’s tendencies against left-handed NL relief pitchers to errors by position per 9 innings is available here, and it’s all accessible from in-game, allowing you to micro-manage your strategies to your heart’s content. For players that just want to play 9 innings without worrying about things like infield shifts and righty-lefty matchups, you will not be disappointed either. The core gameplay is so solid that you won’t feel like you’re being punished for not paying attention to every nuance the game has. There really is something for just about everyone here.
There’s no Home-Run Derby mode, season and franchise modes are limited to 2 players, and there’s occasional minor issues with players clipping through each other. Other than that, though, this game is exactly what hardcore and casual baseball fans are looking for. It’s always nice when you have to search for a reason not to give a game a 10, and this is one of those happy occasions. Highly recommended for anyone even remotely interested in the sport, sports games in general, or even games in general. It’s that good.