MLB: The Show series has been ever so close to being spectacular for many years. The game has always had one or two elements that has kept it from moving even or ahead of the 2K competition. With that said, Sony has pulled out all the stops in attempts to pull ahead of MLB 2Kxx for the title of best ball game around.
This year SCEA added a Home Run Derby and Catcher's Point of View to their library of neat add-ons to their ongoing baseball series.
Would it be enough to pull ahead and steal second? Or will they simply be out at the plate? Let's play ball to find out.
Home run presentation!
If you've played the MLB: The Show series in the past then you'll benefit in appreciating what SCEA has done in MLB 10: The Show. Let's get the goodies out of the way first.
You won't find a more gorgeous looking baseball game on the market outside of MLB 10: The Show. MLB 2K10 couldn't touch it when it comes to visuals. The player models are some of the finest I've ever seen outside of watching a Reds game in person. The facial features are meticulously constructed and not simply slapped on to a wireframe. Unlike its rival, you'll find facial expressions of frustration, seriousness and almost every kind of emotion that you can think of when it comes to a baseball player. The faces are smooth, the motions are smooth, there aren't any jagged edges on the models. Even the clothes that the baseball players are wearing flow beautifully when they move. Think about how 2K bragged about the jersey movement in the first new generation game of NBA 2K. Multiply that thought times ten, divide it by 400 and subtract it by 0. What you get is nothing less than the most gorgeous baseball game around.
Equally as impressive is the construction of all the stadiums in the game. For example, when I'm at Great American Ballpark, everything is alive like the real thing (minus the fans because they don't show up as much as they should -- sorry, that's in real life). The steam towers mimicking the riverboat bellowing with steam at the top. The river in the background flows nicely. The crowd is randomly rowdy and shows some sort of emotion when the Reds are up or hitting really well. When you hit a foul ball and it skirts up to the bleachers you will have fans hanging over trying to get the ball; that is damn cool!
Anyway, the entire presentation of the game is probably the strongest point it has and that's not necessarily a bad thing. When I played MLB 2K10 after this one I simply felt ill knowing that people were getting a visual raw deal with it. SCEA took the PS3 to a new level with the presentation in this game.
A little bit shaky
Now visuals aside, the gameplay hasn't changed much from MLBs in the past and that's a good/bad thing. It's good because you'll be familiar with the pitching meter that has accompanied the previous PSP and Playstation 2/3 version of the game. You'll be able to jump right into things and fully get the experience you were expecting. For me the pitching meter is fun and easy to use. Choosing a pitch and choosing the power/speed at throwing the pitch is something that is extremely easy to pick up.
The flip side to that coin is the batting. I felt like the batting was too much of a task, even when the difficulty was decreased (I'm not ashamed). To bat in MLB 10: The Show you have to either trust your eyes or guess the pitch the pitcher is going to throw you. Either way, there's a 25-40% chance you're going to hit the ball. Even worse is that you can hit X to make contact with the pitch or hit square and attempt to smash the ball. Each method depends on your batter and how they are used. For example, Joey Votto is a power hitter. Most of the time I tried to hit the ball with Votto using the square. While the chance of getting on base is lowered, the best contact between bat and ball means that I have a high percentage of hitting the ball out of the park. Regretfully, I rarely hit the ball out of the park with my power hitter and rarely made contact. Guessing the pitch was nice, but it was not as helpful as it has been in the past. I'm not sure what has changed, but I've done better on the PSP version of the same batting system then I did with this version of the system on the Playstation 3.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to bash the system that is place, I just wish I had a bit more control over guessing the pitches and how the bat reacted when I swung it. Don't worry, it's a flawed system in the MLB 2K10 game, so don't give up on this one. If you can get around and find some sort of middle ground when it comes to hitting then this may not be a problem for you. For me, I just was so frustrated.
New additions to this year game, outside of visuals and mechanics, start with a new catcher mode and the Home Run Derby. There is also a Futures Game feature that is pretty cool and everything you expected. Concentrating on the other two features, let's start with the catcher mode.
For some of us out there, the catcher mode brought back some memories. Having been a catcher in a baseball league when I was younger, it was cool revisiting the method. Having the ability to judge pitches and call them is something that only the most precise baseball fanatics would be able to accomplish. The mode is simply stunning and I love what SCEA did with it. I'm happy the instituted such a brave mode, but I suspect that some people won't get it. That's okay because it's not made for everyone. As for the Home Run Derby, I found it much better than the MLB 2K10 version. The hitting suddenly gets easier and the camera tracking of the ball is highly impressive. If you hit it 400ft or just 90ft, the camera will track the progress of the ball. I know what you're thinking, "Really? You found that impressive?" Well, yeah I did. When you play both games you'll understand why that is impressive and you'll understand that the hitting mechanics are a lot tighter for the Home Run Derby in MLB 10: The Show then the other game.
Oh yeah, enjoy the atmosphere of the Home Run Derby as well. If you have 5.1 running from your PS3 you'll find yourself completely immersed in the cheering crowd. Simply stunning for the ears.
Online and a little choppy
I had skipped a year reviewing the MLB: The Show (someone else did last year) and didn't get a chance to play the online setup they had. If this was a reflection of last years efforts all I can say is 'bravo!'. I had no idea that you join a league of fellow fans (Reds fans -- not ashamed) and played online games against other players. I didn't know the intricate depth of the online play that SCEA had setup until this year's version of the game. I was impressed during the setup of the online experience and even more so when I didn't have to hear a 10-year old cussing me out while I was getting it handed to me.
Folks, the setup of online play for MLB 10: The Show is simply unrivaled as its visuals.
Setup aside, I was experiencing some major lag issues when I was playing online games. In my defense I tried this two-three times on an insanely fast network and got the same results. I would say it was my network, but I tried MLB 2K10 and had zero problems with it. I'm not sure if I just got online at the wrong time or what, but I had all sorts of lagging experience with online play. I literally had no idea where my pitches were going and how fast/powerful they were coming in on most at bats. Again, this is due to the lagging online play. It was a frustrating experience, but I'm sure it will be ass-kicking nice once the bugs are worked out.
No salary cap for the value of this game
Between this game and MLB 2K10, I have to say that serious baseball fans should go with MLB 10: The Show. SCEA had no intention of making an inferior product this year and they loaded it up with all sorts of goodies to make the truest of baseball fans happy. Comparing the two games I would say that this one takes every aspect of the game extremely serious and expects you to be at the top of your game when you're playing. Sure MLB 2K10 is offense friendly, but if you've ever experienced a game, and you're not a Yankee's fan, then you understand that scoring 14-17 hits a game simply isn't realistic. SCEA forces you to appreciate the game of baseball at its finest and most realistic; as baseball fans you should appreciate the effort.
For these things the game is worth the price of admission. The different modes and newly added modes make the frustration worth the emotional roller coaster ride.