Opening Day of the 2010 MLB season is just twenty-four hours away as I write this. A few weeks ago, Nathan Stevens reviewed the newest MLB offering from 2K Sports and from SCEA for the PS3. In the meantime, I've spent some time with MLB 10: The Show for the PSP. While not as full featured as its PS3 cousin, the PSP version offers a solid and well rounded single player MLB experience for any gamer looking to take their baseball sim action on the road. The biggest issue with this year though has got to be the lack of online connectivity, something that last year's version had.
Welcome To The Show
First, let me admit that I'm not a big baseball fan. I can appreciate the traditions of America's Game and it does make for some decent late night TV, but my personal interest in the sport is limited. I have played several baseball video games over the years though, dating back to Great Baseball on the Sega Master System. I played The Show last year too, but, never got hooked enough to play through a season. So, while I might not catch all of the nuances with this year's version, I do feel confident in saying it's a complete and sound sim.
Let's start by taking a look at the available modes. Like most sports titles, MLB 10: The Show for the PSP offers multiple ways for fans to get their baseball fix. All modes are available at first start, and they include: Exhibition, Manager Mode, Road to The Show, Season, Home Run Derby, and Quick Play. There is also an Ad-Hoc mode for local play with a friend, but no Online mode so there won't be any internet games or even roster updates which is a pretty big deal.
Anyway, Quick Play takes you immediately to the team select screen so that you can pick your team and that of the CPU and get right to it. Exhibition is basically the same. Manager Mode is pretty cool, and I found it and the Home Run Derby to be a good way to take a break from playing Exhibitions and Season games. In Manager Mode, players pick their team and adjust their line-ups. Then, you can choose between a variety of Stadiums, including Spring Training, Team, Minor League, and Classic Stadiums. From there, it's up to you to just sit back and play manager. That means in between at bats, you can adjust your strategies relating to pitching, catching, and batting. You can adjust your catcher's field of view, or bring in a relief pitcher, and so forth. I found it to be an involving, but less 'stressful' mode of play than taking every pitch or at bat.
The Road to The Show Mode is neat in that you create your own player. You're given control to choose from dozens of options like height, age, weight, batting hand, clothing, stances, and so forth. Several attribute points are available to spend on your player's skills, too. That done, you enter the draft and go through Spring Training. The Cleveland Indians apparently were in need of a 45 year old, 6'9" 285lb pitcher, which I thought was pretty hilarious. Anyway, I liked that the game takes you from situation to situation within a game -- bringing you in only when you're actually called up to play. Challenges, like getting a ground out or keeping the other team from getting on base, are thrown at you at each situation. Success will earn you points at the game's conclusion, failure takes points away from you.
Season Mode is exactly as it sounds, giving the player the chance to take their team through an entire season. I've not played an entire season, but the usual options are here, including sim'ing games, trades, injuries, and so on. Finally, the Home Run Derby Mode is all about slugging as many balls out of the field as possible, just like the Derby that takes place during the All-Star Break. It's simple and fun enough, but I didn't find too much reason to keep going back to it.
In all of these modes of play, the same basic control scheme is used. If you've played baseball titles before, you'll get accustomed to these quickly. The four face buttons correspond to different pitch types, like Slider, Curve, Fastball. They also map to the four bases in throwing situations. There are options to pick off a player trying to steal a base, intentional balls -- and yes, you can intentionally hit the batter too. From the batting perspective, you can guess pitches, check swing, power swing with Square, execute a sacrificial bunt -- all that good stuff. The controls are nicely laid out for you in the Options. Better yet, the Game Tips screens from the Main Menu go over Pitching, Batting, Baserunning, and Fielding, and reference the commands accordingly. While I'm not a baseball video game aficionado, I feel confident in saying the controls felt responsive and well laid out.
Gamers with music on their PSP can also disable the included soundtrack in exchange for a custom soundtrack. Further customization can be had with the ability to edit rosters and tweak gameplay settings. From a presentation perspective, The Show looks and sounds just fine for a PSP title. No, I don't think the visuals will blow you way, but the animations are fluid and technically sound. The commentary is excellent as well and includes the same crew that we've come to know from The Show.
With that, let's get to the summary...