|System: PS3, PS2, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: SCE San Diego||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SONY||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 3, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Spring is in the air! It's not just the tulips sprouting or the birds chirping that gave it away either. Sony has once again released the latest iteration of their excellent baseball franchise, MLB 09: The Show. Whilst scores of players have been tooling around with Madden and FIFA, the geniuses over at SCEA San Diego have been hard at work making the tightest baseball title ever made. Of course, not a lot has changed since last year's stellar offering, but the subtle nuances are enough to make the game just a bit better and may even warrant another purchase.
For gaming sports fans who have not picked up a copy of the MLB: The Show franchise over the last three years; shame on you! You've missed out on one of the best sports titles around. What you need to know is that this game has all the bells and whistles. It is utterly authentic and perfectly playable. There are several modes of play including Practice, Quick Game, Exhibition, Road to the Show, Franchise, Season, Manager, and Rivalry. As you can imagine, Practice, Quick Game, and Exhibition help you hone your skills and get you quickly into the action. But, where the game starts to separate itself from the competition is in the other modes of play.
Road to the Show 3.0 is the latest incarnation of this exclusive mode. Gamers create a Big Leaguer, choose his position, play dolly by customizing his look, assign his skills from a limited pool of points, and then take to the diamond in an attempt to win a starting spot with the club and eventually help them through the playoffs and on to the World Series. This mode is truly awesome, as players only have to worry about their baller's impact on the team. That's because games are fast-forwarded just to the plays that involve your character, i.e. batting and making key defensive plays. Best of all, you'll constantly be put into challenging situations that test your skills. Successfully completing these goal-oriented situations will net you development points that improve your player's skills and standing with the team and in the league. New this year is the inclusion of interactive training such as batting practice that improves your character's abilities in areas such as discipline, clutch, and vision. Developing your player and making the big plays is truly rewarding and highly addictive. The only place where this mode struggles is in the incessant and lengthy load times. In fact, long loading times plague the entirety of the game, even after the mandatory seven minute initial install.
Franchise, Season, and Manager modes will have you taking complete control over the front end of the club, taking your team through an entire season, or have you making the tough calls as the skipper. All these modes offer something for everyone, no matter whether you're a more strategy or action-oriented player. Most players will find themselves favoring one mode over the others, but every offering is top-notch.
In terms of playability, MLB 09: The Show is the most realistic sports title made. Whether you're stepping up to the plate, juggling a rosin bag, or turning two, playing a game of The Show is the closest thing to actually getting onto the diamond. For starters, pitcher-batter duels are the most satisfying around. Guessing what and where the pitcher is going to throw based on past history makes batting more than just a timely press of the X or Square buttons; it's far more mental. Also, pitching isn't just a matter of selecting the right pitch and choosing the right location, the pitching meter that is actually in tune to the movements of the man on the mound makes locating pitches and painting corners quite a skillful challenge. Also, fielding and baserunning are exactly how they need to be. In other words, MLB 09: The Show is a great game of baseball every diamond nut needs to experience.
Of course, getting the hang of the controls does take some time to get used to. As straightforward and well thought out as the controls are, learning how to manipulate your slides, picking off players, influencing pop-flies and grounders, and delivering the ball to the cutoff man are all complex control mechanics. While they help separate good players from great players, they may also discourage youngsters or arcade-centric players from enjoying the whole experience. Literally, there are tens of button combinations that need to be learned in order to play this game like a real pro. Along those lines, the myriad options available for tweaking gameplay, adjusting mode settings, and customizing the experience to the individual are welcome yet nearly overkill. As such, this may not be the perfect game for everyone, despite the fact it is the perfect game of baseball.