In baseball, there are purists and fanatics. The first group pours over box scores like a treasure map and can tell you which brand of cleats Jose Canseco prefers to wear when playing. The second group just likes to drink beer and give the ump the finger.
Yet, incredibly, Sony's MLB '06 The Show might appeal to both groups. You can start out as a rookie and work your way through the extensive Career mode over multiple seasons, and there are mid-season trades and line-up tweaking, plus some new mini-games.
Then again, if all you care about is players crashing into each other and hitting line-drive home runs, it has that too. The first time you see Victor Martinez do a somersault after catching a bunt, you'll know that Sony and 989 Sports have scored a big one.
Last year, MLB 2005 made baseball both fun and accurate. MLB '06 The Show goes a step further. Well, okay: make that 18 steps further. This is the kind of game where you can set the food prices for the stadium hot-dog stand. Other baseball games over history have figured a Franchise mode meant multiple seasons, and that's it. MLB '06 is not of that school.
MLB '06 has a new "game time decision" system in which you have to decide whether to bench a slightly injured shortstop or whether that hot Cuban prospect is ready for primetime. And this is not just frosting on the cake: good decisions in Franchise mode lead to more wins; bad decisions get you fired. Thankfully, most options are truly optional - you can just let the computer decide the best course of action for you.
Of course, all this gameplay would only appeal to the accountants out there if the pitching and batting interfaces were too arcane. 989 Sports has nailed it again. Both are a bit like a golf interface: you have to position your throw or time your swing just so, and hit the buttons at the right moments when an indicator is arcing through an onscreen meter. But it's not overly difficult, which should satisfy just about everyone.
Maybe MVP 06 NCAA Baseball has a bit more of a punch with its analog stick control, but MLB '06 is more rewarding for two reasons. One, it has the pro players. Two, if you get everything lined up, you will definitely smack one out of the park. Take all this finesse and arcade action online, and MLB '06 gets even better, with tournaments and leader boards to boot. Overall, it's one of the best baseball games ever, on any platform.