Thanks to the “miracles” of modern chemistry, Major League Baseball has been getting beaten up pretty badly in the halls of Congress and the press these days - enough to make any fan of America’s Pastime more than a little bummed. Happily, fans have reason to cheer again, as MLB 08 The Show has lit up our PS3s and reminded us why we love the game so much.
It’s no hyperbole to call The Show the best baseball game of its generation. Between the beautiful visuals, buttery-smooth gameplay, tight controls, and obnoxiously full plate of statistics to help you navigate the notoriously punishing rigors of a 162-game season, there are virtually no chinks in 08’s armor. And don’t even get us started about the utterly awesome Road To The Show mode.
Too bad - we can’t help ourselves. Baseball’s best RPG returns, tweaked and tuned to be better than ever with more realistic rewards for “bigger picture” successes. Say you’re a pitcher who’s tasked with inducing a ground ball but instead you manage to force the batter to pop out. Last year, that would’ve been viewed as an abject failure; this go-round, you’ll still get some critical points out of the deal.
The deliciously intense competition to claw your way to the big leagues is unparalleled, and agonizing over which player attributes to improve during your career is wonderfully stressful. While we do still find some aspects of Road slightly annoying (especially the virtually inhuman spring training you’ll need to catch on with a major league club), it’s an all-consuming addiction that can quickly take over your life. And we mean that in the best way possible.
So many details are nailed just right we fell in love with The Show just a bit more with each game we played. Player faces are recreated with loving accuracy, while subtle nuances such as the flying lumber of a shattered bat sheared by a nasty cutter bring plenty of realism to the virtual diamond. You even see the ongoing construction of the Mets’ future home rising beyond the walls of Shea Stadium, something that easily could’ve been left on the cutting-room floor.
Small, nagging issues do pop up now and again - players will magically teleport through each other on the basepaths, the menus are abysmal, and a dearth of minor league stadiums might have you believe Akron is located in the middle of the desert - but they do little to take away from The Show’s overall awesomeness.
It’s not often that competing sports franchises do an about-face from one year to the other, but this season it’s clear that The Show has surged past MLB 2K8 in almost every aspect. Other than playing it safe by leaving the controls the same as always (2K gets kudos for introducing all-new pitching and throwing mechanics), The Show blows the doors off of the competition. It’s still good to be a baseball fan after all.
March 7, 2008