Hey Joe - You're in The Show
If you've read any of my past reviews, you know I'm in love Sony's MLB The Show franchise. That being said, I'll be fair... I hope.
Ah, yes...MLB The Show. For the past several years, it's been the go-to game for baseball simulation. Competitors have not only produced worse games - they've been viewed as abject failures mainly because Sony's simulator has been so very good.
Warm cookies and milk good. Sapphire and tonic good. ...and as addicting as the white powder.
This year's iteration takes an "if it ain't broke - don't fix it" approach by building on what was already a stellar offering in 2009. Animations have been streamlined, small game features have been updated and tweaked, a couple game modes (such as Home Run Derby) have been added and a future Hall of Famer named Joe Mauer took away the cover from the east-coast pretty boy club.
The menus and game modes all lay out very similarly to past versions. The Franchise mode is back along with Road to the Show (RTTS). With the return of RTTS I was surprised very little has changed since 09. Added is a "Catcher Mode" which allows the player to call pitches. I would have liked to have seen some more additions to this mode, like a "frame the pitch" minigame or a game to throw out base-stealers. That being said, RTTS sucked me in again for another career and the experience was once again amazing. Franchise mode is as developed as ever. Not much changed there either, although not much needed to be tinkered with. One big addition in the Home Run Derby, which is a fun mini-game to play online. It's best playing against someone, as a single player version gets a little boring. The game modes are once again very deep and Sony seems to be supporting roster updates fairly often, allowing Quick Play games accurate rosters.
The stadiums are once again stunning. The detail and attention paid to even the newest addition, Target Field in Minneapolis, is remarkable. Quick sidenote: I live 3 blocks from Target Field, and I am really impressed with how well they "nailed it". The minor-league and Spring Training parks are somewhat the same from 09, with small tweaks made, but nothing major. The sounds of the park are fantastic. Having a surround-sound system will really treat the player to a very true-to-life ballpark experience. Hecklers, vendors and fanboys are captured wonderfully. Also, the option to record your own audio as part of the game returns...definitely a cool feature. The real-time weather is awesome. Mixed with the lighting and cloud features, MLB 10 The Show looks as beautiful as any baseball game built.
The gameplay is brilliant, and it was done with some great updates. With MLB 10 The Show, the player can choose to view the full game in real-time if they wish, not employing any cutscenes or skipping over areas of the game. Although only the hardcore baseball enthusiast would play in real-time, the normal game pacing employs both cutscenes and real-time animations... and it's a great look. Animations are fresh and unique. AI is spot-on, making smart decisions in most situations. The batter-pitcher experience is wonderful, as pitchers will tend to attack the batter differently as the game goes on and he's learned habits.
I mentioned that the gameplay sound is fantastic ...and it really is. The one glaring issue I see with MLB 10 The Show is the commentating. It's where MLB2K10 excels, and where The Show underwhelms. Rex Hudler color commentates with meathead phrases sandwiched in between Matt Vasgersian's tardy play by play. Dave Campbell adds some interesting points, but it's obvious the commentating is tired and needs to be updated badly.
The online play has dramatically improved this year. It's not 100% perfect, but since 09 was nearly unplayable, it's a huge improvement. A huge downside to the online component is the clunky navigation menus. Finding friends and organizing games with others is cumbersome and far too complicated. That being said, online leagues along with drafts and online matchplay are great for the diehard baseball gamer.
Where does MLB 10 The Show go from here? Up, I suppose. This past year included a lot of small tweaks and perfecting... but rest assured baseball gamers will expect more from next years game. Here's where I'd start:
-Build the RTTS mode adding more challenges, a more accurate way to gain/lose training points, and a true RPG feeling
-Add more minor league and spring training stadiums. (A blu-ray disc is huge, right? Why not add more stadiums?)
-New commentating... Time to start fresh
Beyond those points, MLB 10 The Show is a must-buy for baseball gamers. If not for last year's version, most reviewers like myself would look past it's blemishes to a perfect score. As it is, it comes awfully close.