Review of MLB ’08: The Show (PS3)By
It’s not often I find myself eagerly awaiting the release of a video game, but this year The Show couldn’t come out soon enough. I had read previews online, watched trailers and flipped through screenshots all winter, and I got sucked up by the hype. The game is set for official release today, but I found a mom ‘n pop joint that was selling the game early, so I managed to get my hands on a copy this past weekend.
The gameplay is relatively unchanged from the 2007 version, although there are some minor tweaks to the Adaptive Pitching Intelligence thingy and baserunning controls. There’s a new Pitcher/Hitter Analysis feature, where you can look at what kind of pitches a guy likes to throw to a RHB in his third at-bat with two men on–stuff like that. You can basically go back and see a boatload of tendencies for both the pitcher and hitter based on data stored by the game. Frankly, I think it’s a bit of an informational overload for just a video game, but it’s cool that it’s in there.
What separates this game from the rest is the bells and whistles. There are a ton of new custom windups and batting stances, and a bazillion new catch, throw, grab, dive, slide, swing, run, etc. animations that make the game that much more real. I know you’re wondering, and yes, the Big Three are in the game. Joba and Phil even have their own custom windups (not IPK though), and Joba will occasionally do a toned-down fist pump when he strikes someone out. Here are some other changes summarized in bullet point form:
- You can see CitiField being built behind Shea. That’s pretty freakin’ cool. Unfortunately you can’t see the new Yankee Stadium going up, but the game does have the subway race and half-decent Roll Call. The Nats’ new stadium is also in the game.
- Pitchers actually warm up in the bullpen, they aren’t just warming up out in limbo like past years. That’s especially cool when you’re in a place like Wrigley, where the bullpen is in foul territory. The relievers will also do a little soft toss on flat ground before moving up to the mound. Nice touch. Oh, and the players actually sit in the dugout and stand in the on-deck circle when not playing the field. What a concept.
- Player contracts and salaries are much more realistic. In previous years, a player’s salary was determined by how good they were, period. This year the young guys come pretty cheap while the vets make a more realistic salary. There are a few Boras-esque contract demands in free agency, and each team has realistic payroll limitations.
- Slumps and hot streaks will actually affect a player’s attributes now. If a guy is hot, he’ll get a little boost in his contact ability. If he’s slumping, the opposite happens.
- The crowd is unbelievable. Fans will get up and try to catch homers and foul balls, toss around beach balls, and walk around the aisles instead of staying put in their seats. I read somewhere that there’s also food vendors, but I haven’t seen any yet (I wasn’t really looking, so they’re probably in there somewhere).
- Remember how the computer would use it’s best non-closing reliever game after game after game for multiple innings at a time? It looks like they finally fixed that, but I won’t know for sure until I get a chance to play a bit more. Lopsided trades are still commonplace unfortunately, but gone are the days when 75 percent of the minor leaguers had “A” potential.
- There’s a new “Roster Foundation” feature in Franchise mode that shows you how every player in the entire organization was acquired, which helps keep track of those obscure draft picks. The Road to the Show feature (career mode basically) is supposedly deeper and more realistic, but I haven’t tried it so I can’t offer up an opinion. It’s just not my cup of tea.
- You can upload music from your PS3 hard drive into the game, which is pretty freakin’ sweet. I highly advise uploading your own tunes, because the game’s original soundtrack is straight outta the ’70s (War? ZZ Top? WTF?!?). The game is compatible with MP3 format only, so make sure you go to Music Settings and change the audio output format before importing songs from your CD’s.
- No longer do you have to abandon a game that runs a little long, you can now save games at any point just like Madden. That’s a huge, huge upgrade. There’s also a Replay Vault, which let’s you go back and watch any play in the game. Box scores for every game are stored all season long for the first time ever.
The game certainly is not without faults. The hitting is still just push button whereas most other games have incorporated some sort of analog stick mechanic. There’s still no sense of collision; players will go through each other on slides, running the bases, in the outfield, etc. Batting balls will just go through the pitcher and have no effect whatsoever. You’ll also need to go online and download a roster update ASAP, because the roster cutoff date was sometime in January, meaning Johan and Bedard are still on the Twins and O’s, respectively. Rookies like Evan Longoria, Jay Bruce, Kosuke Fukudome, Hiroki Kuroda, etc. – guys that have yet to officially appear in a big league contest – are not in the game. You’ll need to wait until the season starts and those guys make an appearance before they’re available in via roster update.
There are also some questionable player rankings. I’m starting to think the people who make this game hate BJ Upton, because he’s never had a good ranking, and it’s embarrassingly bad this year. But that holds true in all sports games. The only managers in the game are guys that were managers last year, so Girardi, Trey Hillman, and whoever the hell the Pirates hired aren’t in the game. They’ve been replaced with a bunch of made up guys, but at least Tony Pena Sr. and Bobby Meacham are in the game.
IGN gave the game an 8.7 out of 10, which seems like a perfect rating. The front end improvements and gameplay are outstanding, but the brain trust just seems unwilling to fix some of the long term negatives. EA’s MVP series was better overall, but until they get another license from MLB, this game will have to do. $65 is the going rate for PS3 games these days, so I can’t really complain about that.
I don’t play online often, but my screen name is RABmike. If anyone’s down for a game, hit me up. You are forewarned; I will mess you up with Rich Harden.