Reviewed: March 18, 2008
Released: March 4, 2008
With less than a month until the first pitch of the 2008-2009 season is thrown out, you can already feel the anticipation rising for Americaís Past-time. Spring training is underway, Barry Bonds awaits indictment, and steroids are hopefully a thing of the past. AhhhÖ itís BASEBALL SEASON!!
Sony Entertainment began one of the more prominent baseball franchises just a few seasons ago with MLB 06: The Show. With EA sports taking on the NCAA baseball demographic, that left 2K Sports all alone in the majors. With The Show, Sony wanted to take back a piece of the sports genre that EA didnít monopolize, as it does with the NFLÖ and MLB 06 did just that.
Each year Sony has brought more to the table and really put the pressure on 2K Sports to produce a winner, and this year is no exception. MLB 08: The Show sports the upcoming superstar Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies, and just like Mr. Howard the game packs a big stick!
Updated from last year is the Road to the Show mode, in which you create a player and build him into a big-leaguer. There are also small graphical improvements, but for the numbers nerds out there, The Show offers Batter Analysis and Pitch Analysis that help tremendously. With just the press of a button you obtain a consolidated breakdown of nearly every pitcher and/or hitterís strengths and weaknesses to allow you to plan your strategy.
From first pitch to the walk off homer in the bottom on the 9th inning, MLB 08 is sure to please not only the die-hard baseball fans but nearly anyone who plays.
The biggest difference you will find between MLB 08 and the 2K series, is how well The Show can keep things simple, yet not lose any realistic feel. Simple one button swinging and pitching makes the controls extremely easy for anyone of any age or experience to pick up on. At the same time, there is enough depth and growth amongst the difficulty levels to not bore the more experienced gamers.
As usual in most sports titles, there are several modes of play ranging from Home Run Derby to Exhibition games and Seasons to Dynasty modes. The most involved is the Dynasty mode in which you take control of a franchise as if you were the owner, general manager, and head coach. You are in charge of signing, trading, and drafting players as well and setting the starting lineups and pitching rotations. In the offseason, you are responsible for adjusting ticket prices and maintaining your stadium. That is the easy part though. Donít forget about the 162 games that your team plays, and the fact that you can also take part in each and every one of those as well. Dynasty mode is more reserved for the big-time baseball fan that has a robust knowledge of the players and baseball strategy.
For those of you who might not be ready for Dynasty mode, season mode is similar without all the extra bells and whistles. Instead of multiple seasons and off-seasons, you can play a full season with your favorite team and then be done after you hoist the World Series Trophy. Again you can adjust your lineups and rotation, as well as complete trades, but you avoid the hectic off-season routine and donít have to bother with the financial end of things.
Road to the Show mode offers players the chance to see what it would be like to try to make it to the ďbigs.Ē After creating your character you select a team to try out for. You compete in spring training, and depending on your performance can be offered a contract. Most players will have to start out in the AA minor league and work their way up to AAA and eventual the major league. Once youíve signed with a team, they present you with goals that you must accomplish in order to impress your boss and earn a promotion. These goals can consist of achieving certain statistical milestones or training on specific areas to increase your attributes. The more goals you accomplish without failing, the quicker you get to sign a ďfatĒ contract with your favorite team.
Exhibition and Home Run Derby modes offer players a chance to just enjoy the game or seek some competition from friends. Exhibition mode is simply just a one game match-up that can be played single or multiplayer, and Home Run Derby matches the game biggest bats against each other to determine who is the Home Run King!
Compared to the competition, Sony has included all the game modes and added Road to the Show in order to be sure that MLB 08 is considered one of the best baseball games this season. The controls scheme of The Show isnít as complex as its 2K counterpart, but it does offer fun game play that is easy to learn. 2K Games definitely will have their work cut out for them if they plan to top MLB 08 this year.
Graphically, MLB 08: The Show is one of the better looking PS2 games you will see. Obviously, it doesnít compare to any of its next-gen competition, but that is nothing to hold against the game. Player faces closely resemble their real-life likenesses, and character movements and animations run smoothly.
The stadium details are well done, the ivy on the wall at Wrigley to the Green Monster in Fenway. All of the things that we love about baseball is jammed into one disc and presented to us through our PS2.
The only complaint that I can even think to mention would be the unrealistic fans in the crowd that seem to all make the same repetitive movements. That complaint though is a stretch, in all honesty I had to play the game again in order to find something that I could think about being critical of. The game plays so well that you really donít even notice that crowd isnít as well done as the rest of the game.
For me sound is a big issue when it comes to gaming. A surround sound set-up is a must and if my games donít utilize it, then Iím just not happy. Fortunately, MLB 08 knows how to please the ears. From the occasional call of the fans, to the sound of a vendor in the stands, there are several background noises that the surround sound picks up that make you feel like you are in the ballpark for real.
Players chatter, bats crack, and gloves pop with the sound of a 100 mile per hour fastball. As you bunt, slide, and dive your way around the field everything sounds like it does when you yourself are outside doing them.
As for the soundtrack, I would recommend listening to your I-Pod while playing Dynasty mode. The soundtrack is small ( # songs) and the songs become repetitive very quickly. Not only are the songs repetitive, but most of them arenít very good songs in my opinion. The Ramones, Hot Hot Heat, and War are just a few of the bands to grace the soundtrack, so if you are fan of any of them, then you may disagree.
Most gamers argue that sports games arenít worth their price tags since they are released yearly and there are only slight adjustments to them each season. As a true sports fanatic, I am here to say that those gamers are just flat wrong. If you love baseball, MLB 08 is the game to buy for the PS2. If you donít love baseball, yet you want to play a baseball gameÖ MLB 08 is the game to buy for the PS2. If youíve never played baseball, but it sounds like something you might likeÖ MLB 08 is the game to buy for the PS2. I donít know if I can make it much more clear.
MLB 08 does offer online play for those of us who outgrow even the toughest level of difficulty, so the replay value is extremely high. Road to the Show mode is probably the most addicting mode I have played in a sports game. For anyone who has played a Madden Superstar mode, Road to the Show is everything that Madden has been missing. The most difficult part of this review was getting myself to stop playing Road to the Show in order to play the other modes.
If you have either of the previous MLB: The Show releases, I strongly recommend that you upgrade to 08. The additions and updates that have been made make the game well worth itís price tag of $39.99. From new rosters to the retooled Rob Home Run indicator, Sony has done its job in supplying us with a next-gen baseball title for a last-gen console.
Sony steps to the plate and stares down its competitors. A quick point into the outfield, and they deliver a deep blast on the first pitch. Over the wall, onto Waveland Ave., into McCovey Cove, over the Green Monster, MLB 08: The Show is a home run!
The only way that this game is better is if they can find a way for the vendors to bring me a $7 hot dog every few minutes, so I donít have to stop playing to eat. I canít make it any more obvious, but I absolutely loved this game. Thankfully, Iím finished writing my review and I can get back to playing it again!