Reviewed: April 15, 2010
Released: March 2, 2010
As I near my 10-year anniversary as a game writer, I can remember back to my first bonafide review – a Playstation baseball title called Triple Play 2001, by EA Sports. As an exclusively non-sports gamer, the fact that my first professional assignment was a baseball title really threw me for a loop. But from the moment I booted up the disc, and joined my hometown Detroit Tigers in their as-yet unopened Comerica Park – I was immediately hooked with the genre.|
For some strange reason, baseball – the slowest and most confining of all sports – just seems to have an open and airy feel when projected on a gaming console. The stadiums seem so big and impressive, and the crowd and scenery so beautiful, in comparison to the typical turf view from a football or soccer title, or the cramped quarters of basketball. Then there is the courtship of the pitcher and the batter, the wonderfully intricate dance of the pitch – the pitcher attempting to draw the swing but avoid the hit, and the batter trying to guess the pitcher’s next move.
And as the decade progressed, I have had the pleasure of writing for a handful of publications, and have been assigned numerous of baseball titles covering all areas of gameplay, from the MLB to the NCAA, from over-the-top arcade tomfoolery to the wild waggling of motion control – I have pretty much seen it all. But while all have had their moments of glory, few remain in my memory as much as that original review title, Triple Play 2001 – that is until now. Because Sony’s MLB 10 – The Show for the PSP is hands-down the best baseball game I have ever played – and that’s saying a lot for a handheld title.
What’s so good about The Show? Pretty much everything, to be honest.
I know it is not traditional to start a review by discussing a game’s technical aspects, but The Show’s presentation is probably the best offered on the PSP thus far – from the visuals to the sound, from the menus to the in-game action, everything is top-shelf. It is apparent that the developers know full well the technical limitations of the PSP and designed this title to work to its fullest potential within the given specs.
It is hard to explain in words how fluid everything moves or how realistic the scenery looks with its near-perfect shadowing and excellent stadium design. Sure, the crowd is little more than a painted texture overlay, but the realistic sounds of the cheers and jeers of the massive stadiums more than make up for any visual deficiencies.
The game does a great job integrating a kick-ass music soundtrack featuring bands like Silversun Pickups and Band Of Skulls, and the game even features an entirely independent music player mode that simply lets you listen to the soundtrack tunes on the go. If you don’t like the soundtrack, you can import your own mp3’s into the game, and even edit songs for particular sequences – which is pretty sweet if you ask me.
The gameplay – well…this is baseball…but baseball that is done incredibly well. And by “well” I mean that the AI is downright fantastic – which is imperative with any baseball game, especially on a stilted device like the PSP.
You see, most baseball games get the pitching and batting nailed down pretty tight, but stumble when it comes to fielding and base running. MLB 10 The Show takes the “assist” route, helping players along with the complexities that come with managing pop-up base running and long-throw cutoffs – But not so much that the player cannot seamlessly overrule the AI when needed.
As for pitching, MLB 10 The Show uses the tried-and-true triple-tap meter, setting speed and accuracy of the selected pitch. We’ve all used this system before, but I find that The Show offers more opportunity to manipulate the ball by tossing off-speed or intentionally inaccurate pitches. For instance, you can put some serious English on a curveball by aiming outside the box, but off-center to the accuracy line (how far will depend on the pitcher). The point is, there is infinitely more options if you think outside of the box – pun intended.
Base throwing is achieved with direct button presses relating to the bases – circle for first, triangle for second, square for third, and X for home. This allows for quick tosses around the bases – putting double and triple plays within reach. Base running is performed with the shoulder buttons, and although I did find myself hitting the wrong buttons at first (causing unnecessary outs) I quickly caught on. Still, it’s best to let the AI help out.
If there is one issue that I have with The Show, it is the total lack of online play. There is ad-hoc multiplayer option, but nothing online. It’s a shame, since the best part of baseball is playing against humans, and expecting to find another gamer within reach who might have a copy of The Show is a real stretch. Still, the single player gaming is excellent, and offers a great deal of fun.
I received the game via PSN download, so I cannot vouch for loading times on UMD purchases. However, I will say that on the Sony forums, series veterans are complaining that the PSP’s MLB 10 The Show actually offers fewer features than MLB 09 The Show – but as a first time visitor, I came with no expectations and I absolutely love the game.