Things We Like
Dustin The Wind: Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is the cover boy for MLB 09: The Show. Dustin isn't the prototypical player you'd expect to see on the box of a video game but you can't argue with what he delivers on the field and what The Show delivers as a deep, highly entertaining baseball simulation. Last year's game was the best baseball game on any platform and you can hand the crown to this year's version too. It's not perfect but it's damn close to a no-hitter.
The Grass Is Greener: The Show is a fantastic looking game. The player models are very accurate and detailed; some of the specific animations you see players execute in the field, in the batter's box or as transitional animations are truly immersive. Additionally the stadium renders are spot on. The inclusion of announcers Dave Campbell, Matt Vasgersian and Rex Hudler is complemented by the stadium atmosphere sounds. The synch between what's happening on the field and the inclusion of specifics from the announcers is a standard no other sports game has matched. New this year: You can record your own custom chants and assign them to players at bat and in the field. So essentially you can give A-Rod the kind of reception he deserves.
Bringing The ‘A' Game: A rock-solid hitting and pitching system is a big reason The Show is top dog in baseball games. Available pitches are mapped to buttons and are executed by hitting the pitch button, then hitting the X button again to start, releasing in a power range and then hitting X a last time for accuracy. It's a simple system that keeps the game moving along. Each pitch has what amounts to a quality meter and your catcher will suggest a pitch and location each time. Hitting boils down to moving the left stick to where the pitch is -- relative to the strike zone. Power and contact hitting are mapped to two different buttons. You can also guess the pitch type and location, both of which are essential to success. Again the system is simple but requires you to develop an eye as plenty of pitches are outside the strike zone. Both sides of the equation work well against the CPU or against human opponents.
Show Me The Money: The Road To The Show mode is back and enhanced. In it you create a prospect and either join a team or get drafted. You play each game from the perspective of your player. For example if you're a shortstop you'll get your at-bats in a game and field a few ground balls. It's a quick and addictive mode. New this year you'll have more to deal with between skills drills, salary arbitration and roster/transaction scenarios.
Gold Standard: The game features two rosters, Gold and Silver, loaded with Hall of Fame players. Last year's game forced you to unlock players through the course of achievements in the game before you could play with these players and teams. This year that barrier has been lifted so right out of the box you can get your hands on the lineups. We can't get enough of the great matchups: Tony Gwynn vs. Cy Young, Nolan Ryan vs. Ty Cobb. Golden indeed.
Feeling A Draft: A great new addition to The Show is the ability to create or join a 30-team online league. Drafting a team in single-player mode is also very satisfying and a perfect complement to a shorter season. This is especially comforting when your favorite team is garbage. Hello Rockies!
Check out The Show in action:
Things We'd Change
Homer Simpson: The Show isn't perfect. One of the stranger do'h moments occurs when you hit a home run. Sometimes all you get is an animation of your player looking up and gaiting towards first base. If the home run doesn't trigger a replay afterwards then you'll have no idea where it went out, which is really anticlimactic to one of the baseball's most exciting moments. The fist animation you see should show the flight of the ball. Save the hot dog stuff for the replay.
A Little Help: More than once I noticed that the left and right fielders didn't properly back up the center fielder. This makes errors or misfielded balls near-certain triples and inside-the-park home runs if the batter has moderate speed. The game expects you to switch control to the nearest fielder but the AI should be stronger there.
Open Bar: Many decisions you make in setting lineups and especially in-game are based on player stats which are represented by bars ranging from empty to full. While you get a visual approximation it's hard to know exactly what the bar represents. If that was accompanied by a 0-100 number it would make a lot more sense. These numbers are available in some areas, like edit player, but not where they'd be the most helpful.
See No Evil: There are some visual hiccups in the game. Collision detection isn't always present so sometimes players will go through each other. This is most common when running the bases. Some of the player batting stances eclipse the pitching meter which can really make it hard to get your pitch where you want it. And lastly there are sometimes instances in animations where the player puts the bat through their body. All in all these are minor items and don't detract from the gameplay.
The Show is the best baseball game on any system, and is simply one of the best sports games out there period. If you're a baseball fan and you don't have a PS3, consider this a system seller.
-- Reviewed by Rory Moore