in Review

Breaking Balls

MLB 09: The Show

I’ll be honest, I haven’t really played a baseball game in years. That’s been due to a series of depressing Mariners seasons and the fact that the good games have been PlayStation exclusives, and I had a 360. Well, now that that’s changed, I made sure that my first PS3 game was this gem, and I was not disappointed.

Something that bothers me about the MLB: The Show series is where they put the year in the title. Since every year it is still “The Show,” who isn’t this game called MLB: The Show 09? I know, it’s a weird thing to complain about, but this is exactly the kind of nitpicking a game like this requires, because it is so damn good.

You have every game mode you could possibly ask for. There’s your standard quick play and exhibition modes, which are single and multiplayer. Then there’s the franchise mode, where you take a team through through several years of dynasty-building. This is the mode for people who really care about everything that there is to baseball, considering factors such as salary arbitration, waiver transactions, September call-ups, and the 40-man roster. Then there’s the mode that I like a little more, Road to the Show. RttS is like a baseball RPG, where you create your player and then take control in every play he factors into.

My player is the plucky first baseman Sean Lemme, or “Sean. Lemmon,” as the announcers call him. What’s cool is that not only do you customize how your player looks, but you can load music off your hard drive for when he comes to the plate and other situations (like setting it to play “Kernkraft 400” when your reliever comes in). Also, if you have a microphone, you can record custom taunts and chants for the audience to yell while you play. That’s just so cool.

Oh, and if you do get this game, I would not recommend making a first baseman. “Hey, run to first base and stand there” gets pretty old pretty quickly. Be a pitcher.

Online offers everything you could want. You can play a single game, or participate in an online league. Apparently lag is a problem in this game, but I’m not too interested in online play to begin with, since my PSN friendslist is empty right now (you don’t have the game, do you, Peter?). Aside from gameplay, you can go online to download rosters, both the official one and ones designed by players.

I really like the way the game controlls. When you’re pitching, you pick your pitch, aim, and then use a meter to determine your strength and control. It’s simple and effective. You don’t have to mess with aiming or any other gimmicks when you bat. You simply press a button to swing at the right time. That certainly doesn’t mean batting is easy, just not needlessly difficult. I can really get behind it.

The graphics here are just great. Realism is always the goal for sports titles, with the best ones looking just like a broadcast game. MLB 09 gets pretty close, with characters looking so great you can actually recognize familiar faces. The animation is mostly smooth, but there’s little hit detection, so you will slide into home right through the catcher and that sort of thing.

So I got myself a very warm welcome back into baseball games. Speaking of that, I better get back to Sean Lemme’s career, I’ve got to work on that batting average.

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