SONY PSP REVIEW: MLB

MLB for the PSP is a scaled-down version of MLB 2006 for the PS2. Some might even call it inferior and they would be right since it's missing a few modes, options and details. Some of the graphics suffer and even though you can play online only the Exhibition mode is accessible. At least the gameplay has been saved which makes this the best portable baseball game ever devised.

If you're a total baseball nut then I suggest you get the PS2 version which will deliver everything that you could possibly want from such a sports game. If you're constantly comparing this PSP version to the PS2 game you're going to be awfully disappointed. This is not a substitute for the PS2 version, it's not as good and never will be. You'll have to be content in knowing that the only benefit to having the PSP version is that it's portable, so don't come crying to me if you can't live with the limitations.

Quickplay, Season and Online Exhibition are the only modes offered. There is no Franchise mode but you can still buy, trade, sign free agents and keep track of players' stats. You can't download updated rosters online so you're stuck with what you've got which isn't too bad. You've got a good selection of veteran and rookie players that you can put to work for you or use as currency to acquire better players.

Beginning with a camera angle from behind the plate, pitches are served up which require you to press the button when they enter into your hitting zone. The speed and direction of the pitch will help determine where the ball will go. You'll have to assess that information quickly as you don't have as much influence over the ball's direction when you hit it. That is to say you don't have many options other than connecting with it.

Each pitcher has four different pitches all mapped to the face buttons. Using the analog stick you move the cursor in the direction that you want the ball to go. It's a bit on the sensitive side and tends to move all over the place. Once you get the cursor under control you will consult the meter which determines your speed and accuracy. Hit the X button when the indicator in the meter is where you want it to be and a pitch will be thrown. The better your reflexes the more accurate and powerful the pitch.

For realism, pitchers do become fatigued and they will begin to lose power and accuracy if they're kept on the mound too long. It's easy enough to change pitchers but the more experienced they are, the better they will perform. It may not be a good idea to put a rookie pitcher on the mound at the last inning when the bases are loaded.

Confidence is another factor that can influence both pitchers and batters. The better they perform the more confidence they'll gain which will affect their performance. Sometimes it's not very noticeable but if you're winning who the hell cares?

Fielding can be controlled manually or by the CPU which does do a pretty good job, though you'll always be angry and a little bit suspicious when they don't make the catch. Taking matters into your own hands is the only solution. All you have to do is move your fielder into position, directly under the path of where the ball should fall. You can jump if you think you're going to be short. Throws can be pre-loaded so that you're ready to get the ball to a specific base, all of which are mapped on the face buttons.

With a good assortment of flies, fouls, homeruns and missed throws the game is well balanced and realistic. There are three difficulty settings and you can further tweak some of the elements with the 12 adjustable sliders to customize the game to your liking.

Online play seems like it's still under construction. There is some lag and even worse than that you may find yourself spit out of a game for no apparent reason other than faulty programming. I've talked to a few online players and found that they've all experienced this more than a few times. 989 Sports has determined the fault is not our connection and this problem should be remedied by the time you read this.

Commentary is supplied by Matt Vasgersian and Dave Campbell, both of whom have a wide repertoire of verbal observations and comments which really took me by surprise. I've reviewed numerous PS2 sports game that didn't have half as much different commentary as presented here. Add to this all the ambient sounds of a ballpark such as the crack of the bat, the cheer of the crowd, the calls from the ump, and all the inspirational battle tunes and you've got a solid baseball soundtrack.

Players animate well and many have recognizable faces. There is enough stock animation of catches, hits, misses and throws to mix things up without looking repetitive. There are no home run celebrations and no instant replays but the scoreboards reflect the actual score, players display grass stains and all 30 arenas are represented.

MLB is an impressive little portable package. If you're just looking for a good baseball game with only a smatter of bells and whistles then look no further.

Click For Media
System: PSP
Dev: 989 Sports
Pub: Sony
Released: Apr 2005
Players: 1
Review by Dean
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
3.5
CONTROL
4.0
MUSIC/FX
4.0
VALUE
3.5