|System: PS3, PS2, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: SCEA San Diego||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SCEA (SONY)||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 8, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
January 31, 2008 - It may be snowing outside, but the folks at Sony are almost ready to treat you to a little summer heat. MLB 08: The Show will release on the 4th of March exclusively for the Sony platforms. We got a sneak peak at the preview code of all three systems, and all of them look to be rounding third and are heading for home.
The PS3 edition is, of course, the deepest title of the three. However the PS2 and PSP versions are very compelling in their own right. In fact, the PS2 title will be very similar except for specific online features and graphic detail. As for the PS3 version, the gameplay is nearly identical to last year's edition, but many subtle nuances have changed that make the experience even more realistic. The PSP has become deeper too and has a few handheld-friendly improvements that fans have longed for.
Improvement to the already solid series will be seen in a number of areas. A good example of this is in the enhanced Road to the Show 2.0 mode. There has been quite a bit of fine tuning for even better play. Your created player will still be able to play both offense and defense, but now the goal system has been greatly expanded. Your player will garner points for achieving his goals or lose points for failing to reach them. These points will then be applied toward the new career advancement system, which will determine when your player is ready for a promotion.
The new Progressive Batting Performance feature is a great new touch. This is only available on the career modes because the new system actually tracks your players' hitting streaks over time. If you've got a couple of guys that are hitting far above their averages, they will enjoy a nice boost in confidence. The opposite is also true. If you've got someone who's slumping badly, you'll have to try laying off pitches for a while to get him on base and back on track.
All systems also enjoy a great new Rob Home Run Indicator. If a fly ball is hit deep and looks to be going yard, you can rob the hitter by tracking back with the ball and timing your jump. You'll know the line you're supposed to take and when to leap because of the indicator. The indicator will use a series of fading rings that represent the path that the ball is taking. When the last ring of the bull's-eye fades, jump and you'll rob the batter.
There's also a really neat Batter and Pitcher Analysis tool. It allows you to analyze the tendencies of batters or where pitchers typically locate their pitches. This gives players an edge in tight situations. It also helps to more accurately capture the duel between pitcher and batter, and that's what baseball's all about.
Online play also mirrors last year's 30 team Online League Play and MLB score ticker, but it adds the new SCOUT feature. SCOUT (SportsConnect Online User Tracking) allows gamers to save their online gaming preferences and settings to the MLB server. Then the system will look for a Quick Match within the online community in order to find players that will be a good fit.
The PSP has some unique features that make the game very handheld friendly. You can now access MP3 tracks from your memory card. That means you can jam to your own tunes by making custom playlists. This doesn't have much bearing during play, but menu cruising will be a bit more aurally appealing. Also, and more importantly, you'll be able to save the game at anytime and return to it when you're ready. That means you can save between innings or even between pitches, whatever your situation dictates. The PSP's standby feature is nice, but now there's no more worrying about forgetting to finish before your battery runs out. This feature will come in handy time and again.
The graphics are still a bit crude, but that will all be ironed out by the March 4th release date. The PS3 version will output in full HD at 1080p. All of the player likenesses, stadiums, and crowds look especially good this year. The helmets are shiny, and the batting animations very accurately represent the players' approaches and stances. The commentary is also amazingly deep. Every team and every stadium will trigger specific dialogue that is both insightful and engaging.
Sony is really giving everyone a run for their money this year. Last year's version seemed tough to beat, but after playing the preview code it looks like MLB 08: The Show might actually top its predecessor. The attention to detail and incredibly realistic gameplay to be found in the title, combined with some great new features should make this a contender for baseball simulator of the year. Check back with us in about a month for the full review.
CCC Lead Contributor / News Director