PS2 REVIEW: MLB '06: THE SHOW

You can almost smell the eight-dollars-a-plastic-glass beer - and the foul order of the fat dork behind you that won't stop shouting at any play made on the field. by Cole Smith

March 7, 2006 - You can almost smell the eight-dollars-a-plastic-glass beer - and the foul order of the fat dork behind you that won't stop shouting at any play made on the field.

Yes, baseball season is upon us - both of them. The real-life and the virtual seasons. MLB '06: The Show gives us something to look forward to in the digital realm where we can swing, run, throw, steal, catch and slide to our heart's content without ever having to leave the comfort of our sofa - except to load up on tacos and Pepsi. MBL '06: The Show isn't really much different than last year's game. It's got a few new features and some of the bugs have been worked out but in all honesty this is the game that MBL '05 should have been in the first place. Having said that, it's never too late to have a damn good game of baseball available for the PS2.

One of the first things you'll notice about MLB '06 is that the graphics are a mixed bag. In some instances the game appears to be broadcast quality with realistic looking parks and naturally animated players. There are lots of camera angles and switching as well as animated menus that make the game look as though it's being broadcast on TSN but there are other times when the parks appear blocky and jaggy. Sometimes the players in the background will appear low-res to save on processing but they become clearer when they are brought into the foreground. The audience has always looked bad in this series and they still look like they've been stranded in the stands since 1995. At least they cheer and jeer appropriately. They are a little more vocal and you can actually hear some individual taunts that are quite entertaining, and realistic, which is unfortunate for us as a society.

There are some 8,000 motion captured animations that contribute to the smoothness of the players' animation. Not only do the players have realistic faces and expressions, but some of the more famous virtual players will display their counterparts' walk, stance and playing style. There are 40 players on the roster but if you want to customize the game you can create your own players. Using the Eye Toy you can even put yourself in the middle of the action. Or if you're handy with Photoshop, you can get characters such as Alfred E. Newman and Ron Jeremy on your team. Just don't expect good resolution quality on the faces, although this process works better than the last version.

Controls remain the same. You use buttons to swing the bat and gauge the power of the swing. The Amazing Kreskin system is still in effect where you attempt to guess what part of the strike zone the ball will enter and what type of pitch it will be. The strike zone has been expanded into nine zones and the AI has been overhauled so that it's less predictable. It's kind of like betting on the horses. If you manage to psychically zone in on the right spot you'll connect with the sweet spot and slam that sucker into the stands.

The King of the Diamond mode will give you a lot of practice with the control system. Unlike the Home Run Derby mode that only concerns itself with home runs, the King of the Diamond mode is more like a real game, but a practice game with cardboard cutouts of players in the field. Each mini-game lasts two minutes. There are wild card spots in the field that will reward you with more time and other goodies if you manage to hit them. You can really fine tune your control over the ball in this mode.

All of the standard modes can be found in this game including Career, Franchise, Season and Multi-player. For all intents and purposes these modes are the same as last year - just slightly improved. The Rivalry mode is new and lets you pit two teams against each other for a series of games that can range from eight to 80. In this mode you will be able to keep track of a variety of stats such as batting average, most saves, most runs and so on. The AI plays a slightly more realistic game. They will actually walk strong batters and try to put the pressure on weaker ones. But the fielders still manage to throw the ball back to the basemen much too quickly and accurately.

Online play couldn't be easier. The menus are clean and easy to navigate. The lobbies have been overhauled and look very up-to-date. Match making and friends lists are also included to make things that much more convenient for you.

The announcers add a little more detail and relevance to their comments although they are often late making them. They deliver their lines well and generate enough excitement to keep you motivated. These guys must have spent more than fifteen minutes in the studio recording their voiceovers since it takes longer than ever before they start repeating themselves.

MLB '06 is a solid buy but it's not the definitive baseball game. It's tied tightly to last year's game with a digital umbilical cord, trying desperately to rectify the mistakes of the past with little regard for the future. It could have been so much more…

Features:

  • All-New Game Time Decisions bring more depth to Franchise and Season Modes. Only MLB '06 provides the ability to take full control of your team when you're forced to make the tough decisions. An injured player on the roster or a pitcher who needs more rest - the decision to play them is yours. If you ever though you could be a big league manager, this is the year to test your skills.
  • All-New Progressive Broadcast adapts and utilizes game-specific presentations tailored to your career spotlight player as the season progresses.
  • Enhanced Career Mode incorporates an all-new Career Spotlight underscoring all of the accomplishments and failures during your career and showcases them in the limelight. You still call the shots but now the ramifications of your actions are documented. It's up to you to determine whether your reel consists of highlights or miscues.
  • Enhanced Franchise Mode give the critics more to rave about extending the functionality where performance and player morale are tracked on virtually every level - salary, playing time, batting slot, team performance, you name it - you control it.
  • SportsConnect Headline News lets you stay on top of all the news around the league. Receive all the current happenings in sports today. Information will be updated a few times each hour with news, trades and events from 31 different feeds, each containing 25 unique items. You can also select General MLB headlines for updates from all 30 teams in the league so no important news is missed while online with MLB '06.


By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
MLB '06: The Show (PS2)
4.3
Graphics
The game could be mistaken for an actual televised broadcast. There are more than 8,000 motion-captured animations.
45
Control
Everyone is comfortable with the button control system so why makes things more complicated than they need be just to be different. There is now more control over running, stealing and sliding.
4.4
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great crowd effects and the announcers actually sound like they're watching the same as you're playing.
4.2
Play Value
Lots of modes including online play should take you well into spring - if you don't get bored first.
4.2
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
 
System: PS2
Dev: SCE Studios
Pub: Sony
Release: Feb 2006
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best