No One Does it Better
If you are at all familiar with the recent history of Major League Baseball games, you don’t need me to tell you that Sony’s The Show series has been ruler of the kingdom for the last several years. While Sony’s chief baseball rival, 2K Sports, has had uneven and generally subpar offerings at best, The Show has flourished in the courts of both public and critical opinion. And while the most famous sports game of them all, EA’s Madden franchise, is often lampooned for offering little more than roster updates with nominal gameplay enhancements, Sony has managed to keep The Show fresh and improving throughout its existence. Fortunately for gamers everywhere, MLB 10: The Show is better than ever.
The most interesting feature making its debut this year is “Catcher Mode”, no coincidence that Minnesota superstar catcher Joe Mauer graces the cover, highlighting the challenge of calling pitches from behind the plate. It’s a welcome addition to be the signal caller without the responsibility to manage the button timing as the pitcher and instead focus on a more cerebral game of pitch counts and batter tendencies.
The downside, if you want to call it that, is by calling every game, your Road to the Show mode will take much longer. Play as a fielder and you’re involved only in defensive plays that involve your virtual self and appearances at the plate. Take on the role of a pitcher and you’re in the rotation once every five games or closing out an inning or two at a time. It’s a matter of personal preference, but I prefer to play every game in a season in Road to the Show. Calling each and every game as the catcher is a bit too time intensive for my tastes.
Presentation is an oft overlooked and underappreciated thing; when a game can suck you in before it even starts it’s ahead of the ballgame. The Show’s opening starts with one of several rotating clips highlighting the 2009 baseball season. From a slick video package detailing the Yankee’s return to glory to St. Paul native Joe Mauer’s historic season with the Twins, these prepackaged montages do a great job of building excitement. After seeing a video montage of all the players who hit for a cycle last year, I wanted nothing more than to do so with my virtual self.
When playing both MLB 2K10 and MLB 10: The Show, it’s easier to appreciate the controls of The Show and just how tight they are, especially when navigating the potential minefield of base running. The Show keeps it simple on the surface and eliminates many of the accidental “Why did I run to 3rd base!?” moments of frustration yet keeps intact the more intricate controls such as directional sliding and leaning forward to get a jump on a steal attempt. Batting can be difficult at anything above the easiest difficulty when directional swings make a difference and requires a solid investment to adequately learn for anyone new to the series. Pre-pitch mechanics of guessing the type of throw and location are back and drastically improve the chances of connecting when guessed right.
Visually, The Show looks as sharp as ever. All the big names looks like their flesh and blood counterparts and created players have plenty of options and detail available. Animations are smooth and crisp with plenty of variety in nearly all instances. It’s certainly nitpicking when a game is as polished as The Show , but when batting, pitching, and sliding animations have dozens of variations it makes the few instances which only offer one or two stick out.
It looked a little odd when the bases were loaded and on a fly foul all base runners stopped their run at the same point when the hit was called foul, kicking up their legs in lackadaisical union before trotting back to their original bases. It certainly is a trite complaint, but is a minor suggestion for next year’s outing to keep each player looking like an individual instead of an AI-controlled algorithm while rounding the bases.
Music is always up to much debate and personal preference, but there is a solid mix of songs this year. In particular, We Are Scientists’ track “Rules Don’t Stop” sticks out as the song I’ve found myself humming away from the The Show . It’s a catchy tune amongst a dozen or so other tracks. That being said, the biggest low point in The Show is its announcing. While play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian is a solid announcer, Dave Campbell and Rex Hudler offer little in their color commentary and analysis. They’re observations come across as annoying and snide; enough to make it worthwhile to turn all announcing features off. This may be the only area that 2K’s series is hands down better than Sony’s. Perhaps next year Sony can copy 2K for once, instead of vice-versa, and up the quality of their announcing. It would be a change that seemingly everyone would welcome.
Once again MLB 10: The Show demonstrates what a AAA sports title can do. There are a myriad of game modes, from Home Run Derby to Manager Mode, the ever present Franchise Mode, and the crown jewel of them all, Road to the Show… each offering a plethora of customization options. It’s wonderful to be able to tweak the experience to exactly your preferred style of play and the number of ways that can be done is simply staggering. As per the last few years, The Show is not merely the best baseball game this year, but is the best baseball game ever released. Despite improved competition The Show still stands head and shoulders above all challengers. From the hardcore to casual baseball fan, MLB 10: The Show is a must.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
Beautiful from the stadiums to the players down to the little animations that hold it altogether. 4.5 Control
Batting can be a challenge, but controls are crisp, responsive, and make sense. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
While the music is good, the announcing is due for an upgrade. 4.8 Play Value
Nothing captures the flavor of Major League Baseball better or in so many ways. Addictive as can be, even for the casual fan. 4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.