Review

MLB 08: The Show

Reviewed by Kyle Bell, Posted on 2008-04-03

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Developer: SCEA Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: March 4, 2008 Also On: PS2, PS3 & PSP

It used to be, at the end of the PlayStation generation and beginning of the PS2, that everything from Sony's 989 Sports was a train wreck, or more accurately for this metaphor, a strikeout. That started to change with their World Tour Soccer and MLB franchises between 2004 and 2005. Now in 2008, MLB 08: The Show is going up against one fewer competitor than it did just a few years ago (and my personal favorite baseball game), MVP Baseball, thanks to 2K Sports' exclusive third party MLB license. What they did not count on was a strong performance from Sony. As it just so happens, MLB 08 is the pinnacle of baseball games.

What you will quickly find out is that even though MLB 08 plays like just any other baseball game, it has very subtle things that make it stand out as one of the best. For one, it is probably the best looking sports game I have played to date. Granted, I don't play sports games that much, but this one clearly stands out. Just comparing it to last year's MLB 2K7 that I played, this game has a far better presentation, player models and stadium depictions. I was particularly impressed by the uniforms creases, blowing with the wind. Equally impressive is the detail of the players. This is about as good as I have seen Paul Konerko, Jim Thome and Mark Buehrle in digital form.

The other difference are more in style and presentation. Let's touch on gameplay first. It's clear that great efforts were put into unique representations of windups, batting stances and so on. Even more impressive are the number of animations present in MLB 08. Not to mention how the audience reacts (they boo and cheer, seemingly giving the home team a real advantage). When you get behind in a count with bases loaded, the pressure builds as the crowd gets involved. They seem to (at least try to) lift their team to victory just as they would in real-life. This creates a ballpark experience unlike any other in a video game. The presentation is as high quality as the rest of the game. From the sleek menus to the starting lineup at the start of the game to the player of the game announcement, there's no doubt that this game has a good presentation.

What you expect from a good baseball game are all here. You get a number of game modes to complement the superior graphics of PS3. One of the major modes is Road to the Show. Here you play as an up-and-coming minor leaguer trying to make a name for yourself. Your goal is to make it to the Hall of Fame. You get to create the player and play as him throughout his career. The cool thing is that instead of playing through entire games, you are given goals by your manager. All you will do is play when your player is involved in the action. Other games have a very similar mode to this, except they leave out the key component of focuses the attention on the player, as opposed to the team.

You also have a number of robust modes to choose from that you expect in any baseball game. You get a Career mode, Franchise mode, so on and so forth. Of course there is Quick Play and Exhibition as well, but multi-player is where the real fun is had, at least I think so. Nothing is better than challenging a friend to a game of good ol' baseball (without the peanuts and cracker jacks). This, of course, is an option in both offline and online modes. Since you already know what to expect from an offline baseball game, let me go into a little more detail of the online.

The online part of MLB 08 uses something called SportsConnect. Immediately I was greeted with a roster update (gotta love free updates). You can either enter lobby-type rooms with various difficulty settings or you can just do a quick-match search to find an opponent. Furthermore, the online has updated scores and leaderboards. I believe I even saw a tournament, but didn't get a chance to try it. You get to choose your team and roster, while whoever is the Home team will pick the stadium and time of day.

The online experience is flawed at best. As you should expect from any online game, lag is an issue in MLB 08. Unlike other games (especially shooters or racing games), sports games and especially baseball games require a smooth frame-by-frame approach. When a game cuts from a pitcher winding up to the ball being half way to the plate, this creates serious problems for the person batting. I found it nearly possible at times. Pitching and fielding are a lot more forgiving as you do not have to be as precise with them as you do with when you try to hit a ball. That said, you can rate your experience with other players at the end of each game, complaining (or praising them) about lag, pause times, etc.

There is no doubt that Sony connected with this one. You could call MLB 08 a hit, a homerun, an all-star; whatever positive baseball phrase there is, it fits this game. While MLB 08 is available on PS2 and PSP, the real show is on the PS3 with its near photo-realistic graphic quality, professional presentation, licensed soundtrack and loads of game modes. It even has extensive online play, although you may have connection issues. Whether you want to re-create your team's path to the World Series, define your own career in Road to the Show or take on an opponent in multi-player, MLB 08: The Show is the baseball game that all fans of the sport should not be without.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 9.5
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9
Written by Kyle Review Guide

Reviewed by Kyle Bell

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