Reviewed: April 12, 2009
Released: March 3, 2009
Baseball season is upon us again! Japan just won the World Baseball Classic again. Major League Baseball teams are deep into Spring training again. The grass is coming in and the leftover hot dogs from last season are still in the cooker.
Major League Baseball wisely has chosen not to go the “exclusive license” route, so we have plenty of baseball games for everyone. The arcade fans will love The Bigs, Wii fans have their backyard series, and purists have 2K, The Show, and several management simulations. This is the way sports licenses should be.
The past couple years, Sony has really taken it to 2K with their baseball simulation on several platforms. Note that I said “simulation”, not “arcade” game. While 2K seems to be kind of stuck in between the two styles, Sony is firmly in the simulation camp and MLB '09: The Show is an amazing game for any hardcore baseball fan.
Game modes include quick game, exhibition, Road to the Show, Franchise, Season, Manager Mode, Rivalry (2 players), and Practice. Road to the Show is similar to what EA is doing with their NHL series. You can pick a player and play offense and defense from his perspective. This year Sony has added interactive training (mini-games), updated presentation and coach interactions and a new lead-off/steal system.
The already deep Franchise mode now allows a 40-man roster, salary arbitration, waiver transactions and call-ups. Online “SportsConnect” includes live roster updates and a substantial online game experience. There are a wealth of online game options that put MLB 09 The Show above all competitors. I had no problems finding people online to play against.
One of many areas where MLB 09 The Show really shines is in the number of teams available for games. There are all the Major League teams, the AL and NL all-star teams, classic “golden era” and “silver era” all-star teams (with the correct names for players), plus the AAA and AA minor league teams. They have instantly tripled their potential fan base just by allowing minor league fans the chance to play with their local team. Even mascots are included. The only things not included are the recent World Baseball Classic teams and more classic teams. The opportunity to play classic match-ups would have been the icing on the cake.
On the downside, MLB 09 has a few issues. The most notable is occasional lockup problems when the game is loading from the team choice screen. You will have to get up and turn off the switch on the back of your PS3 to reset the thing. Granted, this game is very complex and load times are longer than one would expect, but outright lockups should have been fixed in beta.
Sony's MLB 09 The Show is simply the best looking, most accurate baseball game on any console. Any fan will love the accuracy right down to the little 1080p details in certain stadiums. Everything from shadows to paths in the dirt are faithfully recreated - simply stunning!
The graphical detail in the stadiums has reached a new high. All 30 Major League stadiums are faithfully rendered, as well as 10 spring training small ballparks, St. Louis' Busch Stadium with All-Star décor, classic stadiums Shea and Yankee, and 10 minor league ballparks. The classic players even have some of their moves from pitching styles to running stride. Crowd animations are even more dynamic with crowd rivalries and weather appropriate clothing. They even reach for foul balls and home runs.
Sony has a good team in the announcing booth with Rex Hudler, Matt Vasgersian, and Dave Campbell providing the call. The commentary is very good and even adapts to situations – since baseball is a fairly slow game the commentary is usually spot on. It may just be me, but I prefer 2K's Gary Thorne in the booth... he just adds a level of excitement to the game. But I'm used to hearing him call hockey games, which he is certainly one of the best.
There are 15 songs included with the option of playing your own songs in the jukebox. There is even more fun to be had here since you can record your own custom chants and yells! You can even edit the music tracks you have playing.
The stadium announcements are specific to the home team right down to public service announcements. Sony really cranked up the level of realism and it totally immerses you in the game.
MLB 09 The Show packs in a ton of options and little details that just make it a special game. Even the exciting historical game calls in the menu system bring that something special to this game. A 38-page manual gives you everything you need to know to win at every level.
There are 30 Trophies available for your collection. These trophies are not that easy to get though – you can even get a bronze trophy for losing 100 games. There is a gold for throwing a perfect game on all-star level. But if you are a rabid baseball fan, you should be able to get most of them in a few weeks of play.
I grew up going to Cleveland Indians games in the 1980's. So I am comfortable with a certain level of boredom and frustration when baseball is in my life. But Sony just made a baseball game that has something for everyone. It's fun, competitive, detailed and can even help you teach baseball to your kids. MLB 09 The Show is the best baseball game on any system. This is one game that actually lives up to the marketing TV commercials. It really is the most realistic baseball game ever made.