MLB 08: The Show 08 comes out swinging in another season of Baseball gaming action. We’re stepping up to the plate to see if the longest running officially licensed Baseball game is for another home-run evening filled of excitement, or just a couple of singles hits in a slow night. The bases are loaded and the locker room is filled up with new improvements.... man, we can feel a winner in our hands. Batter Up!
The multi-platform release of MLB 08: The Show, or MLB 08: The Ryan Howard Edition is one Baseball’s hottest gaming titles. Over the last few years, The Show has started to improve every year producing a bullet proof Baseball experience. 2008 is the second year The Show has come to the Playstation 3 and its starting to feel more it's own product and not just a visually upgraded port of the PS2 version. Right beside the PS3 is the always stunning PSP version of The Show that never gives up early. If you have a Sony gaming device than you’ll have a way to play ball.
Sony has had one year to iron out the kinks of translating The Show over to the PS3. It definitely shows as MLB 08 is a superb game filled with improvements all around. The main grits and gravy, The Road to Show has been given a boost along with a few other areas that needed attention. Still, some areas of the game have stayed basically the same which isn’t bad giving the scope of options present in The Show. A few quick examples of general improvements are the ability to save anywhere, new umpire personalities and the ability to update your rosters weekly. These are all improvements that only enhance the gaming experience.
Focusing on the single player game, The Road of the Show has been tweaked to produce a more natural personality out of your career in the majors. The first thing you’ll probably notice is an improvement in the create-a-character modeling. More depth has been added so you can personalize your outward appearance getting every inch perfect as the person you want to represent in the game. On the field you will have more goals to achieve during games so your development points will help you out a little more and maybe even get you called up from the minors. Hopefully you don’t get stuck being a double-A bench player then you will have a long season ahead of you.
The artificial intelligence in MLB 08 is a little questionable at times with their plays on the field, but this is expected. I wouldn’t want perfect responses all the time, so little errors help make the game feel more alive. I’m sure some tweaking could be done, however for casual baseball gamers like myself I though MLB 08 was great. I have heard some hardcore baseball fans be a little displeased with some of the A.I. choices along with general gameplay issues; however this is the appointed view from the hardest of the hardcore. Hmmm, I wonder if loving Tommy Lasorda Baseball for the Sega Genesis counts as hardcore?
I can sympathies with the complaints on the play-by-play commentary in MLB 08. In general terms the “Wonder Dog” Rex Hudler, Matt Vasgersian, and Dave Campbell do an admirable job, but they can be off at times. This can happen in sports games with heavy commentary. Last year I thought The Show was improving, however this year you have to wonder what show they are watching. Despite a few fouls of the mouth, the audio is on top of its game with excellent crowd noise, basic effects and a rocking soundtrack. On the soundtrack you will hear instant classics that include War’s bass-tastic Low Rider, The Ramones, Franz Ferdinand and other random picks. If the soundtrack Sony pervaded is not jiving with your base-running style then you can create your own soundtrack with up to 53 songs. Not a bad option, at all.
Along with the custom soundtrack the new Progressive Battle Performance has an indicator to show how well the batters are hitting, and when they are playing good, rewards are offered as incentives. This also goes for the pitchers including the results of each pitch. The hitting achievement system that you can gain some points even if you don’t complete the task in full making the responsiveness not so black and white. This new system focuses on the positive aspects of achieving the right outcome even if the means didn’t work out at a 100%. A few other improvements include a new manager message system is also put in place so you can get specific messages related your players progression, and a 3rd base coach.
The Replay Vault is nice extra feature that allows gamers to make their own highlight reels to brag to their friends. You can view highlights by team, player or inning which is also nice features to include. One feature that is missing from the PS3 version which is included on the PS2 and PSP version of the game is the fun King of Diamond mode. However if you like motion controls the only way you'll get this level of Baseball action is on the PS3. For the Sixaxis controller you can use it to help sliding in the game which is a unique feature to the PS3, however the right analog stick always works better feeling more intuitive.
Online you will be able to find your MLB news, get roster updates weekly and have access to the MLB Score Ticker. One possitive improvement to the online features in MLB 08 is the ability to store your preferences on the MLB server which accesses the SCOUT (Sports Connect Online User Tracking). The Scout is a matchmaking update that lets you find similar gamers that have the same settings. This is a perfect for tweakers to find gamers like themselves. The Show also easily connects with Sony’s Sports Connect homepage that lets you check your account, grab your mail, check out the message boards and more. If you want to go online and bat a few hours away, I can not suggest a better avenue than MLB 08 the Show.
Thankfully, the PSP version of the show most of the same improvements with the new custom soundtrack, updated Road to the Show mode and new Pitcher and Batter analysis. I've always been a big fan of the PSP version, maybe even a little more than the PS3 because I like to play this game on a go, and its only improved with MLB 08. The major bonus to playing MLB 08 on the go over last years game is the ability to save in game. This really lends itself to the portable version making it easy to get in and out of the game with the freedom you need with gaming on the go.
Finally, the graphics in MLB 08 see a minor improvement over last year with sharper player models and more details around the stadiums. This attention to detail isn't always apparent as a you can find the good amungst the bad, although at least there is a good to talk about. The main problem area would have to be some of the more rougher looking characters in the game, and you will have to sit through some unpatient loading times and another popular PS3 install. When talking about the animations, they seem to be meshed better with the gameplay making the action seem more real, including new walk-up and stance animations. Aside from a few nit-picks, MLB 08 looks good in either HD on your PS3, or even more impressive on the small screen of the PSP. One thing is for certian, next years "show" can only get better.
Each baseball season two choices always come up, and it's likely if you are a fan of either you are going to pick up that brand. Between the two big hitters, 2K Sports and Sony, The Show comes out ahead with a few extra bases this year, but again it’s my brand. If you haven’t tried MLB on the PS3, the '08 version of The Show is the best game of the series, following with the little guy, the portable version which offers a second to none handheld experience. It seems Sony is continuing to improve on the series with baby steps which is better than slamming production in reverse. Once the PS2 retires its bat, I think we’re going to see the proper jump in evolution some gamers are expecting on the PS3. Bottom line, MLB 08 The Show is a great game and worth the yearly upgrade.
Gameplay: 8.5, Graphics:8.5, Sound:8, Innovation: 8, Mojo:8 Final: 8.2 / 10