We’re officially into the roster update years on the PS2. With hardly slowing fading, MLB 08 – The Show mildly upgrades the previous year's offering with only a few additions… and changed rosters. This is still the best baseball game on the hardware (for this or any year), but the corner-cutting is becoming evident.
Last year's features? Check. Last year's visuals? Check. Last year's commentary? Check. This is the pattern you’ll find throughout, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The Show brings the best batter/pitcher face-off in the business back for another year. Improved or not, the intricate options and intensity of each at bat is unmistakable. The randomness of the sport is intact, and the simple, intuitive pitching meter opens up an array of possibilities. Even long time players will make mistakes and send a pitch careening into the backstop from time to time. It’s how the game should be played.
Batting is equally open to mistakes. Newcomers will struggle and sliders will need to be adjusted. The Show takes everything into account, including positioning, where the ball touches the bat, the height, and timing. It’s surely an immense undertaking for the aging PS2 to handle all of this.
Any actual improvements to any of this is unnoticeable. The frame rate remains steady, the graphics are still sharply done, and the nicely tuned controls allow for easy access to any action. Base running in particular is notable. A nice touch is the pitcher and batter analysis, allowing either side to pull up a quick guide to each pitch, hot/cold zones, and various tendencies for each player. This is one of the new features, and while appreciated, it’s not worth an upgrade over 07.
For quick play, the Road to the Show mode returns. Here, you play only as a single player on the team and only those plays that involve him. A change is a new advancement system offering goals to aim for and penalties if you play poorly. The mode takes a hit due to how long it takes to build anything resembling a decent player. Five or six seasons could pass before seeing any significant results, and the early going is extremely difficult when your stats are low.
Online play returns with 30 player leagues, and impressive undertaking if you can find people who will stick around for a full season. News, message boards, and easily updateable roster downloads form a fun community. A player card tracks all of your stats so you can easily see if you’re about to be matched up with someone over your skill level.
Every year, it’s impossible to discuss The Show without giving due credit to the commentary team. Matt Vasgersian remains the best commentator in ANY video game sports title, and while it’s probably time to record some new lines (along with his color team), there’s no doubt his calls enhance the experience twofold.
For those clinging onto their PS2s, MLB 08 is a fine addition to your sports gaming collection. Whether or not the few new additions are worth the $40 asking price depends on your dedication to the sport. Otherwise, the previous year's edition will probably hold you over for a little longer.
MLB 08: The Show is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PS3, PSP.