Sony’s San Diego Studios can do no wrong with The Show. This is the premiere sports franchise on the PS3, and the rare case where limited competition hasn’t hindered the game at all. While lacking substantial upgrades, MLB 09 offers incredible depth and value for a die-hard baseball fan.
Immediately apparent upon booting the game is the lighting engine. In fact, it’s the most apparent new feature in ’09. The visual boost is remarkable, adding a sense of depth to the graphics absent in prior games in the series. The Show has come a long way on the PS3 since the rather poor and rushed ’07 entry.
Wisely, the developers have resisted the temptation of including slapped together new control schemes, settling on a simple button based system. It’s remarkable how in-depth their system is despite using only a few buttons. Where the competition from 2K falls flat with convoluted analog controls, The Show delivers a consistently engrossing pitcher/batter duel that remains the best the sports gaming market has ever seen.
Some minor fielding quibbles remain, such as the game selecting the wrong outfielder when the ball heads to left or right centerfield. Base running offers a new option to control runners, although the original system remains in place. As always, the amount of customization to cater the game to all skill levels is staggering. The options menu is literally pages long, and everything is adjustable.
An incredible array of new animations further bring the game to life, and as usual, it’s the little touches that add value to this product. Stances are accurate almost across the board. Mascots are included in every stadium. Fans don’t show up for a losing team. Players now react realistically depending on where the ball comes at them. Between play cinematics have been increased, and fans still dive for foul balls and home runs. Gimmicky touches like the ability to create crowd taunts are a novel concept, but probably won't find much use.
Led by Matt Vasgersian, the three-man commentary remains spectacular all around. There are some new lines, although some of their dialogue is becoming dated and repetitive. Presentation has always been a highlight in The Show, and it remains key to the experience here as well.
Minor changes, such as the addition of the 40-man roster, will excite true die-hards, although casual fans probably didn’t even realize they were missing. The Franchise keeps everything else, including the ability to manage the team financials, expand the facilities within the stadium, and set up advertising campaigns.
The Road to the Show, in which you control a single player through his entire career, is always addictive. Some minor added features enhance this mode like new training, but it’s a meager step. Load times can be a concern though as the mandatory small install doesn’t seem to help. Online play had some minor lag during the review process, but did hold up without causing too much of an interruption.
It’s hard to know where else The Show can go this generation. It’s already providing the deepest sports gaming experience available (yes, across all sports), and the features are loaded. Short of revamping the control system which isn’t needed, these incremental improvements may be the only way to continually pump out a yearly product at this point. Then again, if they all play like this, who cares?
MLB 09 The Show is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PS2, PSP.