Back in 2006 Sony introduced a new twist to the baseball genre known as Road to the Show, thus breathing new life into a relatively stale genre and bolstering the popularity of their long-running baseball series. Since then, the team at Sony San Diego have been hard at work fine-tuning the game. As great as MLB 08: The Show was, 09 takes that and kicks it up a notch with quite a few additions and enhancements and truly establishes itself as the best baseball sim out there.
First and foremost is the presentation in MLB 09: The Show. The ballparks are extremely detailed from the smokestacks in Great American Ballpark to the green ivy in Wrigley Field, almost no detail has been left out. The announcers from last year (Matt Vasgersian, Rex Hudler and Dave Campbell) make their much welcomed return with their excellent play-by-play and color commentary. But the one thing that truly shines in this years version, is the light. The light has a dramatic effect on everything around it, and it’s not just the shadows, but it also reflects off the little things to give even more detail.
To add to the realism, MLB 09 also ups the ante with its animations. They have been updated to be much more convincing and realistic, including many bare hand plays which are much more accurate looking than in past years. Though it’s not only gameplay animations that have been added, hundreds of presentation animations and player specific animations have also been added to make MLB 09 feel like the most realistic baseball title released to date.
The highlight of the game is the Road to the Show mode, which is similar to last years with a few additions. You create your own custom player as you work your way through AA and AAA ball trying to break into the majors. You control only your character and only play the plays in which your player has a chance to take place in. It makes for a much speedier game and a also a much more involved at times. New to this years version are new training exercises, which are essentially small mini-games that can improve your players performance, and also interactions with the managers which may give you more playing time or sit your butt on the bench all depending on your timing. It may not be much, but it really does improve the game and makes it more enjoyable.
One of the coolest new features is the new customizable chants and yells. You want to be a jerk to your most hated player? Want to yell something jeerful comforting to A-Rod about his recently-admitted usage? Throw a cheer (or jeer) onto his profile and you might just hear yourself in the game next time he comes around. Want to psych yourself up? Why not throw Enter Sandman as the entry music for favorite closer and put some fear into the opposition. You might also care to throw some N’Sync or BSB on your least favorites to give yourself a good laugh when you face them. There’s loads of potential here including custom chants and Home Run music, let yourself run wild.
Last year MLB 08 introduced the Replay Vault, this year it gets even more exciting. You’ll now be able to record videos and export them directly to the XMB at any time during viewing a replay. Unfortunately you cannot upload them directly to YouTube, however given the availability of flash drives it’s a simple task to take the video off the PS3 and upload it to your favorite video sharing site.
The are also some new features to Franchise and Season mode, including the 40-man roster, the rule 5 draft, salary arbitration and much more to make the game deeper than before. You’ll truly get to experience that GM feel, though if there are certain aspects of the game you don’t feel like doing or don’t even know how to do you can always let the CPU take control for those events.
While the online play hasn’t changed much, aside from normal gameplay changes, that doesn’t mean the experience hasn’t changed. You can now create leagues of up to 30 teams and play from draft to World Series all with the same people. Thanks to flex-scheduling players can play games ahead of time to get them in when they can. But not everything online is about playing. Another new feature for this year is the ability to listen in on other games in progress as if they were on the radio. You can listen to the top ranked player squeaking an extra inning win out, or your best friend losing by 10 in the bottom of the third to the Pirates. It gives you a chance to see how other players manage their game.
With the success that other titles have had with custom rosters, Sony has also gone along and added a Roster Vault where you can share your own updated rosters or download others. SportsConnect also offers free weekly updated rosters for those who must have the most accurate rosters to date.
As great as MLB 09 looks and plays, it’s not without its problems. Collision detection will never be perfect, so the occasional clipping of other players or umps will occur, though at a much less frequency when compared to last year. During some games, particularly RttS games, you may see some animations that just look odd. The two most common for me as I played SS were the first baseman looking like he was going to throw to third after a play, but the trajectory of the ball strangely changed towards my player. At the same time, my player’s animation had ended and was basically standing there like a statue waiting for the ball. It’s nothing that even begins to affect gameplay, however it can become a distraction once it’s noticed.
Remember years past when the Home Run Derby was pretty much a staple in every baseball game out there? As much fun and entertaining as it may be, the PS3 version does not have the feature though its cousin for the PSP does. The PS3 version also lacks any use of the PS Eye, while the PS2 version can use the Eye Toy for character creation. In the end, MLB09: The Show continues building the momentum that the franchise has been had for the past two years. It is the most gorgeous and entertaining baseball sim to date.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
Occasional clipping, but nothing severe.
Authentic player behavior really heightens the realism.