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MLB '09: The Show REVIEW

MLB '09: The Show Review (PS3)

Let us just get one thing out of the way, MLB 09: The Show is the best next-gen sports game yet. It is a must-own title, and anyone who is even remotely interested in baseball should consider checking it out.

It is also one of the deeper, more complex and realistic sports games I have ever gotten the chance to play. Simply put, games like High Heat and MVP can now be put on the shelf in the Sanner household because The Show has finally surpassed them.

Now, at this point of the review, I must stress that MLB 09: The Show is not perfect. There are several little bugs and interesting happenings that will make you shake your head like catchers sometimes do after a foul ball. But from my experience, these negatives only slightly detract from the overall package.


MLB 09: The Show is the best next-gen sports game to date.

Pitcher/Batter Battle

As a pitcher in the real world -- at least when I play sports that resemble baseball -- my favorite part of the game of baseball is the pitcher/batter battle. If a baseball game does not nail this aspect of the game, then the rest of the game has zero chance of keeping my attention.

The Show nails this aspect of the game to such an extent that I almost feel like it will be overwhelming for people who are not familiar with baseball. If you are an arcade-style gamer who swings at everything, you are going to get extremely frustrated in a hurry.

While batting, you have to learn to be patient at the plate and learn how to look for certain pitches in certain situations. And, if you are not prepared to take balls and struggle with hitting, turning on the "quick pitch counts" will help you a bit (think of it as a somewhat arcade-like equivalent).

The Show is also a game that is traditionally ripe with little details that just make your jaw drop in awe. Two particularly awesome things I noticed this year were the catcher giving you a sign so you can simply pitch off what he is calling, and the fact that the pitcher actually grips the ball correctly. So on a slider, a pitcher has two fingers off to the correct side of the ball. For a changeup, the pitcher holds the ball further in his palm. It is an astounding level of detail and realism that you just have to see to believe.

One thing that I did find particularly annoying while hitting, though, was how the timing of swings had changed rather noticeably from last year. I was incredibly early on every type of pitch, and my offense was pitiful for the first five games or so. I turned up the pitch-speed slider and that fixed my issue. If you are a veteran having issues with offense, I would recommend you set pitches to come in faster as well.


Hitting in MLB 09: The Show is quite challenging.

Pitching is more realistic than ever. Pitchers will be affected by attributes, confidence and fatigue while on the mound. That sounds obvious to say, but unlike many sports games where ratings mean nothing, you can clearly tell the difference between pitching with Cliff Lee and Vicente Padilla.

The different pitches behave correctly and definitely look similar to their real-life counterparts, which is something some baseball games have taken for granted historically. Pitcher fatigue seems to be OK to me, but I think some pitchers tire rather quickly. Some starting pitchers are famished after 70 pitches -- I usually use the Rangers, which probably has something to do with that phenomenon. With more talented pitchers, the fatigue issue is not as pronounced, and the game also implements a great set of gameplay sliders that can be manipulated to tweak pitcher fatigue levels.

Overall, better pitchers will typically locate pitches better and are less likely to leave a pitch hanging. However, if you are caught playing with the Texas Rangers, prepare to see a lot of pitches end up where you did not want them to.

This is true of the batters as well, just not to the same extent. I can clearly tell the difference between batting with Alex Rodriguez and Gary Matthews Jr., but the difference is not as pronounced.

I would argue that this is a tribute to the game as well, since the difference between hitters on a certain day is not as pronounced. You have to take in a longer stretch of games to really tell the difference between them because your nine-hole hitter will sometimes have a three- or four-day stretch of good hitting while your star in the three-hole strikes out four times and does not get a hit at all in the same period. Evaluating hitting is about the long-term trends, and I think even The Show gives that particular piece of baseball a rather realistic treatment.


Looks like he's going to be running awhile.

Fielding

One of my main gripes with fielding last year were the throws to second base during a force out. In the past, the fielders would throw these lackadaisical floaters that caused you to actually miss out on the force out. I am very happy to write that this is no longer an issue.

The rest of the fielding elements are outstanding for the most part. There are enough throwing errors that you will know they are in the game, but they are largely ratings-based and happen at good intervals, so you will not feel like they are sticking out like a Marlins fan at a home game.

I am very happy with the fielding overall. I did notice that the outfielders still move a little unnaturally for my tastes -- it just seems unnatural for them to be able to cut on a dime like they do. However, I can understand why this was done, as sometimes you have to make sacrifices in realism in order to make sure the end-user experience is as good as possible. Still, I hope this receives some tweaking in '10.


The outfielders can cut on a dime kind of like Barry Sanders.


The Little Bugs

I must mention -- after spending the last thousand or so words gushing over the gameplay -- that there are a ton of little bugs that are in MLB 09: The Show. When a company builds a game so complex and so rich in detail, I would say some bugs are bound to pop up.

One bug that I hope will be patched involves the Cubs playing all of their franchise home games at night (sans Sundays). This is baseball blasphemy, and the folks at SCE Studios San Diego should rectify this egregious sin.

Other bugs, such as weird animations and managers who change skin color while walking out for a mound visit are there, and you will probably notice something else that is strange or weird once or so a game. Nevertheless, for the first time since I can remember, I was able to forgive these types of little misgivings because the game is simply so good on the field.

Franchise Mode

If there is any area of the game that is holding it back, it is the franchise mode. As a fan of the Out of the Park Baseball series, I have come to expect a streamlined way to manage my franchise.

MLB 09: The Show offers a very similar level of depth that OOTP offers in franchise management –- for the record, though, it is not quite as deep –- but the interface is just terrible. You can say I am spoiled, but the roster management screen in The Show is the single-worst roster management screen I have ever seen in a sports video game. It took me 15 minutes to figure out what the heck was going on with my team.

It seems like The Show overwhelms itself with information. Because of this, it ends up trying to present a lot of information in a very little area. My suggestion to the developers is to rethink how the entire franchise mode is organized. The details are fine, but the interface is just terrible.

But, while the interface in the franchise mode is a mess, it is still more than worth noting that the level of detail is simply amazing for a console sports game. I would honestly say that the franchise mode in MLB: The Show far surpasses the entire game of MLB Front Office Manager, funky interface and all.

You have every imaginable option available to you, including salary arbitration hearings, the Rule 5 draft and so on. The Show's franchise mode is deep, and if you can figure out the interface and are a baseball nut, you will spend endless hours managing your franchise.

I also simulated a season, and I found the stats to be mostly realistic, although it would take a far higher sample size to see if some of the discrepancies were because of the simulation engine or just strange occurrences within the game. I did not see any teams like Kansas City or Houston winning 98 games though.

I only hope Single-A teams are in the game next year.


It's too bad we couldn't get failing companies to buy naming rights to our parks in The Show.

Road to the Show

While it has not changed much since last year, Road To the Show continues to be one of the best single-player career modes available in sports gaming.

You start out by creating your player and are brought to spring training to fight for a spot on your club's roster. In all likelihood, you will be sent to your team's AA or AAA affiliate, where you will play and work your way up the food chain based on your in-game performance, and your ability to meet career goals laid out to you by the organization.

One of the great features of Road To the Show is the "politics" involved, and the personal decisions you have to make as a player -- plus the consequences that follow. If you feel like your skills are not being used correctly, you can talk to the manager and try to get more playing time. How the team responds can determine your progress as a player. And if relations completely crumble, you can ask to be sent to another team where you can resume your journey once again.

With the goals, you can choose to follow the team's thinking or make your own decisions about where to spend your points. However, continuing to go against your club's wishes could lead to a diminished role on the team and lots of unnecessary drama.

While the mode still works, there is the risk in the coming years that it will begin to feel a bit stale if changes are not made. But for now, it is still one of the best features in The Show.


Yeah, the lighting is THAT good.

Audio/Video

Needless to say, the sights and sounds of The Show make it look and sound like a big-time game. The new lighting effects are the best ever in a sports video game. The player models look very good as well, although it is hit or miss when it comes to the accuracy of faces, swings and pitching motions.

The commentary trio of Rex Hudler, Matt Vasgersian and Dave Campbell is once again incredibly good. There are some out-of-place lines and some frequent repeats, but the group could still be considered the best announcing trio in sports video games today.

Also on the sound front, the crowd is mostly spot on; though, sometimes after big plays like home runs, the home crowd stays unnecessarily rowdy for about three more pitches. At any rate, the people in the crowd sound like typical MLB fans, hecklers and all.

It is amazing what giving a game great looks and audio will do for it, and the audio and graphics in MLB 09: The Show simply make the game that much better.

Online

I said in the franchise-mode portion of the review, "If there is any area of the game that is holding it back, it is the franchise mode." Well, depending on your preference, online play could also be that one weak spot.

I have played multiple games online and all of them have suffered from some sort of lag, which has been a chronic problem with the series over the year; a few of my games even became unplayable because of the lag.

This is a shame because because baseball is the one sport that cannot afford to suffer from lag. There is just too much timing involved.

When you do play a game that has minimal or no lag, the experience still is not equivalent to playing offline. The animations do not always sync up, it seems like it is nearly impossible to check swing, and the graphics do take a bit of a hit

On the bright side, the online options are pretty solid. So if something can be done about the lag, there will be plenty to keep you busy online. The online-leagues feature is a novel idea, with flex scheduling and a full live draft. But again, if the lag is not fixed, all the features in the world will not save the game online.


Simply put, run and go get MLB 09: The Show now!

Conclusion

If you are a fan of baseball, will be a fan of baseball or have ever in the past thought about being a fan of baseball, you owe it to yourself to at least check out MLB 09: The Show.

This game currently represents the pinnacle of the genre we cover at OS. There is no other game that touches it quality-wise. It has been almost two years since a game earned a score above a "9" at OS, but that streak is now over. If not for the many little bugs, the online mode issues and the clunky franchise interface, the Show would have been rated as a 10.

On the Field: This is baseball. It is not a perfect game, but if I were rating this section, it would be very close to a 10. The pitching, hitting and fielding all just play right.

Graphics: The lighting is realistic, the stadiums I have visited over the years in real life look spot on, and the player models are solid.

Sound: The announcing is great -- the best team going today in a sports video game. That does not mean it is perfect, though, so I am looking for better things moving forward.

Entertainment Value: If you enjoy the intricacies of the game of baseball, this game could keep you entertained forever.

Learning Curve: Get ready, you will need to spend some time practicing before you succeed. Work the count, locate your pitches and be smart in the field. This is a deep game, and it will not be easy to pick up and master.

Score: 9.5 (Instant Classic)


MLB '09: The Show Score
The gameplay is, simply put, awesome.
The graphics are some of the best.
Franchise mode is incredibly deep.
Lots of little bugs do take away from the game.
The franchise interface sucks.
Online lag, enough said.
9.5
out of 10
MLB '09: The Show Videos
Member Comments
# 1 buzzguy @ 03/06/09 07:09 PM
Wow...higher score than FIFA 09 and NHL 09!
I'm skeptical...since I keep hearing the online is kind of lame compared to the EA sports titles I just mentioned...
 
# 2 Papi34 @ 03/06/09 07:09 PM
Thanks bud, been waiting for this and hoping for that first sentence!
 
# 3 Rob_NYY @ 03/06/09 07:38 PM
Great review!

Quote:
One bug that I hope will be patched involves the Cubs playing all of their franchise home games at night (sans Sundays). This is baseball blasphemy, and the folks at SCE Studios San Diego should rectify this egregious sin.
I agree, I really hope they take care of this. People can shrug it off all they want, but it's a big deal to me and I'm not even a Cubs fan.

Other than the day games mistake, the game is as near perfect as you can get. It's amazing how great it plays right out of the box. I haven't even touched one slider. Hell, I haven't even looked at them!!
 
# 4 Jamin23 @ 03/06/09 07:45 PM
the commentary is not better than mlb 2k9 I'm not trying to start a war. I haven't played either game but from watching the videos of both games I think 2k9 has the better commentary, but the commentary is still great in this game from what I have heard and from playing 08 on psp
 
# 5 bkrich83 @ 03/06/09 07:48 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamin23
the commentary is not better than mlb 2k9 I'm not trying to start a war. I haven't played either game but from watching the videos of both games I think 2k9 has the better commentary, but the commentary is still great in this game from what I have heard and from playing 08 on psp
Wait you're saying the commentary is better on one game than another based on video's of the game? You have actually played them?

That makes perfect sense.
 
# 6 Jamin23 @ 03/06/09 07:59 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by bkrich83
Wait you're saying the commentary is better on one game than another based on video's of the game? You have actually played them?

That makes perfect sense.
I'm not trying to start a war here can't one thing be better in the other game. I love the show and am trying to get a ps3 to play it. This game is much better and it is true baseball but the commentary is better in 2k9.
 
# 7 HustlinOwl @ 03/06/09 08:01 PM
Agree with everything and very good post
 
# 8 Zorb @ 03/06/09 08:07 PM
nice review, I couldn't agree more.
 
# 9 Jamin23 @ 03/06/09 08:07 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scottdau
You are missing what he is saying. He is talking about how can you make that decision without playing the retail version? He only heard the video clips.
no I get his point but from the videos of both games you can clearly tell that the commentary is better in 2k9. I do like the commentary in the show also. Both games commentary has pros and cons.
 
# 10 longshadow11 @ 03/06/09 08:07 PM
I have to agree the one and only area 2K outdoes The Show is the commentary.
 
# 11 SoxFan01605 @ 03/06/09 08:27 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamin23
no I get his point but from the videos of both games you can clearly tell that the commentary is better in 2k9. I do like the commentary in the show also. Both games commentary has pros and cons.
I think when you look at commentary, you have to look at the whole package. You are speaking on preference more than actuality, I think.

Having played both games, I can tell you that I like the flow of 2K9's commentary between the guys much better than The Show. That said, The Show's commentary has always had value in it's subtleties throughout your time with it. I heard lines just a couple months ago in 08 that I hadn't heard all year. There is very good varience there.

In 2K9, I've already heard many repeats and miscues and it's early. Seems that team specific commentary doesn't deviate from script much. This is to be expected as it's a new team.

That's the point people are trying to get you to understand...you can't base it off of watching a few videos. Obvisouly people will prefer what they prefer, but overall The Show's commentary is deeper.

Anyway, as for the review, I think it's a bit high. I love this game and am having a blast. BUT, if we're going to take 2K to task for all their bugs, the The Show deserves it too.

There is the Cubs thing (actually, the schedules as a whole apparently), The lineup issue, numerous little oddities that crop up from year to year. The fielding, while improved, is still holding this game back from perfection on the field, RTTS baserunning controls are questionable (or brutal depending on your level of drama) etc, etc.

None of those things hurt the overall quality of the game, but picture it for a moment if those things were fixed.

I'd probably agree with the 9.5 if they patch some of the little bugs. For now, I'd say maybe 8.8-9.0 if I'm being wholly objective. Still a d*mn fine game and worth every penny IMHO.
 
# 12 Jamin23 @ 03/06/09 08:27 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by pbz06
nice review, pretty much spot on

but i sooo hope they fix the terrible online experience. It's not only the lag, but the out of sync between the animations/sounds/players is just terrible. I've had a couple of games where it was lag free for the most part, but the out of syncness kills it anyway.

but offline, the game is almost flawless

and i have to agree with the person that said that 2k9's commentary is better. Not saying The Show is "bad", because it's great....I just think that 2k9's sounds more realistic and natural
thank you for backing me up on the commentary. I'm not saying the game is bad because obviously I would be lying but the commentary is not up to par with 2k9
 
# 13 Inhocmark @ 03/06/09 08:34 PM
I'm partial to the The Show commentary, if only because I'm Gary Thorne(d) out after NHL 09
 
# 14 ChaseB @ 03/06/09 08:41 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoxFan01605
I think when you look at commentary, you have to look at the whole package. You are speaking on preference more than actuality, I think.

Having played both games, I can tell you that I like the flow of 2K9's commentary between the guys much better than The Show. That said, The Show's commentary has always had value in it's subtleties throughout your time with it. I heard lines just a couple months ago in 08 that I hadn't heard all year. There is very good varience there.

In 2K9, I've already heard many repeats and miscues and it's early. Seems that team specific commentary doesn't deviate from script much. This is to be expected as it's a new team.

That's the point people are trying to get you to understand...you can't base it off of watching a few videos. Obvisouly people will prefer what they prefer, but overall The Show's commentary is deeper.

Anyway, as for the review, I think it's a bit high. I love this game and am having a blast. BUT, if we're going to take 2K to task for all their bugs, the The Show deserves it too.

There is the Cubs thing (actually, the schedules as a whole apparently), The lineup issue, numerous little oddities that crop up from year to year. The fielding, while improved, is still holding this game back from perfection on the field, RTTS baserunning controls are questionable (or brutal depending on your level of drama) etc, etc.

None of those things hurt the overall quality of the game, but picture it for a moment if those things were fixed.

I'd probably agree with the 9.5 if they patch some of the little bugs. For now, I'd say maybe 8.8-9.0 if I'm being wholly objective. Still a d*mn fine game and worth every penny IMHO.
Yea, that's why I think the commentary is still better in The Show. More fluid and natural in 2k? Yes. But there is way more detail and so many lines etc. that The Show commentary will still feel fresh a while down the line, where as I already hear many things in 2K over and over.

I think the difference between the bugs in both games is that, The Show's you can mostly avoid from a on-the-field/controls perspective (which is obviously most important aspect to any game), but in 2K, many bugs are gameplay related, which makes them way more frustrating.
 
# 15 statum71 @ 03/06/09 08:47 PM
I agree 100% that this is the best sports video game period.

Now I just wish football can start to measure up.
 
# 16 SoxFan01605 @ 03/06/09 08:51 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChaseB
Yea, that's why I think the commentary is still better in The Show. More fluid and natural in 2k? Yes. But there is way more detail and so many lines etc. that The Show commentary will still feel fresh a while down the line, where as I already hear many things in 2K over and over.

I think the difference between the bugs in both games is that, The Show's you can mostly avoid from a on-the-field/controls perspective (which is obviously most important aspect to any game), but in 2K, many bugs are gameplay related, which makes them way more frustrating.
Oh, I agree. I think though, that The Show gets a bit more leeway on it's bugs than 2K does. Rightfully so in some respects, but the bugs (IMO) in The Show while not big, aren't the only thing keeping it from a "10". So a score of 9.5 doesn't even seem to take them into much consideration at all.

Plus, the reviewer's biggest gripe, besides franchise interface, was online. I don't see how a game with mediocre to poor online function PLUS a fair amount of bugs deserves such a high score...and I don't even play online...lol

Just seems that 2K9 ended up getting the critique piled on (on top of the bigger issues) while The Show's were kind of like "oh yeah...it's not perfect."

I used to do QA work and when we audited people, the more we found, the more we looked. The more we looked, the more we found...lol. I think that's likely at play a bit here.

Different reviewers though, I get it. Plus, it's all opinion and as I said, without the bugs I could buy it as a 9.5.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pbz06
The difference between The Show's bugs and 2k9's, is that The Show's bugs don't derail the gameplay and arn't core design or AI glitches that ruin the experience. In The Show, the small bugs are very basic and can go unnoticed for the most part. I mean, yea the Cubs schedule thing might be a big deal but it doesn't affect gameplay at all. Same thing with some of the franchise and RTTS "bugs". They're more like complaints than actual bugs.
lol...I had a feeling that comment would generate the most attention...oops. It wasn't the main point. Forgot that mentioning the "other game" in the opposing forums is dangerous...lol.

Seriously though, I get that. I'm not saying the games should be anywhere close in score.

I'm just saying that even the smaller gripes in 2K9 got attention, while The Show's got mostly brushed aside. Some of them are quite legit and can detract from an otherwise great experience. Not saying that from a personal standpoint (I only have issue with the lineup issue...which can seemingly be worked around anyway).

anyway, it's no biggie, and as I said above, it's different reviewers and opinions. that leads to different focus as well. Just an observation is all.
 
# 17 MMChrisS @ 03/06/09 08:59 PM
Yeah, to me....the bugs weren't a huge deal at all. To some people it might be, but none of them particularly made the gameplay experience any less. I honestly feel this game was so very close to being our first 10 in a long time, I'm going to post a blog on it this weekend or early next week.

But I mean, just earlier today I saw that the guys in the bullpen disappeared for an inning but you could still see the ball floating out there like a ghost was throwing in the bullpen. There are a ton of little things like that which happen but are more comedic than anything else. They do take away from being able to suspend belief, as they remind you that you are playing a game, but in the end....09 The Show is the best next-gen game and probably the best baseball game released to this point. MVP 05 modded up on the PC is pretty close, but I think we have a new king for the sport.
 
# 18 SoxFan01605 @ 03/06/09 09:21 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by MMChrisS
Yeah, to me....the bugs weren't a huge deal at all. To some people it might be, but none of them particularly made the gameplay experience any less. I honestly feel this game was so very close to being our first 10 in a long time, I'm going to post a blog on it this weekend or early next week.

in the end....09 The Show is the best next-gen game and probably the best baseball game released to this point. MVP 05 modded up on the PC is pretty close, but I think we have a new king for the sport.
All nit-picking on details aside, in the end this is the main point. You're right. Best console sports game by a pretty fair margin, IMO. I personally thought it outshined MVP already, but with the upgrades made this year, it's even more clear. The only thing I still like better about MVP is the way the fielding was.

I always thought this series felt more like a much more refined version of ASB...I see a lot of influence from that series here in terms of appearance and details (which is fine by me. ASB 04/05 was tops for console baseball to me). Gameplay though is another story...lol...as ASB was not near the same level as MVP or The Show.

Anyway, looking forward to the blog
 
# 19 teambayern @ 03/06/09 09:25 PM
Let's end the debate on commentary. You guys want more variation, and he wants a more natural, flowing, broadcast style. He heard it on a video, but I'm guessing it sounds the same as when you hear it through your tv, He doesn't care that there might be repeats, he cares about the style of it. Both games have great commentary.
 
# 20 Spaced Ace @ 03/06/09 09:32 PM
Nice review, I expected it t get between a 9 and a 9.5.
 

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