Games for Lunch: MLB 08: The Show
Release Date: March 4, 2008
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), PS2, PSP
ESRB Rating: E
0:00 I played MLB 07 a bit after I reviewed it for lunch about a year ago, but the last time I really got into a baseball game was back in the NES days.
0:01 I'm downloading a 36 MB update. I'm reeeeeally getting tired of this, Sony.
0:05 The update is installing. The download wasn't quite as bad this time.
0:06 "2007: Year of the Milestone" flashes across the screen. "In 1989 Sammy Sosa made his major league debut..." He was chasing the "600 club" re: home runs, and he got it in a fetching Rangers uniform. Some nice full-screen game footage here, then an abrupt transition to a legalese loading screen and the title. Gives the game a good sense of history.
0:08 After some longish initial loading, the game asks me to create a profile. An old-timey baseball radio announcer comes on in the background -- nice touch -- then transitions into the song "Low Rider." Not as nice.
0:09 Live game scores scroll across the bottom of the screen. Too bad it's nine in the morning in the East and no one's playing, yet. Let's get this show on the road with, er, Road to the Show mode.
0:10 The default name for my player is "Joe Random." I like this so much that I decide to keep it!
0:11 There are 2,840 "announcer names" that I can choose for Mr. Random. I can just imagine the voice actors saying all of these names over and over until they were just right. It must have been hell, especially when they had to pronounce ones like "Theofanopolous," which is what I end up with.
0:14 My virtual player chews gum as I choose his stats. It's off-putting, to say the least. I try to make him as much like me as possible, to prove I could actually be a starting pitcher in the MLB. Hey, it could still happen!
0:15 I can adjust the forehead wrinkles on my character. This seems a little bit over the top, and yet, I can't stop playing around with it!
0:17 Putting blemishes on my character makes me realize how few pro athletes have pimples.
0:19 The background music switches to a radio clip of Texas putting up 30 runs on my hometown Orioles. Cry. I'm liking the varied music in general, though -- from Maroon 5 to techno/rap, it's all good.
0:20 I could literally spend all day playing with crow's feet and eye bags, but I need to play the game at some point, so I just throw some points onto the pitching stats and start.
0:21 My Orioles are ranked near the bottom on every metric. Not that they deserve to have a higher rank, but still, it hurts.
0:22 There is a mind-boggling array of options, including Sixaxis fielding controls, which sounds like the worst idea I've ever heard. OFF!
0:23 I can even control the umpire consistency! They really have thought of everything, but I don't want to think about all this stuff. Play ball!
0:24 The system simulates my team's schedule until I'm set to start as pitcher. The Orioles rack up two losses before I have a chance to pull them out of their slump.
0:25 "We'll jump ahead now to the bottom of inning one." Speedy!
0:26 Three balls, two strikes and a dangerous foul start things off, in that order. The interface seems streamlined this time around to be much less ostentatious. It almost looks like a normal televised ballgame. I can barely see the strike zone. Luckily, the DualShock 3 rumbles violently when I aim too far outside.
0:28 A routine grounder gets me my first out. I can't control the fielders -- I'm still the pitcher throughout the play. What a gyp.
0:29 I allow a runner to get on first and a new "goal" pops up: "Induce a ground ball." Interesting. Instead I allow a base hit. My new new goal is "don't allow the runners to score." These goals seem kind of obvious, actually.
0:30 "The third base coach had to give it the old ole that time" The fact that I haven't noticed the announcers until now is a testament to how natural they are.
0:31 I get my double play a little late with a sinking changeup and the game fast-forwards to my second inning at bat. "Joe Random will get his first opportunity now," says the announcer. That name still cracks me up.
0:33 After two whiffs at good pitches, I take three balls, then swing at an awful pitch to get retired. For a pitcher, that ain't bad, actually. I like the little controllable area showing where your bat's going to go. Makes me feel in control.
0:34 A recommended changeup leads to a driven single, despite my getting perfect power and placement. Thanks for the great recommendation, game! Fortunately I induce my ground ball this time and get a double play.
0:35 HA! I take too long choosing my pitch and the camera zooms in on the batter's box, where the ump steps up, takes the bat and does a practice swing. I'm on the floor here.
0:36 Part of me misses controlling the fielders. Another part of me doesn't miss fumbling routine ground balls like a putz.
0:37 I'm really liking the player animations. The umps and the crowd look good, too. This is one amazing looking simulation, and I don't even have an HDTV.
0:38 I let the opposing pitcher get a base hit. The pitcher! Cry. This is followed by the other team's first run. Double cry. Still, I'm doing better than I normally did at MLB 07.
0:40 "Joe Random will take a long look down here as he may be bunting to avoid the double play." I'll be taking a long look at the third base coach, who makes a bunch of ridiculous movements to indicate the bunt.
0:42 I miss my bunt attempt for a third strike. "And that's a rather weak attempt," the announcer says accurately. I get booed! Booed!
0:43 That's the end of the game? I guess they pulled me because I gave up a run and I can't hit? Anyway, I earn the W for the 6-3 win.
0:44 Looks like I can replay video from almost any moment of the game. It's a nice touch, but a little much, since most plays in a baseball game are booooring.
0:45 I get 90 "training points" to apply to my stats by getting a good ERA and WHIP and succeeding at my goals.
0:48 I can retire already and "ride off into the sunset like a true professional." After one game? Really?
0:49 I have a viewable Upper Deck baseball card! Joe Random has hit the big time!
0:50 Between the music and the number of options, I could happily play around on the menu all day. Instead, I'm gonna retire. "Good luck with your much-earned retirement," says the game. HA! "Random had a short-lived career and retires as just another player who couldn't hack it in the big leagues!" Yup!
0:52 On to the "quick game." I hammer the first pitch opposite field for an off-the-wall single. Whoo!
0:54 "Let's go Red Sox. Let's go Red Sox!" Screw you, virtual fans!
0:55 I just noticed the pitching is from the batter's perspective in the quick game. In the other mode, it was from the pitcher's perspective. I'm not sure which I like more. This one makes it easier to position pitches, but the other looks more like real baseball. Hmm.
0:56 My first fielding play is a ground ball that gets thrown a bit high and lets the runner reach first. Am I doing something wrong?
0:58 I have a new appreciation for major league batters. Reading these pitches in the split second from mound to plate is TOUGH!
1:00 I rip it down the first base line but the first baseman dives for it to end my time. D'oh!
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? It's the most complete baseball simulation I've ever seen. To be honest, though, I probably don't have enough time to give it the attention it deserves.
This column was based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
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