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Sean Pettibone

MLB 06 - The Show (PSP)


By Michael Palisano

Taking the action back to the diamond, MLB 06 - The Show for PSP is an excellent baseball simulation that captures the look and feel of the sport. Featuring an array of single player modes and extensive online support, MLB 06 allows you to either play a quick game or go deep in career mode as you build up a young player from the minors to the big leagues. The game's polished presentation is excellent with solid visuals, play-by-play commentary, and intuitive controls that make it easy to play. Read our review and find out why MLB 06 - The Show is a solidly entertaining baseball title that should please sports fans everywhere.

MLB 06 - The Show is another solid installment in the series from SCEA, with realistic graphics, deep gameplay and intuitive controls that effectively shows what the PSP is capable of. The game offers players the chance to play as any of the 28 big league teams, with a huge number of players licensed for the game, giving you the real Major League feel. Every big league stadium has been faithfully recreated with a great amount of detail, giving the game a high degree of authenticity. MLB 06's gameplay modes are extensive and include exhibition, single game, season and, tournament modes. Players can also choose to play in the Career mode, where they can build up a player from the minor leagues to professional levels, which can be surprisingly engrossing. These standard modes are included along with two arcade style mini-games. These are a home run derby and a cool hyper-realistic mode called King of The Diamond, which offers some unique gameplay mechanics. In this timed mode, the field is filled with large boards representing hits, strikeouts, fly balls and, homers. Players alternate with their rival, and earn points for each hit. You gain extra time by hitting home runs, however time is deducted when you strike out. This mode plays much faster than the other modes, allowing players to concentrate on the pure mechanics of the gameplay. In addition to these single player modes, MLB 06 also includes some extensive internet support, where you can battle it out with other players in either infrastructure or ad-hoc mode. Players can set up games, and then find an opponent in the lobby to compete against. In this mode, you are also able to choose the types of players, difficulty, and stadiums. Players can also download live MLB scores, team news and also update rosters online, giving the game a cool tie-in with real world MLB action.

For the most part, MLB 06's interface well executed throughout, with the hitting, pitching and fielding controls easy to understand. During standard games, players have the choice of using either a traditional pitching interface, where they can select the type of pitch, place the pitch, and throw the ball. This approach is easy to understand, but placing the pitch in the right area can be difficult thanks to an over-responsive d-pad. Fortunately, the batter's hot and cold zones are also displayed, so you can have some idea where to put the ball. As you'd expect, varying your pitches helps to keep the opposing batter off-balance and increases the likelihood of a strikeout. The traditional interface is intuitive, but players can also use a newly implemented radar system. Here, you have to time the pitch for velocity and speed using an indicator. It's not as easy to use as you'd expect, but as you master its various forms. Once the action moves onto the field, players will find the fielding functions straightforward and simple to master. You can choose to fields the ball manually or automatically, though the automatic mode isn't nearly as challenging and can lead to costly mistakes that can be frustrating.

Once a ball is hit, you'll see an indicator on the field showing the general area where the ball is going to land. This slowly shrinks as the ball gets closer, allowing you to better position your fielder. Once you've caught the ball, you can throw it back to the infield quickly by pressing the system's face buttons, which correspond to the bases. When you're in the batting cage itself, you can use a variety of techniques to increase your chances of getting on base. Swinging at the first pitch is never a good idea in most cases, but you can definitely get a feel of a pitcher's style quickly in the game, allowing you to anticipate their next throw. Waiting for the perfect pitch also helps. When you have runners on base, you can control their movements using the shift buttons and steal bases or take long leads when the counts go full. MLB 06's on field play mechanics and controls are excellent, giving the player a great deal of control over the action, with plenty of options at every stage of the game. The gameplay itself flows expertly and accurately reflects the pacing and strategy of the sport's intricacies. During each game, players can also switch their rosters by substituting players, calling up relief pitchers from the bullpen, and adding designated hitters to their rosters. You can also change your strategy by moving the infield and outfield players to different positions, allowing you to get in place for double plays and prevent runs from scoring. If a game is looking like a hopeless blowout, you can also use the 'fast-forward' option to get to the end of the game quickly. MLB 06's rosters are quite impressive with most of the big names represented, and on the proper teams as well, representing the moves made by teams during the off-season nearly flawlessly. This comprehensive approach also extends to an extensive array of classic players, which you can unlock in special modes. This lets you to put today's best against baseball legends to see who would come out on top, which is really cool.

The game's presentation and graphics are excellent, and take good advantage of the console's power. Unfortunately, this can lead to some annoyingly long load times between games, though the tradeoff comes with excellent production values. Playing MLB 06 on the PSP is just like watching a game on television, with an array of camera angles available, from behind the catcher or pitcher views, depending on your preference. The action moves seamlessly between the in-field and out field when a ball is hit, with a nice change in camera angles. The players themselves look and act realistically, thanks to motion capture technology that gives them multiple animations and movements. The game's soundtrack consists of an excellent play-by-play commentary featuring a three-man booth with Matt Vasgersian, Rex Hudler and Dave Campell. Their voices tracks the action faithfully, though the commentary tends to drag behind the gameplay at some points. You can choose to turn the commentary on or off, and can select different camera angles, and the frequency of TV-style cutaways, allowing you to customize the game to your liking. While MLB 06's graphics are quite impressive, the fans still have a flat, unrealistic appearance when at certain angles which is somewhat jarring. However, the game's appearance is slick and polished for the most part, with slick menus and an intuitive interface. The game's animation and movements are also well-done and the game does an excellent job of recreating the excitement of Major League Baseball.

The presentation just completes the package, which is solidly executed throughout. While there are a few minor faults with MLB 96, such as some long load times and a somewhat awkward pitching system, the good definitely outweighs the bad. An abundance of gameplay modes offers solid traditional baseball action along with some innovative arcade-style modes that bring an action-packed feel to the action. An exceptional wi-fi online mode allows for multiplayer competition with the bonus feature that allows you to download real world news and stats. The game plays very nicely and accurately recreates the feel and strategy of Major League Baseball, with extensive career and season modes that allow you to go into great depth. MLB 06 - The Show is an excellent package that shows off the PSP handheld, and is a remarkably faithful achievement that succeeds in most areas. It's presentation, gameplay and features are excellent and this game should please baseball fans with an accurate recreation of the sport in the palm of their hands.

Grade: B

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