Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


MLB 08 - The Show (Playstation 3)

This release

Acting as a solid utility player over these past few seasons, Sony's MLB 08 - The Show might actually finally be ready to break into the big leagues this year thanks to an impressive array of new features and upgrades that make for a solidly playable and deep baseball title. Featuring the complete lineup of all the MLB teams, players and stadiums, the game goes a bit deeper than you'd expect and offers a comprehensive array of minor league teams as well. This gives you plenty of options to choose from, and makes for a deeper play experience. This ties in nicely to the design which allows you to start a career at the lower rungs of the pro-game and work your way up to the big leagues, or "the Show" as the game says. You begin with a creation screen that allows you to customize your player than begin to work in a series of smaller games, completing player-specific tasks during each game to impress your manager and earn new skills. As you play through this mode, you'll gradually be promoted within the team and then the league as your character becomes more able. During each game, you can also fast-forward to the portions that directly affect your player, which makes things go a bit quicker. During the Show mode, you can also purchase player enhancements to increase your abilities, though these have to be earned with solid play. This is an exciting mode that allows you to see the game from a completely different perspective, immersing you in the basic techniques that help you become a better player during the standard games. MLB 08 also allows you to look at the other side of things and play through the game in management mode. This is where you can control the team's finances, set rosters and trade or develop players. This year's edition also includes the ability to go through your team's entire acquisition and development history with the new Roster Foundation mode, which offers you a comprehensive overview of your activity over several seasons. This is an impressive addition that allows you to really get inside the strategy of the game.

It isn't all statistics and practicing, and once you get on the field, you'll find that the gameplay offers an excellent recreation of the sport's strategy and timing, with easy to use, intuitive controls. The batter interface is quite impressive from a number of standpoints. You can call your shots using the d-pad, which allows you to contact the ball with a much higher percentage. Swinging at the ball requires some timing and you have to concentrate on the pitcher's movements in order to guess where they'll be throwing the ball. Players can also select which type of swing they'll use, and hit with either a standard bat swing or go for a harder power hit, which increases both the chance of hitting one out of the park or hitting a fly ball to center field. MLB 08's interface makes this remarkably simple and intuitive with on-screen menus that allow you to control your movement precisely. One of the more interesting gameplay features this time around are the analysis HUDs which show you where your opponent's tendencies are. For example when you're on the mound, you can use the Batter Analysis menus to see where a hitter is likely to hit and which pitches they have difficulty with. When you're at the plate, you can use the Pitcher Analysis system to give you an idea of the types of pitches you're likely to see thrown and how effective that they are. MLB 08's fielding system is a mix of automatic and manual control, when the ball is hit, the fielder generally runs towards that area of the park and it's up to you to run the last couple of feet yourself. This makes for very intuitive and fast-moving play that doesn't feel overly realistic or too exaggerated, allowing for a good balance that should please casual fans. The game's overall balance is fairly decent and most players should be able to get the hang of things relatively quickly. Most of the teams are fairly well-balanced, though there are some that are much easier to beat. MLB 08 allows for plenty of flexibility when it comes time changing lineups, putting pitchers in the bullpen and making changes to base-running on the fly, which allows you to set up different tactics to respond to changing situations easily.

The game offers most of the standard single player modes you've come to expect, with single game, season and management modes making up the main components of the game. Players can also set a number of options such as time of day, stadium and other variables. These don't diverge from the norm, but the game's internet modes are impressive. MLB 08's online modes are extensive and well rounded, and enhance the single player experience tremendously. For example, players can set up leagues or tournaments against other online players and compete in full season's worth of games, play one-on-one with a friend in single matches and use their user-created players in the online show mode, which adds tremendous depth to the online experience. We experienced a few minor problems logging in to the game's servers, and there were occasions when a game was cut off prematurely, which made for an occasionally frustrating experience. However, the added features such as in-game radio broadcasts, downloadable roster updates and newspaper-style league updates are impressive and help add polish, depth and authenticity to MLB 08's online component. These modes in total make for a deep and engaging experience that should keep hardcore players occupied for quite some time.

MLB 08's production values are also excellent with authentic stadium renders giving players a real sense of the personality of each park. Many of the major leaguers have also been digitized effectively, allowing you to tell the difference between Derek Jeter and Jason Veritek at a glance, with each players facial expressions, body type and posture realistically rendered in the game. The character animations are also impressive, and the players move and react to each situation realistically as well. There's also an extensive in-game commentary in play as well and the pair of voices used help to bring some flavor to each game with some flair and humor as well. Overall, the game looks fairly decent by PS3 standards and these slick production values help to make you feel like you're watching a real game on television. There are some problems, with the somewhat confusing pitcher gauge interface not working as well in practice as you'd think it would, but MLB 08's positives definitely outweigh these comparatively minor issues, making for an enjoyable, authentic baseball experience that offers enough new features, upgrades and refinements to make it worth picking up.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B+

Related Reviews

MLB 07
(Playstation 3)
NBA 08 (Playstation 3)
FIFA Soccer 08 (Playstation 3)