previews\ Jan 4, 2006 at 7:00 pm

MLB '06: The Show - PSP - Preview


Ok, relax, it’s only a preview disk – albeit one that keeps crashing and prohibiting saving any kind of career path. What makes this all the more frustrating, though, is that MLB ’06: The Show is one dandy baseball game, even at this stage in the development and the type that just sings on the PSP system.

At the heart of this SCEA title is the career mode, which enables players to create a player and join their favorite team at the start of the spring exhibition season. You won’t have a contract and there will be goals that you will want to reach to impress management and be offered that coveted document to pursue diamond dreams of glory.

Having been a Cardinals’ fan for better than a quarter of a century, it was obvious which team to drop a namesake on. Move over Mark Grudzielanek, there’s a new kid in town. Ok, Grudzielanek is no longer a Cardinal in the real world, and that is just part of the task laying ahead for the developers – making certain the lineups are accurate when the game releases. But in the version received, not only was the rookie able to take to the field ahead of the 2005 second baseman, but Larry Walker (retired) was in the outfield along with Reggie Sanders (signed with Kansas City). Ah well, the glory days of last year, when during the regular season the Cards were the best in baseball (curse you, Houston – there is some admiration, but still … ) are gone. And Scott Rolen was not at third base – and that is almost unforgivable.

But still, hearing Matt Vasgersian describe the tailor-made doubleplay as David Eckstein flips it to Lafferty for the first out, and then the relay to Albert Pujols … this is a dream realized.

The game modes include exhibition, career, season, Home Run Derby and King of the Diamond (the latter features a quick mode and ladder mode). King of the Diamond is one batter against one pitcher. You get a finite amount of pitches and the game plays out in arcade style. Plenty of glitz and targets. Outscore your opponent to win. Guess the pitches and it is easier to powder the ball.

The game tracks stats in numerous categories, and while there are difficulty settings, you can fine-tune the game in a variety of ways. Take fielding for example: you can set it to allow players full control over the fielders, requiring position to field and using the meter to make the perfect throw to a base, or you can change the setting to assist or even automatic – in which the CPU controls the fielder’s position. You can even set the game to auto-throw the ball, or, if you are very impatient, to simulate the game.

The difficulty settings really come into play when you are batting and trying to guess the pitch. If you decide to try to stay a step ahead of the pitcher and guess wrong, you can just about count on missing at the higher difficulty settings. The lower setting is much more forgiving.

The play-by-play of Vasgersian and Dave Campbell is a delight, and the game also features the sounds associated with the game, as well as a nice array of tunes.

Graphically, this game just sparkles. The animations are superb, and the action may have you, at times, ready to tear your hair out. Routine grounder to second and he BOOTS it. The ball goes off the side of his glove and back into foul ground behind first. Get da bum outta dere! Oh, wait, that ‘bum’ is only a rookie, sporting a very familiar name and trying to make the team. The stadiums are terrific, and the game features all the imagery associated with the grand game.

The version received was a little light on the multiplayer capabilities – Ok, they were not in – but when this title releases players will be able to connect with others through either the Ad Hoc function on the PSP or Infrastructure. And there will be an online news service available to get the latest MLB updates. Oh, is this baseball heaven? It’s beginning to feel like it.

The gameplay mechanics will be instantly familiar to anyone who picked up the ’05 version of the game. For the rookies, it may take a few minutes to get really comfortable, but it won’t be long until you are playing like a pro.

But it is the career mode that is certain to steal The Show. By allowing gamers to create a player and then skill him out while working toward all-star status, SCEA is guaranteeing to drive baseball fans/video-game enthusiasts rabid.

Is this destined to be the best baseball game on the PSP in ’06. Early predictions have it as a pennant winner.

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