MLB 07: The Show Preview
Let's face it: the baseball season is long. Really, really long. Whether you're a fan or not, you have to agree with this sentiment. However, if you are indeed a fan, that's a big time bonus, right? And every year, with each new baseball game that comes out, you can pick and choose which title you'll be spending the season with. This year, it appears PS3 owners will have a choice between Major League Baseball 2K7 (just recently released) and the upcoming MLB 07: The Show, slated for release in April. We'll soon have a review on the former for you, and as for your second option, here comes a preview, complete with what to expect from Sony's promising baseball title. Too bad the compare and contrast will have to wait a month.
First off, The Show has the singular benefit of being the only first-party videogame "officially licensed by Major League Baseball Properties (MLBP), Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA)." Okay, so it's all kinds of official. We get it. But what will it offer? Well, it appears this one should include "all new features," most likely headlined by the unique "Road to the Show" gameplay mode, which lets players create a player from scratch and lead him through the ranks of the minors; the ultimate goal being, of course, to one day make the roster as a starting player on a Major League team. More than likely, it will be the main draw of the game, and should offer the most immersion and depth.
There is some question as to how exactly this process will work. For example, is it really true-to-life, with the real challenge revolving around getting on a MLB team and staying on the team? After all, minor leaguers get called up all the time, perhaps to temporarily replace an injured player, but many times (in fact, most times), they end getting sent back down. Worst of all, if it's a temporary gig and they tell you as much ahead of time, it almost doesn't matter how well you perform when at "The Show;" it's a given that you'll be back in the minor league doldrums once the stint is over. In other words, how much control does the league have over you? And how much real control do you have over your advancement? We assume playing well moves you forward, but you always need a bit of luck, too, and there's no telling where you'll end up.
But no matter how it works, it's destined to be the crucial feature, and it should be as deep as deep can be. But just about every major sports title in the current generation is going to need online play, and SCEA hasn't forgotten that. Online League Play is in full effect for the game, and we'll be able to arrange and manage leagues with up to 30 teams, relishing every inch of the full customization and complete statistical tracking. To complement the online option is the My Sliders feature, which lets you upload your pre-set game settings for use on your Internet game. This is exactly the kind of thing that makes the online experience that much easier for fans, especially considering how often the hardcore fans fiddle with those sliders throughout the game.
As we're on the subject of new features, MLB 07: The Show is bringing a new gameplay style to the table: it's called Adaptive Pitching Intelligence, and it lets users accept or shake off catcher signals, which are based on a hitter's strengths and weaknesses. Yes, it's the catcher's job to do some homework and map out a pattern of pitches for each hitter, so it might be best to heed the suggestions early on until you get a handle on things. You can also factor in two other unique additions to the gameplay; the Umpire Personalities - every umpire has his own strike zone, don't kid yourself! - and the Pitch Command System, which offers the player a preset "pitch comfort level" based on a best and worst pitch scenario. It's a complex and cohesive assortment of features, designed to ensure the most realistic baseball experience possible. Let's just hope it all gels together in a seamless presentation.
The game will be available for the PSP, PS2, and PS3, but we certainly expect the most from the PS3 version. It will boast several features the other two versions won't have, including crowd interaction and animations. In the PS3 version, fans will stretch over the wall for foul balls (perhaps even getting in the way every once in a while...?), we'll have the seventh-inning stretch, the classic wave, standing ovations, and cat-calls unique to the batter. And lastly, it will also sport the very cool ultra-realistic feature that allows gamers to change pitch grips and arm angles for 15 different pitches. That's one hell of an addition, especially if you chose to create a pitcher for the "Road to the Show" mode. Basically, if you're not playing the PS3 version, you're simply not playing the most fully realized baseball simulator.
And of course, you can always count on the returning Career, Career Spotlight, Season, and Exhibition modes to deliver fun experiences. Toss in advanced batting, fielding, and base-running controls, and you've got one hell of a baseball simulation package, here. The only thing left to do is wait for April 16 - just in time for the regular season - and then, we can see if MLB 07: The Show is indeed the best option for all you baseball fanatics out there.
3/7/2007 Ben Dutka