MLB 07: The Show Review
I'm not going to beat around the bush with my introduction, so I'll simply state that I did not like MLB 2K7 very much. The game was riddled with problems, most of which affected its integrity. The amount of homeruns and homerun thefts that amount per game in MLB 2K7 was enough to pull out every hair on your head. On top of that, the game was too ‘hit' happy, and the fielding was severely plagued. As if that wasn't bad enough, the game had a framerate so slow and jerky that it made the game even less enjoyable to play. With MLB 2K7 down and out, our last remaining hope was now Sony's MLB 07: The Show. With yet another fantastic entry on the PS2, and even the PSP, MLB 07: The Show continued to deliver the paramount baseball title for all. And now, after a slight delay, the PlayStation 3 version is finally out...and thank God for that.
In writing this review, I feel like it'd only be fair to compare The Show to MLB 2K7, since they are the only two baseball sims out there. Off the bat (pun intended), the first thing I looked for in The Show was its hitting tendencies. As I said before, MLB 2K7 was too ‘hit happy', on top of being too homerun happy. I started swinging at every pitch thrown as a quick test to see how this game's batting mechanics were. Not to my surprise, The Show proved itself that it's not that kind of game. The game's batting is intricate and will require you to really concentrate on the pitcher, and the game situation.
Likewise, batting is also directly affected by the respective personality of each umpire. Sony's San Diego studio went as far as replicating various umpire personalities for The Show. These personalities lend themselves in one specific way: the strike-zone. Some umpires have a tighter strike-zone, while others don't. So clearly, a certain kind of personality will favor the batter, while the other for the pitcher. There are more neutral personalities which you will come across the more you play the game. This feature greatly enhances the game's balance, something that MLB 2K7 had very little of.
Homeruns aren't as frequent as MLB 2K7, and when they do occur, you likely won't be robbed of it. There is no juice button, so if you aren't setting up your fielders properly, expect them to not always be able to get to a ball in time; so pay attention to your outfield and have it arranged correctly.
The pitching seems to be The Show's main focus, with an all new meter-based system. You select the pitch you want to throw. You'll then load the meter by holding X, until you get to your desired power point and then let go of X. After that, the meter will travel back downwards, and this is where you'll have to press X again once the meter reaches the glowing sweet-spot. It sounds more complicated than it really is, but this system works quite well.
Aiming your pitch isn't as simple as marking the baseball in the zone and throwing it. Where you mark the throw is where the ball will break from. So for instance, a changeup will tend to drift downwards as it reaches the batter. So if you're throwing a changeup and you aim your pitch around the torso of the batter, it'll likely arrive at the knees. So study each throw's breaking habits and begin building your confidence.
Speaking of which, confidence is yet another aspect of your pitching. When you have your various pitch types scattered on screen, there's a bar above them. Each bar will be filled a certain amount - that's the amount of confidence that your pitcher has in throwing that pitch. The better you throw, the more your meter will rise, but don't ignore your other pitch types, as their meter will decrease.
Lastly, The Show also features an optional intelligent pitching facet called "Adaptive Pitching Intelligence" (API). Simply put, this feature gives you a throw suggestion from the catcher based on the game's score, situation, and the kind of batter up at the plate. Of course you can choose to ignore the suggestions, and throw as you please.
As far as mechanics go, MLB 07 is very, very tight. The only quirk I've noticed so far is that the pitchers can sometimes let a line-drive down the middle blast right through them. While I understand that it's hard for pitchers to react immediately after hurling a ball at 90MPH, and they usually don't get to a ball like that in time, in The Show they don't seem to even bother attempting to grab it. It doesn't happen very often that a pitcher will stay still in that situation, but I have seen it.
As far as features go, you can bet your bottom dollar that The Show's online is solid stuff. You can challenge people, accept buddy invitations, and even IM someone right from the game. More importantly, the online games themselves played just fine. But it is the Road to the Show mode that is certainly the core of the game. Here, you take a created player and take him through the Minors in hopes of then entering the Majors.
The best aspect of creating your player isn't just the amount of customization options you have, but rather the 273 pages of names that the game's announcers will say as you come to bat, or make a play. The list is fairly deep, in its own respect; I managed to find my first name (Arnold) and even an abridged version of my last name, which I frequently use (Kay). I chose to go with "Arnold" as the name the announcers use.
Your goal in The Show is to listen to your trainer and try your best in succeeding at the objectives before you. Your trainer will ask you to get a base-hit, or to swing for the fences, or to try your best and close a game with 2 men on base in the bottom of the ninth. Some of the challenges are very, very hard...but fairly standard stuff that occurs in most games. When you perform well you earn training points to be used to increase the performance of your player.
Aside from Road to the Show, MLB 07 offers the standard gameplay modes, including a classic career mode, franchise mode, manager mode, rivalry, and a season mode to keep you entertained in various other ways. There are also plenty of sliders to tinker with in the options in order to tune your game to your very best preference. But unlike MLB 2K7, where you had to spent an innumerable amount of time with the sliders just to get the game playing better, you likely won't find yourself dealing with the same headache in The Show.
Visually, The Show is just fine. While player detail may not look sensational, the 3500 animation strands rendered in the game are absolutely impressive. Besides some finer details on MLB 2K7's athletes, the rest of the game looked poor. The terrible mip-mapping effect that makes the whole field look like a washed out texture, during pitching or batting, really put me off. Likewise, the framerate is without a doubt the worst I've ever seen in a sports game. The Show doesn't have any of that. It features a superb and clean picture that renders from 720p up to 1080p.
The details on some of the athletes are fairly good and recognizable, but it's sort of clear that the game is highly modified PS2 game. What makes The Show a standout is the stunning strands of animation - the players move as if they were real, and that goes a long way in terms of immersion. There's also no choppiness or jerkiness between one animation and the next, everything connects seamlessly. And best of all, the framerate is silky smooth at 60 frames. The Show may not have cloth physics or the greatest player models, but the rest of the aesthetic package more than makes up for it.
In a baseball game, the most integral aural component is easily the commentary. In MLB 2K7, the commentary was pretty repetitive and by the time you've played your tenth match, you've already heard most of it. MLB 07 is quite the opposite. The commentary is delivered by Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell, and Rex Hudler. Each commentator's delivery is superbly read, and the depth in dialogue is expansive. The trio has far more to say during the game and during a timeout than MLB 2K7; in fact, it's extremely impressive when the commentators go on a minor rant.
This kind of attention to detail really helps make The Show that engrossing total package. And as mentioned before, the thousands of names for your created player that the game features for the commentators is first-class. To hear my name come off so naturally during the game's commentary as I step up to bat really does immerse you into the experience a bit more.
Forget MLB 2K7. Sony's MLB 07: The Show is without a doubt the best baseball title across any next-gen console. While there may be some argument between whether or not the PS3 version is superior to the PS2 version, they're both largely the same game just with different graphics. The Show may not be a powerhouse looker, but it is still a very sharp looking game with life-like animation that is a sight to see. The commentary is leagues better than anything out there and it really immerses you into the game. Most importantly, though, this is one baseball game that won't drive you crazy with stupid quirks, balance issues, and overly juiced gameplay. MLB 07: The Show isn't perfect, but it sure is great.
5/16/2007 Arnold Katayev