We checked in with both companies to see how their games were coming along. Here's what we found out about MLB...
The folks at 989 Sports (Sony's sports group) have patterned the PSP game after the PS2 game, which was just recently released. Modes are set to include quick play, online, and season. From the early build we saw, it doesn't look like the franchise mode from the PS2 game has been implemented on PSP. The season mode does track a bunch of stats, however, and you can set lineups, execute trades, and simulate games on the schedule. Online match-ups can be made locally, or to the Internet with the appropriate WiFi hardware.
Those of you familiar with previous iterations of the MLB series will notice a few new features out in the field. The first of these is called release-point pitching, and it's very similar to the curved meter found in EA's MVP Baseball. Most pitchers have four pitches, which are represented on-screen by one of the PSP's controller buttons. When you push a button to select a pitch, a curved meter appears with a line moving through it. Optimally, you want to let go of the button when the line is in the yellow zone, which results in a perfect pitch. Let go too soon or too late and the pitch may rise or dip in the strike zone. According to the game's producer, pitcher stamina and confidence will influence the size of the "hot" zone in the meter and how quickly the release line moves within it.
Another brand-new feature is Playmaker fielding. It has to do with the size of the fielding marker that appears when you're going after balls in the field. You know how some players have better fielding percentages and speed ratings than others? In MLB for PSP, players with better stats will have larger fielding markers--which means they'll also have a larger margin of error for going after those liners and pop-ups.
In terms of sights and sounds, MLB for PSP doesn't sacrifice much compared to MLB 2006 on the PS2. There are loads of different player animations, for things like diving catches and booted balls, and the game employs a number of different replay angles and fade-ins to offer the illusion of a TV broadcast. The game even flexes the graphical muscle of the PSP by incorporating picture-in-picture cameras for baserunners. As for the audio, we've been told that the final game will include a basic running commentary track. The early build we were shown only had the standard sounds of the ballpark along with a few umpire calls.
Right now, Sony has the game scheduled for release on April 4, 2005. They've invited PSX Extreme to an early show-off of their entire PSP line-up on March 10, so hopefully that will include a final or near-final build of MLB as well.
3/9/2005 Frank Provo