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MLB 10: The Show

MLB

To the untrained eye, the game of baseball might appear a long winded game that mostly consists of failure. Failure to deliver the clutch hit, failure to move a runner over, failure to turn the double play. In reality, baseball is a game of failure. You step into the batter’s box ten times and if you succeed only three times consistently, you’re an All-Star; no baseball sim delivers failure better than MLB 10: The Show.

The most important aspect of any baseball game – simulation or arcade – is the fundamental interaction between a pitcher and a batter. Thanks to the wealth of options provided to both participants, MLB 10 delivers an accurate and authentic representation of this showdown, which comprises the majority of a ball game.

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As a pitcher the player has an arsenal of pitches at his disposal – all reflecting the actual pitches of the real professional athletes. Pitches are placed on the face buttons in order of efficiency and in most cases you’ll want to stick with their primary pitches, especially in the early innings of a game. Mixing pitch selection with velocity and location is the bread and butter of pitching effectively. In order to stay ahead of hitters you need to execute because just like in an actual game, hitters will adjust over time and punish the unintentional hanging slider. Over the course of a game in MLB 10, opposing hitters will begin to learn your game plan and patterns of attack; bust a guy inside with a 4-Seamer on a previous at bat and he’ll be looking inside on his next at bat, so maybe you show him a different look with some soft stuff away. Keeping hitters off balance is the name of the game and MLB 10’s pitching reflects this.

On the other side of the equation, batting is all about anticipation and adapting – and of course split-second reflexes. As a batter you have your own arsenal of options to help you identify the pitch and put some solid wood into it. In answer to the current pitcher’s various pitches, the batter has the ability to guess the impending pitch with the same face buttons. From there you can also select a quadrant of the strike zone in which you expect the pitch to be dealt to. Basically you can sit on a pitch, which is exactly what happens in Major League Baseball. If you expect a guy to work you with fastballs inside, sit on it, look for that pitch and when it finally comes, drill it. Certainly you won’t be able to sit on every pitch as you’ll often guess wrong on both accounts, but even a failed assumption delivers you useful information by telling you what the pitch type isn’t and where it isn’t going. From here you’ll have to pick up the baseball quickly after release and decide its trajectory and velocity – will it be a strike or a ball.

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Being a simulation and all, neither pitching or hitting is particularly easy from the get go. As a pitcher you’re learning how to pitch mentally, in addition to nailing the timing of the pitching meter which determines accuracy and velocity. Fortunately while you’re learning the ropes you’ll get the occasional antsy hitter who is looking to help you out and chase your errant balls in the dirt. On the other hand, it’s unlikely you’ll find the same reprieve with the lumber in hand. Seeing pitches in MLB 10 is hard. You have to train your eye, be aware of the count and be diligent at the plate. This is a simulation and you will not be golfing wild pitches into the left field bleachers, and honestly, it shouldn’t be any other way.

MLB 10 is chock full of so many different modes and options it’s frankly scary. In addition to the expected modes, The Show has Rivalry, Manager, and the aptly named Road to the Show. Within each of the myriad of modes found in the game, tons of options can be altered to tailor the game to your liking or allow friends to join the action, and not just in straight head-to-head competition. In actuality, the sheer amount of stuff provided in The Show might be the game’s biggest weakness. The problem isn’t necessarily that there is too much game, but there is very little guidance in getting into MLB 10. The amount of content is both staggering and daunting and it needs to do a better job of easing players in. Although series purists might scoff at such a feature, it’s a huge hurdle for anyone new to the series – even if they’re already a hardcore baseball fan.

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Of the near endless modes provided in MLB 10, Road to the Show is likely the one that will dominate the most of your time. Road to the Show allows you to create an aspiring baseball star of your own and be drafted into the Minor Leagues. Given the individual nature of this mode, the player is only able to control the game moments of their character; although there is no I in team, Road to the Show perfectly illustrates the drama of being part of a team. When you’re playing in a Season or Exhibition game you’re controlling everyone and everything; here, you’ll find yourself at bat a small handful of times and involved in a few sporadic put outs across nine innings. When you’re doing everything you’re constantly practicing, seeing pitches, making adjustments and you’re expecting the team to have its ups and downs. As a single player your at bats are spaced apart and sometimes the outcome of the game falls squarely on your shoulders, and nothing bites more than leaving a runner on third with less than two outs in a tight game. Nothing stings more than knowing you not only let yourself down, but you let the entire team down – as well as weakened your chances of a call up to the big show.

Probably the most notable new feature of MLB 10 is the ability to play as a catcher. As a catcher in Road to the Show you’ll constantly be at work calling each and every pitch. Just like pitching itself, you’ll have to read hitters and call the right spots to get guys out. As you call a game you’ll learn what situations dictate certain pitches; sometimes you’ll want a K to keep a runner put or sometimes a ground ball to induce an inning ending double play. Other times you won’t get what you asked for, after all you aren’t controlling the pitchers, they won’t always have their good stuff and sometimes your role as catcher is to stick with them and remain patient. If they’re going to miss their spots, you have to make sure they don’t miss them down the middle.

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In addition to the suite of features available offline, MLB 10 delivers a great and appropriately robust set of online options. Players are free to navigate lobbies to find comparably skilled opponents and everyone has a MLB 10 ID that provides a small profile as well as tracks a number of stats accumulated during your online career. Assuming you can find one to your liking, most of your time online will likely be consumed by the revamped online Season mode. Boasting full 40-man roster functionality and superior stat tracking it’s the perfect reason to finally give up on fantasy baseball. The online play itself is generally smooth but can suffer from lag here and there. In most cases when there is lag it’ll be found in between pitches, therefore only occasionally having any potentially significant impact on a game.

MLB 10: The Show is by no means a perfect game, but it comes pretty damn close. No baseball sim delivers the amount of game found here, and more importantly, no other sim accurately portrays the nature of the game better. Its biggest and really only weakness is created by its own strengths, baseball is a deep and difficult sport to learn and The Show appropriately reflects that. The hardest thing to do in professional sports is hit a Major League fastball.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @_seankelley.

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