MLB 10: The Show
Sony has been on a roll lately. The PS3 is now selling briskly in almost every region, and the system’s already impressive library of games is being inundated with triple-a exclusive title after triple-a exclusive title so far in 2010. But what about the PSP? Sony’s wide-screened handheld has gone through numerous iterations over the years, but still hasn’t managed to find a comfortable place in a market dominated by Nintendo’s touch screen wonder machine – the DS.
One sometimes has to ponder: what exactly is the point of purchasing a PSP when you could get Nintendo’s handheld, with its superior library of games and unique, duel/touch screen feature set? The answer to this question is quite simple: only the PSP can run a game like MLB 10: The Show – a realistic, portable baseball title with broadcast quality presentation, life-like player animations and nearly all the features you’d expect from a blockbuster console sports offering.
When you think of portable baseball gaming, you probably think of iPhone or DS touchscreen batting, lots of homeruns and not much depth. Sony’s in house development team would disagree with you. When creating MLB 10, they clearly focused on providing a proper “console” baseball experience for the PSP. Now, if you’ve played the last few years’ iterations of the game, you already know this. Exhibition, Season, Homerun Derby and Manager modes are all here and accounted for, as well as the addictive Road to the Show – a career mode which allows you create, train and play as one player as he progresses from lowly rookie to World Series MVP. This mode is more appealing than many similar offerings in other sports titles because it doesn’t force you to play though entire games. Instead, it gives you control of your player in a handful of important situations throughout any given game, and ranks you on how well you carried out your manager’s orders and/or preformed in clutch situations. Road to the Show is perfect for on-the-go baseball gaming due to the fact that you can bust out a match in about five minutes or so.
Besides having most of the features you’d expect from a console baseball title, MLB 10 delivers the goods presentation-wise as well. Player animations are silky smooth, transition well, and look like they’ve been created from exhaustive motion capture work. Ball and bat physics and collision detection are also fantastic, with short choppers, crushing line-drives and hooking fouls all popping off the bat in exactly the way you’d expect them to – even when scrutinized closely in the game’s impressive suite of broadcast-style replay angles. On the audio side of things, the play-by-play commentary by Matt Vasgersian and Rex Hudler gets the job done admirably, if erring a bit too much on the side of stuffy professionalism instead of disarming, friendly banter.
Of course, the PSP screen, impressive as it is, isn’t quite up to snuff resolution-wise when it comes to displaying all of the intricate details and goings-ons further away form the player’s point of view. So, for example, when paying in the Road to the Show mode, it can be hard to determine what direction the ball was hit (and how hard) if you are playing as, say, an outfielder. You do tend to get used to it though, and Sony did make the ball slightly bigger when it’s far away from the screen for easier tracking. The PSP’s ho-hum analog stick also poses a bit of problem, as precise pitch-aiming can be a bit harder to pull off than it should be. Once again, you get used to it, but spending five seconds trying to place the pitch cursor in the outside corner of the strike zone, when it should have taken one second, is annoying.
The last negative thing that can be said about the game is the complete lack of online functionality. This is especially mind-boggling because last year’s iteration included both online play and smart roster updates, both of which have been cut this time around. What this means is that owners of MLB 09: The Show might be better off not picking up MLB 10 at all, and just updating their older games’ rosters. In all honesty, though, the lack of online functionality isn’t a huge loss, because most people who are really jonesing to dive into some online, competitive baseball will probably pick up the PS3 version, which is fully featured.
All in all, MLB 10: The Show is a superb baseball offering for the PSP. It’s got gorgeous graphics, wonderfully detailed stadiums, professional commentary, and gameplay mechanics nearly as fine-tuned and realistic as those found in its acclaimed PS3 cousin. It is also extremely customizable, with an absolute ton of adjustable sliders and options for everything from batting accuracy and pitch speed to the type of music that plays during any particular player’s walk-up. Add all of that together with the addictive Road to the Show mode (which seems perfectly suited for on-the-go gaming) and you have one of the most playable, realistic takes on America’s national pastime available for a portable system. So, yes, go and get the game; but remember, sunflower seed oil fingerprints and glossy PSP screens don’t make happy bedfellows.