After an above average showing with MLB 07: The Show last year, SCE San Diego upped their game for the release of MLB 08: The Show on the PlayStation Portable. This time around they decided to take the positive from both the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game and throw them into one small portable format. The big question here is, did they strikeout while doing so or did they finally hit that round tripper. Even though the game is an upgrade from last year’s installment, we’ll rest pat with calling it a triple at best.
MLB 08: The Show on the PSP does a lot of things right and finally removed a lot of the issues that was plaguing the title last year. The problem with this is the fact that most of the time you improve upon an issue another issue seems to spring up causing a glaring problem within the game as well. This seems to be a serious issue with this title and actually detracts from the one mode that makes it so great to begin with, Road to the Show.
Everyone who played last year’s version can attest to the reoccurring framerate issues that cropped up during gameplay. This was a disappointing aspect to enjoying the full experience of Road to the Show. SCE San Diego cleaned this problem up but unfortunately included a new issue that detracts from the experience all the same. The camera angles, though customizable, do everything they can to take away from the full playing experience being offered. The camera is often far too tight and zoomed in, in order to make a great play on the ball. You’ll often find yourself trying to make a break on a quick grounder, only to watch it trickle between you and one of your teammates because of the late jump. This will all depend on which position you choose to play though, as each does seem to have its issues in regards to the camera control or lack thereof.
Outside of that small snag, Road to the Show plays very well in comparison to its predecessor, with a handful of new fielding animations, it definitely adds to the authenticity the title has to offer. You won’t experience so many of the same plays over and over like you did last year, as they will begin to feel varied and offer up a much more enjoyable baseball experience.
Much like the console releases for The Show, the PSP version has been given a complete overhaul for the career goals as well. No longer will you be expected to always swing for the fences or to strike out an entire side of hitters. You’ll now receive a balance of goals that are much more attainable and a lot more realistic. This was one of the bigger complaints from last year’s title and we’re glad it was addressed. One of the other new implementations for the mode is the ability to make defensive adjustments on the field in order to get to balls you may have otherwise been unable to reach. This will give you an advantage against hitters who are known to pull the ball or hit away more so than anything else.
If you’re looking to get engaged within the other modes of play, don’t expect anything new. Just like last year’s release, you can expect to see the same season modes, King of the Hill mode, and Home Run Derby. Though they add a bit more to the replay value of the title, they’re nothing new and nothing has been implemented within them that can be discussed. Each mode of play does exactly what they’re expected to do and you can’t ask much more than that in all honesty.
With online play, you’re going to see a lot of what you saw last year – immersive online leagues, decent lag-free experiences, and an overall enjoyable feel. You’ll still have online message boards, downloadable sliders, and a ticker update much like the console versions and each works flawlessly. SCE San Diego really knew what they were doing with the online support of this title and we wish other online sports games could offer the same thing.
As for the gameplay elements added last year such as the Adaptive Pitch Intelligence and Pitch Command System, there seems to be a bit more focus on the chess match between pitcher and hitter. This is never more evident than with the new pitcher/batter analysis tools that are found throughout all versions of this release. This addition will give users the ability to learn the tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses of the batter or pitcher they’re facing. If the batter is known to chase a slider to the outside portion of the strike zone, the tools will let you know. If a pitcher is usually found throwing a high fastball with a 0-2 count, you’ll be in the know.
The addition of this key component has definitely added an entirely new element to the gameplay portion and has allowed the chess match between the two positions to increase more so than ever before. Batters are also given a Progressive Batting Performance system to look into during season play or Road to the Show mode. This system will indicate how your hitter has been performing as of late. Depending on if you’re in a slump or not, the indicator will be a blue for cold or a red for hot, which is pretty easy to acknowledge the meaning of.
Much like in the PS2/3 version of the game, you’ll notice the new indicator when you’re able to steal homeruns or foul balls that are headed into the stands. The three red rings will appear and slowly count down as the ball approaches. This will help you time the jump and help you perform a potential game changing play. It’s not a guarantee to work every time though, as the timing must be near perfect in order to execute how you’d like it to.
Another fielding upgrade also revolves around the pitcher. Unlike last year where the pitcher allowed a lot of balls to roll by for easy singles, the reaction time has been greatly improved. Your pitcher will now make plays on the balls hit directly back to him allowing for more putouts from the mound, much like the real-life game itself.
One of the fielding problems that do seem to rise to the surface is the lack of a throwing strength indicator. Unlike the console versions that give the user a meter to indicate throwing strength, the PSP version of the game just throws the ball. This doesn’t allow you to give the appropriate amount of power behind each throw and will sometimes result in overthrows or wild throws in general. This can be very frustrating as you can imagine.
The graphics and look of the title are as good as you’re going to find and come to expect from a handheld. Though they are surprisingly decent, there seems to be a lot of visual tearing throughout gameplay and cut scenes that detract from the authentic feel of the game. Despite The Show offering up some aliasing issues as well, they could have given the polish a bit more tuning in order to look like a more finished version of the game. Obviously we can’t expect it to look as great as it does on the PlayStation 3; however, we can expect it to at least run smoothly and not have to experience all of the tearing throughout.
With My MLB Music feature, you can pretty much customize the menu music to anything you’d like, as it will sync up with your memory stick. This is a nice feature to have with any game and definitely gives you reason to leave the sound on. As for the announcers, they’re a big upgrade from last year’s title. The majority of their calls will be spot-on and just add to the game’s ability to draw you into the experience itself.
In the end, MLB 08: The Show is everything you’d expect from a handheld baseball title. It doesn’t offer you anything really groundbreaking or new, but it offers you the game of baseball you grew up enjoying and finding a love for. You won’t have to deal with a steroid scandal or with players outing one another, instead you’ll just be able to go into the ballpark and enjoy the game for what it’s worth.