I’m not the type to purchase the new version of a game every year, generally I’m happy buying a new one every four years or so. I haven’t picked up a baseball game since MVP Baseball 05 on GameCube; so, I thought it was time to pick up a new one. While the million dollar challenge from MLB 2K10 was tempting, The Show has been getting better reviews for years. Read on to find out  if I made the right choice.

First off, the graphics are fantastic. While it’s still not 100% lifelike, at some angles, the replays really do look like they could be from live games. The only place where you can really tell that the players are CG is around the face. They’re not in the uncanny valley where the faces are disturbing to look at, but you can tell that they’re not actually human. Everything else looks fantastic. The ballpark layouts are accurate, the textures of the grass and clay are nice, and the fans will actually jump for foul balls if they are in the vicinity. The player movements are actually pretty realistic, and you can see their uniforms shift as they move around. They also included some of the special actions that players take when they enter the batter’s box, such as Ichiro’s classic motion (seen around the 2:40 mark).

As far as gameplay goes, they have made some great strides towards making the game realistic. The fielding, batting and pitching are a bit tougher but more consistent than in years past. There are two sets of fielding controls that determine how you throw to the bases, the classic setting where O is first base, and one from the fielder’s view where O is third base. I still prefer the classic setting, but for some reason, when you play in Road to the Show mode, it always defaults back to the “Fielder” setting, even if your profile is set otherwise. The batting feels pretty good for the most part, but it seems far more difficult to get a check swing than I remember, which can lead to some ugly strikeouts if you’re not careful. There is a noticeable timing difference between a contact swing and a power swing, which is much more realistic than it used to be.It doesn’t seem to be a consistent issue when I was batting, but there were a couple of instances where the game would skip just a hair in the middle of the computer delivering a pitch, and it can ruin your timing. I’ve only had it happen to me twice so far, and I haven’t seen a pattern. It’s not a severe or constant issue, but it is a minor blemish to an otherwise good system.

MLB 10 – The Show offers some innovative gameplay when you play as the catcher. You have the ability to help call pitches by selecting the part of the plate (or off the plate) to aim for and the type of pitch you want. The pitcher doesn’t always throw exactly what you want, but for the most part, you do get to direct the game, even when you don’t have the ball in your own hands. On the flip side, when you pitch, you will get suggested pitches and locations from the catcher, but you don’t have to always do what he says. Once you select your pitch and location, you control the speed via the power meter that appears. It’s a pretty standard mechanic. If your pitcher doesn’t have good pitching stats, it shows, as your pitches won’t end up where you think they should, which can be a bane or a blessing, depending on how lucky you are.

The only major complaint I have with the gameplay is the baserunning. I am yet to play a game where the baserunning feels perfect, and MLB 10 does a good job, but it does have its flaws. When in control of a runner, you must hold the left analog stick in the direction of the base, but if the camera starts to turn as you round bases, that can throw your direction off a little and cause your runner to slow down. I’ve been thrown out once or twice because of this mechanic, and it does take some getting used to. The computer certainly doesn’t suffer from the same issues as they rarely overrun a base or have a misstep on the basepaths. The game is also a little less forgiving about letting you dive back to a base on a pickoff attempt. If you’re not paying very close attention, even an average pickoff play can get you.

MLB 10 – The Show offers a variety of gameplay modes: You have the standard exhibition game, manager mode, practice, home run derby and single season modes, but where this game really shines to me are franchise mode and Road to the Show. During the practice mode, you can practice batting, fielding or baserunning, and if you haven’t played a baseball game in a while, it wouldn’t hurt to brush up. Franchise lets you take over all of a team’s affiliates from AA through the big leauges. Along with playing your major league roster, you’ll have control of who gets bumped up to AAA, what the ticket prices are, and what renovations to put into the stadium. You have franchise-related goals that you must try to meet. If you fail to meet your goals, you just might lose your chance to be the general manager. This mode is definitely for the professional numbers man, as it can get overwhelming if you’re not up to handling every little detail of running a baseball franchise.

For those who just want to play ball instead, Road to the Show gives you the chance to create your own player. You can set facial features, height, weight, general appearance and abilities. Once created, your player is thrust into the draft and placed in the minors. You vie for playing time with other hopefuls and try to improve your skill set. You get ability points from taking practice, performing well in games and completing goals given to you by the coach. If you go up to bat with a man on third and two outs, the coach might tell you to make sure the guy gets home. If you do, you’ll gain training points that you can spend on improving your abilities; however, if you fail, you may actually be docked training points. It’s a neat system that rewards you for success in the clutch, which is how it should be. My only complaint about the ability system used is that when you’re given goals, there are no viewable numbers for the skill strengths, only a length of a bar. I would much rather see what number I need to shoot for instead of trying to match an orange bar.

Once the final out has been recorded, there are still other things you can do. At the end of the game, you can create your own highlight reels for each game. You can center them around a single player, a whole team or the game in total. Once completed, you can save the replay and play it as a video from your XMB. While you probably won’t want to do this every time, it is nice to have a record of some of the great games you have played.

The game offers a variety of songs in its own soundtrack, and I enjoy quite a few of them, but if you get sick of the short supply, the game offers the “Sounds of the Show” where you can put audio files on your PS3 and import them into the game. You can set them to play during menu screens or practice, and you can take excerpts of them to play during your introduction. You can set multiple ones for different situations; so you can have different songs play when you bat or come in as a reliever, etc. You can also introduce your own cheers and jeers towards a player by uploading sound files onto your PS3 as well. It’s a nice option to have, and it certainly adds a little personal flair to the game.

I have to say that MLB 10 The Show has impressed me greatly. If you’re in the market for a new baseball title and you own a PS3, this is definitely the way to go. I can see why 360 owners are upset they don’t have the option of playing this one.

Graphics: ★★★★★★★★★★
Story: ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
Gameplay: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Balance: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Intangibles: ★★★★★★★★★★
Overall: ★★★★★★★★★½

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