Swinging for the fences.
The dawning of a new era of baseball is upon us, at least for baseball fans in New York. MLB 09: The Show premiers the newest prides of New York; Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. The interesting (and humorous) thing about this is that the game was released prior to opening day, so technically we could play in the new stadiums before they could (somebody tell Ryan Church that the right field overhang takes some getting used to…)
From the beginning, MLB 09: The Show opens each time with a different “Then & Now” video showcasing the different positions throughout history, often times linking players like Cy Young with Johan Santana, giving gamers a brief history lesson, and a new appreciation for the sport.
The staple for the MLB franchise, Road To The Show, has been tweaked with new improvements like batting practice and base running practice. These “drills” are requested by your manager through several parts of the season and help in increasing your attributes. The attribute system itself has also been revamped. This year, if your power level is only a 45, you will be lucky to hit 5 homeruns the entire season. The fielding engine has also been tweaked; no longer are the fielders able to make “impossible” plays if the ball is hit close to them. Infielders play balls to the side, reacting more to how hard the ball is hit. Outfielders now take a better line in fielding groundballs (instead of a straight line, they get behind the ball to make a strong throw back to the infield.) Also incorporated into this years MLB title are the subtleties of Major League Baseball that many people aren’t aware of; the Rule 5 draft, arbitration, etc…
New to the game this year is the online league mode. Now a player can control a team in a league online, with every team having the possibility of being represented by a player. Also incorporated is a draft, allowing you to build your team with new players. The online game play, however, is lacking a bit. Even under strong connections, the game tends to lag a lot making hitting close to impossible. But aside from that the online play is a nice feature.
The graphics this year are phenomenal. With the exception of a few quirks here or there, collision issues, random bat-in-forearm-itus, or similar crowd visuals, the game looks very visually solid. The game presentation provides a sense and feel of a real MLB game, showing realistic cut scenes and commentary that make the game play more enjoyable.
Overall, I would say that this year’s title is an improvement from last years, which showing the success of last year’s title, is quite an accomplishment. With a few visual quirks worked out and the reduction of lag online, this could very well be one of the best baseball games ever.