The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
The only thing missing from MLB 10: The Show’s presentation is a shot of a coach nodding in and out of sleep on the dugout bench. Outside of this miniscule detail, Sony has created the most realistic simulation in video games. If someone ran a feed of this game on one of the many screens in a sports bar, I wouldn’t be surprised if the patrons thought it was a live broadcast. The camerawork, statistical overlays, and attention to detail on the field make The Show as much fun to watch as it is to play.
Fans lunge for foul balls. Base coaches chat it up with fielders between innings. You’ll even see a catcher accentuate the importance of keeping a pitch down with an aggressive hand gesture. These details are purely visual, but touches like a fielder slowing to make a catch in front of the left field wall, or a catcher scrambling to secure a passed ball, enhance the gameplay. I never ran into a play where I thought a player should have reacted differently. The paths players take to field balls don’t come across as artificial or gamey. Players accurately read ball bounce and spin, and above all, believably portray their position.
The realism captured in the player movements also affects gameplay. Fluid pitching animations deliver violent arm snaps and accurate velocity to match. Pitching and batting mechanics remain the same, but the AI for both sides is vastly improved. If a rival pitcher has you 0-2, you become their plaything. If the computer is controlling the batting champ at the plate, they’ll make you pay for mistakes. Unlike rival Major League Baseball 2K10, fielding never induces headaches. The ball physics are easy to read, and fielders react the way you want them to. From the batter’s box to the warning track dirt, MLB 10: The Show’s gameplay delivers an all-star caliber performance.
The one area where this series loses a bit of its allure is in the mode selection. With the debut of My Player in MLB 2K10, the Road to the Show mode is now antiquated to a certain degree. Being able to call the game as a catcher is a cool touch, and I love the new pitching exercises, but the weekly goal format could use a shot of the realism that the rest of the game exhibits. Having my pitcher work on improving his bunting ability before his fastball is an odd thing for a manager to ask. Don’t get me wrong; Road to the Show remains a blast, but it’s mostly the same song and dance as last season’s game. Franchise mode allows players to manually set player injuries (I guess this is cool if you want your Franchise to sync up with the actual MLB season). CPU logic for trades and sim roster management is also much better this year.
Most of the other changes are minor, but do open the doors for a high level of customization. You can now assign audio for your team’s home games, such as inning specific songs or sound effects for game changing situations. You can now record the game ending highlight reel, or create your own. Online leagues have been fleshed out with most of the managerial options found in Franchise mode, such as 40-man roster management, league trading, and lineup/rotation tweaking. Baseball nuts with tons of time on their hands can also commission two online leagues at once.
When you find yourself wondering which player messed up the batters box chalk the most, you know that Sony’s years of iteration has paid off. The little details are in place to fool your eye into thinking it’s a real broadcast, and push your skills to play the game the way it’s meant to be played. No baseball game has come close to delivering a complete package like this game does.
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