The sun shining down on your face, the aroma of freshly cut grass fills your nostrils, and your eardrums are overwhelmed with the sounds of foul mouthed coaches, spewing hatred at any Little League player within earshot... Ahhhhh, baseball season has come again.
About this time every year, the floodgates open and Major League Baseball video game franchises bless us with their obligatory regurgitation of last years game with new rosters. MLB 08: The Show for PSP suffers from the same summer malaise, but when building on their already solid game mechanics, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Every outing of The Show on PSP has improved on past successes, and this is no exception.
The first thing that stands out is that the graphics look remarkably sharper than last year's game. Most notably, there have been significant improvements in the areas of lighting interaction. Players now leave realistic shadows on the field depending on the circumstances, sun position, field shape, and light locations during night games.
Another upgrade is the abandoning of past player models, in favor of a higher resolution, multifunctional player render. This has allowed the programmers to add more life to each character. They have went as far as to add players twitching and fidgeting when they are inactive. Also, the Home Run Derby mode has been improved on by adding realistic facial reactions as the ball is hit.
The standout Career Mode from last year makes a triumphant return in MLB 08. However, there have been some modifications made, that speed up gameplay, while still allowing the player to feel like they are managing their own budding All-Star. Season mode has also seen similar improvements that make game lengths more manageable for a portable gaming experience.
Controls are one thing that has remained consistently confounding since the beginning of the franchise. This is where the first real chink in the armor is shown. Though fairly simple once you learn them, the control scheme seems a bit unwieldy and awkward. It would be nice to see the developers make a conscious effort to retool the controls in MLB 09.
Authenticity in a baseball game hinges on the effective use of sound. Fortunately this is another area where the developers have made substantial strides. All of the sound effects sound true to the situation, while not sounding too repetitive or canned. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the color commentary.
All it takes is one play through, and all of the potential dialog trees will be exhausted. Other than the occasional quotes about the players on the field, the commentators end up spitting out the same story they have been verbally ejaculating on television for the last twenty-five years. This is a symptom of a condition otherwise known as John Madden Syndrome.
At the end of the day, this is the most authentic and feature rich baseball title available on PSP. Baseball fans owe it to themselves to pick up this game. MLB 08: The Show has an immersive quality that will make you feel like you are at the plate, in the bottom of the ninth. The question is will you swing for the fences?
Below is the trailer for MLB 08: The Show: