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MLB The Show

Review: MLB 15 The Show

Apr 09 // Steven Hansen
MLB 15 The Show (PS4 [reviewed], PS Vita, PS3)Developer: Sony San DiegoPublisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Release: March 31, 2015 MSRP: $59.99 (PS4), $39.00 (PS3), $19.99 (Vita) I don't think there are baseball fans who care about what brand of jockstrap players are wearing (just its inability to fully conceal Josh Reddick's testicles). I didn't, anyways, but now I am doubting myself. Someone who makes big money decisions on a big money release thinks there are and probably paid these brands big money. And yet the giant Coke bottle slide sticking out of left field at AT&T Park reads "Enjoy Cola," like when an anime flips the McDonalds logo upside down.  When one of your biggest new selling points -- it's right under "gameplay improvements" in its own "new features" list -- is that I am being advertised to, it suggests a lack of ambition. But maybe players do want to crawl through inventory screens to equip a Rawlings® Adirondack® Ash bat that features "great performance wood, professional profile, and great value." But I still play catch with a mitt I found in a park 20 years ago because I like it better than any of the others I've had. So maybe I'm old-fashioned. Still, that you'd have to periodically unlock these things, or buy them with in-game currency (which you can buy with real world, rent-paying currency) rather than have them thrown at you by these companies who'd like famous athletes to rep their brands doesn't follow the "striving for authenticity" excuse.  [embed]290093:58102:0[/embed] The Show has leaned into its effective MLB monopoly like its going for the hit by pitch and some of it is worthwhile. I do enjoy the virtual tourism of visiting new stadiums, or even being back in downtown San Francisco mainstay AT&T Park without forking over the cash. I'd take a Candlestick memorial, too, winds and all. But MLB The Show has many little, longstanding problems hurting its tone, gameplay, and even its authenticity than the now fixed lack of pages and pages of adverts. Take the lack of any corporeal collision physics that sees uncanny replays where players phase through one another or, if in uninterruptible animation, as if they are necking action figures or a cheap electronic football toy. Without it, how do you simulate a 12th inning playoff collision between outfielders? There's the only somewhat improved squirreliness of wondering whether your fielder will do an electric slide out from underneath a dropping pop fly. The in-game commentary that is only there to be turned off, maybe? Instead, a new "directional hitting interface" is trumpeted as fresh. You can pair it with timing and analog swings in the options, using the left stick to aim your hits (rather than as the plate coverage indicator). Except this only adds visual feedback and a few new directions to what The Show has always told me I could do, press up to induce flyballs, down for grounders. Meanwhile, analog hitting has been reduced, as you no longer pull back on the analog stick to stride, just flick forward to hit. Mostly things are intact and the on-field baseball simulation is as satisfying as last year. The game pushes Diamond Dynasty hard in an attempt to make EA-type money with people buying card packs to field an ultimate team. However, my risible satisfaction at naming a team the "San Francisco Existentialists" (after deciding against "Lizzards," the spelling of which always confuses me) and the angelic, plain white pajamas your team starts out with were short-lived novelties to me. I've never had the means or desire to be a collector, though. Online play felt somewhat smoother in limited goes, but I'm on a different (real good) internet connection this year, too. Others have reported the same old problems. The PS4 version's horrendous load times from last year are reduced to just a nuisance, at least, even with a hefty install. It was particularly trying in my new Road to the Show (I couldn't be bothered to upload my PS3's file to the cloud and then import on my PS4) trek through the minor leagues as an under appreciated starting pitcher. This was partly my fault as the slow moving Dynamic Difficulty, one of the great sports game fallbacks as far as new features go, gave my 22-year-old rookie a near-0 ERA. I ended up starting quickly in AAA, where my manager would routinely leave me hurling with a pitch count around 120. After a few of these, with one out to go in the 9th inning of a shutout, my player (a rare #69) fractured his arm. When I was healthy, the manager refused to start me, instead starting a bullpen guy and always inserting me in the second or third inning, from which point I'd usually finish out the game anyways, while in the "Interactions" screen he's tell me I wasn't ready for a starting role. In the bigs, I'd go from starter to an even longer bullpen stint post-injury, which made for a hell of a lot of loading and unnecessary screens between games worth one inning of work. I was also awarded a perfect game for leaving with elbow soreness having made one out in the first, which is when the Nationals were even more adamant about using a bullpen platoon as a fifth starter rather than a starting pitcher with an actual 0 ERA.  The discounted PS3 and Vita versions might be more dollar valuable as more transparent roster updates, provided you don't mind the technical limitations. MLB 15 The Show is still good by virtue of the systems laid down over the last decade, but it has no ambition. Produced on third base thinking it hit a triple, it wouldn't even bother running in a sac fly. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
MLB 15 The Show review photo
Born on third thinking it hit a triple
The Giants have won and lost back to back one-run ballgames to open the 2015 baseball season. They lost a starting pitcher and right fielder to the DL, scratched a first baseman and another starter with injury, called up a ro...

Game News Haikus photo
Game News Haikus

Game News Haikus: Sexy Final Fantasy, amiibogeddon, Bloodborne trick, and more

Zen distilled stories
Apr 07
// Darren Nakamura
Nintendo took a big spot in last week's news, with the highs of the Nintendo Direct and the lows of the Wave 4 amiibo rollout. Does that give the company perfect balance, like a haiku? I'm not sure. In this series, we take a...
MLB 15 The Show photo
MLB 15 The Show

MLB 15 The Show's best improvement is revenge

A dish best served with my bat
Apr 03
// Kyle MacGregor
SCE San Diego Studio's MLB The Show series has a mode where players can live out fantasies of being a professional baseball player. In "Road to the Show" players can design their own avatars and take them on the long journey ...
Uncy Herb photo
Uncy Herb

Now batting, Herb Guy

Uncy Herb
Apr 01
// Steven Hansen
I'm still playing MLB 15 The Show for our review. Instead of going to my PS3, uploading my Road to the Show shortstop to the Cloud, then importing it into my PS4, I stayed put (they're in different places) and made a new pit...

MLB 15 review? photo
MLB 15 review?

Where's our MLB 15 The Show review? (Royals suck edition)

Sony provided release date, PS4 code
Mar 31
// Steven Hansen
PlayStation's baseball monopoly continues this year with the consistently good MLB 15 The Show (PS3, PS4, Vita). That does come with more caveats than ever this year. Online servers seem to be shutting down for the previous ...
Goes to show... photo
Goes to show...

MLB 15 The Show gets bat-grain 10th anniversary edition

With some major league caveats
Feb 06
// Steven Hansen
Ok, that's a pretty sweet steelbook case. And Canada getting the Blue Jays' Russel Martin on the case is a nice touch. The rest of this package is a little more troubling. First, the 10th anniversary is only offered for PS4. ...
PUIG! photo

MLB 15 The Show hits PS4, PS3, Vita on March 31

Maximum Puig!
Dec 06
// Kyle MacGregor
MLB 15 The Show launches March 31, 2015, Sony announced today. "MLB 15 The Show offers a renewed focus on player emotion and personality," Sony San Diego's Chris Cutliff wrote in a post over at the PlayStation Blog. "Our vis...
PUIG! photo

Dodgers star Yasiel Puig is your MLB 15 cover boy

Dec 05
// Kyle MacGregor
Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star outfielder Yasiel Puig is your MLB 15 The Show cover athlete, Sony San Diego announced today. You can probably expect 800% more bat flips in next year's game. MLB The Show [Twitter]
Slugging photo

MLB 14 on PS4 is fastest selling in franchise history

Hitting for power
May 16
// Steven Hansen
I might've dug into MLB 14 on PS4 a bit for its slow load times, but that's the only slow thing about it. According to the PlayStation Blog, MLB 14 on PS4, "exceeded the previous marks for most preorders, most day-one sales, and most week one sales," and, compared to last year, week one sales shot up 40%. Oh, and what's with the Orioles being the most played team?

MLB 14 looks great on PS4, but comes with load times slower than baseball

May 06 // Steven Hansen
How into elbows are you? If elbows are your thing, wow, you're going to be happier than an old guard sportswriter getting asked for their stance on PEDs. MLB 14 The Show has some of the finest detailed, unique elbows I've seen. And you stare at them a lot, especially hitting with the catcher cam. Every corrugated joint seems to hide a story. Though it's easy to fall into, "I am playing The Show" mode -- because the gameplay is exactly the same -- and not notice all these additions during regular play, which is why the camera seems anxious to pan over the crowd or show off a new, true to life pre-batting animation. And those in attendance no longer look like broke-limbed chimera praying for death, so it's sort of nice when the camera pans over them between innings, dancing like perfectly happy idiots drunk off $11 beer. With these updated visuals comes a trek into the uncanny valley, but you can't fault some misses when you are trying to faithfully model hundreds of real people. And why spend days modelling George Kontos when he'll get optioned back down to the minors anyway? I wonder if there's some sort of priority list the team goes through and then hopes someone at the bottom doesn't explode onto the scene. What's the return on investment for nailing Giancarlo Stanton's chin stubble? I guess when the base game is good, you run out of things to change year over year, barring Blernsball additions (multiball, multiball!). Why do certain Giants relievers look more faithful than Hunter Pence? Do we need a PS5 to capture Pence's piercing intensity? A lot of it comes from the eyes, which is not where these new character models excel. There are a lot of thousand yard stares going on that amused me infinitely. And while individual beard strands was a selling point early on, hair on the whole lacks physics or flow, so all those long manes that are back in style look like erect steel wool poking out of caps. Andrew McCutchen's dreads look like bundled boughs. But they also added Pence's schizophrenic batting stance and, on the whole, the recreation -- parks, players, animations -- is sort of remarkable, even if that makes any seams more noticeable. And of course MLB 14 still delivers on being good, system be damned. My first game on PS4, I took a perfect game into the 6th inning and every at bat that went to three balls was fraught. A seeing-eye single squelched my delusions of grandeur and a rare opposite field home run into McCovey Cove turned 2-0 coasting into a 2-1 nail biter. I went from perfect game to complete game shut out to complete game and an almost to a blown save and loss when I loaded the bases in the 9th inning before inducing a double play to preserve that precious 2-1 win. That's baseball and The Show has always been able to replicate those cardiac ups and downs even with lower, fictional stakes. MLB 14 on the PS4 does it with gussied up visuals and seemingly longer load times (and a lengthy initial install). But baseball is still well loved despite taking several hours to get on with itself and I doubt fans are going to be too tore up about having to check Twitter while waiting a good minute to get into a game. Sometimes I tweet while at bat, too, when I force myself to take pitches instead of swinging at every damn thing.
Show 14 PS4 photo
Are you into elbows?
I was mostly satisfied with MLB 14 The Show's initial PS3 and Vita release. Hitting ahead of the PS4 version led to some (perhaps overdue) improvements, from the UI overhaul to PS3/PS4/Vita cross saves to a universal The Show...

MLB 14 on PS4 photo
MLB 14 on PS4

Here's what MLB 14 The Show looks like on PS4

Blades of grass
Apr 17
// Steven Hansen
MLB 14 The Show has made some welcomed strides forward on PS3 and Vita, from three system cross save to universal profiles to save data that carries over year after year. But the PS3 version does show its age, so if you want...

Review: MLB 14 The Show

Apr 10 // Steven Hansen
MLB 14 The Show (PS3 [reviewed], PS Vita, PS4)Developer: Sony San DiegoPublisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Release: April 1, 2014 (PS3, PS Vita), May 2014 (PS4)MSRP: $59.99 (PS3, PS4), $39.99 (Vita) If last year’s Show was tuned to excessive hitting, this year’s feels a bit better. Though you have all the sliders and settings you can adjust, you’re asked off the bat (haha) if you want to play as a “beginner” or “experienced,” the latter of which is neatly tuned and adapts on the fly (separate for hitting and pitching). I could explode for eight runs of offense, sure, but I could also find myself struggling to put up a run. Last year I felt way too powerful. Especially with the Giants’ weaker offense. I was hitting above .350 with multiple hitters. This feels better. A lot of things this year feel better and more holistic. The UI has been overhauled to a tiled style menu, each large tile displaying relevant contents when your cursor is over it. It’s a great way to lump the many different modes. The improved UI is especially appreciated in Road to the Show, My power and contact deficient, speedy short stop (#69) was much easier to put together and manage. I also liked starting with a player who was maxed out in some stats (arm strength, speed) rather than average in all of them. Playing a speedster and defensive maven made every at bat hard fought and valuable (get on base any way you can, try to steal) and every defensive opportunity a chance to make up for a lack of home runs. Road to the Show has also extended some part of itself into other modes of play with Player Lock, which allows you to play through whole games in other modes just as one player (you can unlock or change player at any time through the start menu). If you just feel like pitching or want a couple bats per game, it might prove useful, especially if you want to avoid the guilt of straight sim-ing the occasional franchise game. Also meant to speed up games is the Quick Count, which automatically generates a count (based on the batter and pitcher) before you get control. So you can come up to the plate and be down 0-2. I liked the dynamic situation-building as a hitter, but was sort of annoyed by Quick Counts as a pitcher for some reason. Let me put myself behind 3-0, I guess. [embed]273097:53347:0[/embed] The Show now does year-to-year saves, so you can import the franchise you slaved away on each year. Along with the cross console saves, there’s a nice bit of permanence and connectivity here that give your yearly efforts more value. Also new is the universal profile, which tracks your experience across game modes, head to head win loss records, as well as your hitting and pitching tendencies. The latter can be subbed into the new online enabled franchise (netcode is still adequate but stuttery) or Diamond Dynasty to allow you to play against a replicated individual rather than straight AI. Think Drivatars, I suppose. You can also view an opponent’s profile during online play to get a scouting report of what you're up against. High swing percentage? Give them a few more pitches outside of the strikezone. Community Challenges add a new wrinkle if you want a mildly acrade-y experience where you can wager in-game points and try to meet player-arranged situations. One tasked me to rob several game winning home runs at the right center field wall with Mike Trout. I lost out, but it also gave me 10 practice shots at making a well-timed jump at the wall with a fielder, which I have always been terrible at for how rarely it happens in game. Some of these challenges could be a good way to work on other skills, from fielding to going to the opposite field more. Meanwhile, there is a Show-sponsored weekly challenge, which actually comes with a prize for the winner. The first was pure hitting with Miguel Cabrera, the prize a Cabrera-signed ball. This is as arcade-y as The Show gets and it was addictive. Sure, the leader at the time outdid my best by over two million points, but I kept playing. There is a score multiplier for good hits or takes and sounds that make me feel like I’m playing Lumines: Electronic Symphony. In hitting, you get three outs, three strikes per out. String together good hits and you score points and a multiplier, but the pitching difficulty rises commensurately. Although this review is for the PS3 version, I was able to test out the Vita build. There was some weirdness at first with the Vita that cleared up after release. Mainly a bad framerate. But it hasn’t happened since. There is still some other mild, weirdness. Balls and strikes count being reversed in the pitching menu during games. Tim Hudson (the Giants’ third starter) being designated their closing pitcher. Late during one game, every player model started wearing that runny-mascara-down-the-cheeks-after-an-evening-of-crying eye black, including the opposing pitcher, which was weird. And the pitch timing feels off. It might just be me, but I'm struggling with keeping that pulsating circle small this time around. Otherwise, the attempts towards parity are great, and the pared down presentation aspects make for quick ball, which is when The Show is at it’s best. Maybe a better option than the PS3 version for now if you're planning to nab the PS4 one anyway, though it's missing online modes. Hitting in front of the next big thing (the PS4 version) benefited the The Show on PS3 and Vita. In getting the new version game ready, the PS3 and Vita versions have seen some worthwhile updates. Having an account system and franchise carry-over feels necessary at this point. The up tempo Quick Count and Player Lock both speed up the game and add tension with situational play, like your one at bat with runners in scoring position. If you keep the new default dynamic camera view (basically third-person fielding), it just adds to feeling like you're stepping in your teams' cleats.
MLB 14 review! photo
Batter? I hardly even know her!
I was ready for last year’s The Show to be its PS3 swansong, I was feeling it. It’s not that it wasn’t good. It was as good as it ever was. But there were signs of age. The same old horrifying fan models in ...

MLB: The Show photo
MLB: The Show

MLB: The Show: Quick Count, Player Lock make games faster

Optional, of course
Feb 26
// Steven Hansen
If you want to be able to breeze through games more quickly, MLB 14: The Show has two new options. Quick Count starts off every at bat in an advanced count (3-0, 1-2, etc.), partly based on the pitcher/batter matchup. Not a ...

MLB 14 The Show gets a big visual boost from PS4 power

Feb 13 // Dale North
See those hairs in the image above? Pretty gnarly, right? That's a real beard if I've ever seen one. In the PS3 game, this same player is clean shaven (a flat texture map), as the system doesn't have enough power to draw manage the whiskers we see here. On the PS4, there's more than enough power. We learned that the PS4 will allow up to 40,000 individual hairs per character, allowing the developers to make spot-on bears, goatees, and more. Each hair was hand-crafted individually, too! Aside from the hair, I couldn't quite put my finger on why the PS4 model looked better than the PS3 one in the side-by-side demonstration. But the difference made sense when Sony went into detail about the new lighting model for the PS4 version. Sub-surface scattering lets sunlight and other lighting go into the skin, scatter, and come back out on the PS4. The PS3 has sun hitting the skin and not really doing much from there, which shows sharp changes from light to shadow. The PS4 version's lighting model lets the light bleed between changes, making the faces of players look much more lifelike.  The stadiums also see plenty of visual upgrades for the PS4 version of MLB 14 The Show. Sony says that all of the stadiums have been rebuilt from scratch, and that they were able to go crazy with the details on the PS4. For example, while the PS3 version's signs are flat texture maps, they have real depth and geometry on the PS4. Scoreboards are just flat textures on PS3, while approaching the same on on the PS4 lets you see real depth as pieces stick out. You can see the difference between, say, leather and metal easily. The grass is also a flat texture on the PS3, but on the PS4 you can see that feel seem to lay inside the grass. The ball is affected by the grass, and in turn the grass affects the ball.  Even the crowds get a tune-up. The PS3 could use about 42 individual crowd models, which means that you'd be seeing the same 42 people over in over in crowd shots. The PS4 can do about 10,000 individual models, making for a much more diverse crowd. Their polygon counts go up from about 1,600 to a full 10,000 per model on the PS4, which has the PS4 crowd matching the player model polygon count of the PS3 version! Other nice touches include the addition of brand new audio, stadium-specific chants and signs, and even ball boys and girls.  On the gameplay side, the Quick Count addition lets players cut the length of a game in half (9 innings in 30 minutes) through pitch counts that the developers have pulled from the last two years. They take into consideration several statistics to generate counts that have you saving time while still keeping the game firmly in the simulation camp. There will be no PS3 to PS4 Cross Play, unfortunately. But this will be the first year to support year-to-year saves, meaning that if you buy any version, you'll be able to take that save file and use it next year. This does work from PS3 to next year's PS4 version. The PS3 and Vita versions drop April first, lining up with the start of the MLB season. But the wait for May for the PS4 version will bring 1080p 60 frames per second gameplay with all of the above graphical improvements. You can wait an extra month, right? In the meantime, check out our gallery for a bunch of PS4 screenshots from MLB 14 The Show.
MLB 14 on PS4 photo
Also new gameplay features
We had a chance to take a peek at the PS4 version of MLB 14 The Show this past week at a preview event, and it was clear from the get go that the game benefits greatly from the power that the PS4 provides. Now, it's not like ...

MLB 14 The Show PS4 photo
MLB 14 The Show PS4

MLB 14 The Show: Cover athlete, first PS4 footage teased

Drawing up to 40,000 individual hairs!
Nov 04
// Steven Hansen
Your new MLB The Show cover athlete is in -- it's Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera. I didn't vote for him, but he's my cover athlete. Cabrera was revealed this evening on MLB Network at the Player's Choice Awards. Play...
New releases photo
New releases

New releases: Construction finishes on SimCity

Plus Tomb Raider, Naturo, and Castlevania
Mar 04
// Fraser Brown
This Monday heralds a week of mayoral responsibilities and the raiding of trap-laden tombs, both of which undoubtedly require similar skill sets. As much as I'm a big fan of Ms. Croft, and it seems like her latest outing is ...

MLB 13: The Show focusing on bringing the fun

Jan 30 // Steven Hansen
[embed]243457:46589[/embed] MLB 13: The Show (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita) Developer: SCE San Diego Studio Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Release: March 5, 2013In San Francisco, you don’t have to be a big baseball fan to go to a game. In fact, I would hazard a guess that ardent baseball fans are the minority in attendance at AT&T Park, the picturesque ballpark on the bay. It’s both family friendly and great for getting wasted (public transport as far as the eye can see; drink responsibly!) Also, there’s baseball, which I happen to like quite a bit. MLB 13 aims to capitalize on a less fervent fan base in some admirable ways. “This is the most fun game we’ve made,” San Diego Studios’ Community Specialist Ramone Russell said. “People always say, ‘Oh, the game is really authentic,’ but we didn’t hear that it was fun enough. Now you’re going to have those games where it’s 9-14, 6-9.” Baseball is hard. It's often been said hitting a hand fruit sized target coming toward you at over 90 MPH with wicked movement is the hardest thing to do in sports. I get the desire to see exciting games busted open with offense, though the value of such games in baseball is their infrequency and novelty. I had more than enough big run count games to sate my appetite in last year's The Show despite mostly playing with an anemic Giants offense, so I hope that in the so-called "era of the pitcher" that has succeeded the homerun smashing steroid era, the game isn't tooled too much towards offense. Still, the increased wiggle room in timing windows for hitting should allay a lot of concerns about getting new players into the series instead of leaving them struggling to make contact. At the same time there is, as always, the promise of a complex series of custom difficulty accordance for those wanting to test their mettle. The new Beginner Mode is a welcome addition, meant to help new players get their legs under them in an organic way. I've tried to let new players take a crack at The Show and they always end up ceding control in embarrassment after their batter awkwardly flails at a pitch they had no business swinging at. It's a complex game, and having a mode in place to help organically teach players how to swing in time, how to identify pitch types, and so on is a great move. Back to the side of "fun factor," there is a new Playoff Mode that starts players off smack dab in the post season, circumventing the arduous 162 game regular season. For those in it for the long haul, the finer points of franchise have gotten some love. “We ripped out three core systems. Our budget system, we started from scratch. Player training, we started from scratch. Scouting, drafting, player progression: all new code,” Russell offered. Similarly, Road to the Show has seen some changes, focusing on your individual player more in terms of presentation and point of view. “If you’re making a left fielder, what you hear now -- you don’t hear any audio -- it’s all about the crowd noise. It’s about you trying to run and get a ball and you hearing the center fielder call you off. Or when you’re batting at running to third, you can’t see where the ball is. You’ll hear the base coach telling you to stop.” On top of this, the team will have a comprehensive leaderboard by league and position. Those in the number one spots were promised a cryptic “something special” at the end of the year. One other neat addition to this year’s Show is a new throwing option. “Your initial button press fills up your strength then the meter comes up on the screen. If you stop it in the green, your throw is really, really accurate. If you stop it in the yellow, your throw is offline. If you stop it in red it goes over somebody’s head,” Russell explained. I found it preferable to the plain button presses, which don’t always put the throw outcome in your hand, and analog throwing. The Vita version was also on hand and I'm glad to report its looking good as it’s become my favorite way to indulge in the series. There was noticeably less delay in menu navigation and an aesthetically altered HUD that made things feel snappier. Vita players will be able to play Homerun Derby online with PS3 users this year, but don't expect a cross buy level of parity any time soon. “There’s 6gbs worth of audio [in the PS3 version]. We could fill up the Vita disc twice with just presentation elements,” Russell said when asked about the possible parity between systems in the future. That being said, those with both versions of the game can still shift saves between the two, while a new universal profile tracks stats and experience across both platforms. Online play is also being addressed. Shaky connections have plagued The Show for some time now and delay is hard to get over when you’re trying to hit a pitch coming at you at nearly 100 MPH. To address this, the game focuses resources more purely on the batting/hitting while online. Additionally, a ping indicator can warn you of opponents with bad connections. There is also an online pitcher rotation system in which aces will get tired with overuse, requiring players to go to their lower tiered starters on occasion to keep every game from being an ace on ace pitcher’s duel, which should add some variety and allay some frustration of always having to hit against CC Sabathia. Both versions feel great to play. The added animations, batting stances, and physics-based ball reactions are all as welcomed as ever and making solid contact still feels satisfying. I’m particularly excited to see how the Vita version, now in its second iteration, fairs, especially given how admirably it stood beside last year’s PS3 release. Book your tickets to The Show March 5.
MLB The Show photo
Beginner mode, ramped up offense, and a host of cool new features
October was a hell of a month here in San Francisco. There’s nothing like sports to shore up the bonds of comradely in otherwise disparate, eclectic pockets of the world. Just look at how the Olympics create a national ...


Andrew McCutchen is your MLB 13 The Show cover athlete

Pittsburgh Pirates star to grace this year's cover
Jan 12
// Kyle MacGregor
Box art is kind of a big deal. Bioshock Infinite's generic packaging landed Irrational Games in hot water last month and now Sony and Major League Baseball have created some excitement of their own. Nearly half a million...

Hope springs eternal: First look at MLB 13 The Show

Root, root, root for the DODGERS!
Jan 04
// Kyle MacGregor
It's a new year, a time for new beginnings. Soon the ice shall begin to retreat, birds and leaves will return to the trees, and each passing day will bring us closer and closer to the most joyous time of year. I'm talking ab...

MLB 13 The Show to release March 5

Fans will decide cover athlete
Nov 26
// Conrad Zimmerman
It seems like only weeks ago that men stopped hitting balls with bats and running in circles. When one sport's season ends, I believe one should get to take a breath and think, "well, I don't have to come up with anything wit...

Review: MLB 12 The Show (Vita)

May 03 // Steven Hansen
MLB: The Show 12 (PlayStation Vita) Developer: SCE San Diego Studio Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Release: March 6, 2012 MSRP: $39.99 The Show for Vita is a slightly-pared-down version of the PS3 game, which is impressive in and of itself. The first time I loaded up into the Giants’ AT&T Park I was blown away by the attention to detail and visual fidelity -- it was like being at a game. Players still look like their real-life counterparts, the in-game ballparks are practically facsimiles of the earthly locales, and everything looks generally impressive on the Vita’s resplendent screen. Except maybe for the ballpark patrons, who look like terrifying, emaciated skeleton people on the occasional instance when the camera zooms in on the stands. Sony SD did remove a lot of the broadcast-like camera cuts from the Vita game, but that also works to provide more streamlined ballgames suitable for a portable experience. The commentary is sporadically insightful, but mostly trite and, a bit too frequently, puzzlingly incorrect. Is good commentary is even going to be a thing we see in sports games? The rest of the sound work is top-notch, however. The raucous crowd noise, zealous umpire calls, and the delicious crack of a ball ripped off the barrel of a bat sell the baseball atmosphere. At one point after a game at AT&T Park, I even heard the stadium PA announcing the BART schedule (the rapid transit system of the San Francisco Bay Area). That’s attention to detail. In addition to stripping away the occasional feature, there have been additions that take advantage of the Vita’s capabilities. Pitches can be surgically placed with the touch screen, which actually proves an easier method than the sensitive left analog stick, while the back touchpad can be used to steal bases or pick off baserunners. All of the front-end menus can be operated with the touch screen as well, and I often found it more convenient than meandering through menus with the buttons. Otherwise, the game plays largely like its console counterpart. The new ball physics add an organic and realistic flair to games, lending excitement to corralling seemingly standard grounders or to balls that head toward and occasionally wildly careen off the first- or third-base bags. The amount of unique player animations is also rather staggering. I get a pang of pure glee seeing Pablo Sandoval dip low and right when delivering a barehand sidearm throw to first on a routine chopper, or watching Brian Wilson hang his arm on 99 mph high heat. The strange, idiosyncratic movements of ballplayers are captured keenly. The new Pulse Pitching mechanic adds a pulsating circle around where you’ve placed your pitch marker, and requires you to press X when the circle is at its smallest for the most accurate pitch. The system works well to keep every pitch engaging, and you only have yourself to blame if you don’t deliver an accurate strike. Also new is the optional Zone Plus Analog batting. Last year, Sony SD introduced analog hitting, which requires you to pull back on the right stick to begin your stride (preferably right when the pitcher releases the ball) and then push forward to make contact with the ball. Zone Plus Analog takes that one step further, insisting you place your bat with the left stick in concert with your swing. It’s an incredibly challenging system that takes some time to get used to (especially with the sensitive left stick), but it’s rewarding, and adept players can use it to hit more strategically, taking advantage of all the parts of the field. While I mostly defaulted to the old-school timing system, which simply requires a well-timed button press for swinging, the level of control afforded by both the other modes is welcomed and surprisingly organic. Baseball is a complex game. Anyone who knows the sport knows that. That complexity lends itself to staggeringly varied gameplay. There are 30 different teams and 30 different parks to play in. Inherently, there is always something different at play, whether you’re batting and facing a pitcher for the first time or pitching and facing a certain batter for the first time, or pitching in a new park (have fun dealing with the winds of AT&T Park for the first time when you take pop-ups; it’s no Candlestick, but still). You can literally play through hundreds of games and still find new dynamics in the next game or even simply in the next at-bat. When you’re in a game, The Show is as consuming, intricate, exciting, and possibly heart-breaking as a game of baseball, though I did hone in on a few small kinks over the course of many, many games played. Balls that would be just foul in the outfield occasionally hit some invisible wall and sort of ricocheted back just fair; hits up the middle bounce off the pitcher’s plant leg a bit too often; and sometimes pitchers will hold onto a fielded ball and stand there vacantly for several seconds, allowing a hitter to safely reach first on what should’ve been a routine out. And that’s about it; otherwise, the gameplay is stellar. Outside of games, The Show might have an issue or two to work out. The PS3’s new Diamond Dynasty mode, which Samit Sarkar discussed extensively in his review of the PS3 version, is absent on the Vita, and there has been some criticism levied on the franchise for failing to do more with the existent game modes, but none of that bothered me. I like baseball, and The Show delivers on that almost perfectly. Sony SD’s problematic online play is still an issue, though, which is something of a shame. Just getting into an online game can take a while. While I was able to adjust to the weird visual anomalies that are used to accommodate lag and player input (as perfect timing is rather important when you’re trying to hit a ball careening towards you at upwards of 90 miles per hour), there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to make it all the way through. I lost my connection rather late into some good games, which is disheartening. While anyone can play and enjoy The Show, particularly because of the fine level of control afforded by custom difficulty settings, those who appreciate the acute intricacies of baseball are bound to be left giddy by the attention to detail and level of depth provided. I just love playing it, whether I’m relaxing at home or riding on BART. It has an inherent addictive quality separate from, or perhaps parallel to, my love for baseball, while capturing the sport beautifully.

Leading 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth at AT&T Park with the heart of the order coming up, the division rival Padres brought out their new closer, Houston Street, to wrap up their victory. Street’s idiosyncratic win...

Review: MLB 12 The Show

Mar 16 // Samit Sarkar
MLB 12 The Show (PlayStation 3 [reviewed], PlayStation Vita) Developer: SCE San Diego Studio Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Release: March 6, 2012 MSRP: $59.99 (PS3) / $39.99 (Vita) / $79.99 (both) The Show has excelled at serving many masters, particularly in its broad variety of control schemes. MLB 12 offers ever more choice, with full PlayStation Move support in all game modes headlining the new options. After introducing analog hitting, pitching, and throwing controls last year, Sony SD has added two new control setups, one for the hardcore crowd and the other for less serious fans. Those who found MLB 11’s analog hitting too easy can now aim their bats with the left stick while swinging with the right. I prefer -- and am much better at -- hitting without dual-thumb gymnastics, but your digits may be up to the challenge. Also new this year is Pulse Pitching, in which you aim a pitch and then set its accuracy by correctly timing a circle that throbs around the ball. Either its implementation is flawed, or my timing is off; I simply couldn’t get this control method down pat. It might help if MLB 12 gave some better feedback -- I’d appreciate knowing whether I was tapping X too early or too late. As usual, MLB 12 requires a five-gigabyte hard drive installation. This year, for the first time, you can choose to install an additional 5 GB of data. It takes another ten minutes, and if you can spare the hard drive space, I recommend it. The Show has long suffered from atrocious load times, and the 10 GB installation offers a marked improvement -- for example, it cuts exhibition-game loading almost in half. MLB 12 also benefits from drastically reduced save-game file sizes. Franchise and Road to the Show files previously exceeded 20 MB; now, they’re 1-4 MB, which speeds up saving and loading. Once you load into a game, notable upgrades become evident. Most obvious is MLB 12’s revamped ball physics; the new system gives rise to a much wider and more realistic variety of ball trajectories, whether it’s a high chopper going over a defender’s head or a liner tailing away from a diving outfielder. The ball now spins and bounces properly: a bunt might land foul and slowly roll fair, or a grounder might hit the third-base bag and shoot upward. It’s a subtle change that nonetheless has a tremendous impact on gameplay, delivering an experience that feels as organic and unpredictable as the sport itself. The live ball era has truly arrived in The Show. MLB 12 continues to offer visuals that make you question whether you’re watching a videogame or a baseball broadcast, with logically sequential camera cuts and stadium-specific presentation elements (like Marlins Park’s light-up carnival monstrosity for home runs). Sony SD has finally implemented collision detection, so players almost never ghost through each other anymore. The audio holds up its end, too: I hit a walk-off dinger, and the fans’ raucous cheering nearly drowned out the in-game commentary. Unfortunately, MLB 12’s commentary occasionally makes me wish for continuous background noise to drown it out. It’s alternately terrific and dreadful, more the latter than the former. Franchise games feature some impressively relevant lines, like Dave Campbell mentioning an in-progress hitting streak. Of course, plenty of lines repeat; I almost don’t want to play in Yankee Stadium anymore, because Matt Vasgersian has been talking up “a new home for baseball in the Bronx” since 2009. That’s even understandable to an extent, considering the realities of annualized game development. Worse than repetition is inaccuracy, and I heard many more head-scratchers than last year. In an Arizona Diamondbacks game, the commentators referred to the team as the “defending world champs,” and to my seventh hitter as “the cleanup guy.” I threw a slider at the knees that analyst Eric Karros called “chin-high.” Recording additional, more varied lines wouldn’t fix this glaring issue. MLB 12’s traditional modes -- Franchise, Season, and Road to the Show -- would also benefit from an overhaul. They’ve seen marginal improvements this year: under-the-hood upgrades such as better lineup management and smarter roster AI. The major new selling point is cross-platform cloud saving, which allows you to play the same mode on both PS3 and Vita. It’s geared toward die-hard fans, who are probably the only group who would buy MLB 12 on two platforms. They’re likely also the same people clamoring for more meaningful changes here, so it’s ironic that the constraints of PS3/Vita crosstalk meant that Sony SD couldn’t significantly upgrade the modes this year. Instead, MLB 12 on PS3 gets a brand-new mode called Diamond Dynasty. It has more in common with the NHL franchise’s “EA Sports Ultimate Hockey League” than Madden or FIFA “Ultimate Team.” After creating a team and customizing every detail with a 1,000-layer logo editor -- insignias, caps, helmets, jerseys, cleats, and more -- you’re presented with a card collection of fully editable fake players and a few MLB athletes. If you want spend hours recreating your high-school varsity squad, go right ahead. Players can participate in a limited number of games: for fictional players, the maximum is between 35 and 45, while MLB stars have 10 games (they’re mercenaries used to give your team a quick boost). Each created player comes with a rating of his potential; higher-potential stars cost less to train. In-game money is earned by facing off against MLB franchises or playing head-to-head online games against other Diamond Dynasty teams, and you can use it to train players, buy card packs, or buy single cards from other users at auction. (You can also purchase “credits” on the PlayStation Store, which can only be spent on packs.) Diamond Dynasty is somewhat confusing at first, especially since it brings you straight into the mode once you’ve named your team and picked its colors -- if you don’t then go into the logo editor before playing, your men will be wearing blank jerseys. But it’s also fun and engaging; as with training a single player in Road to the Show, I found myself becoming emotionally as well as fiscally invested in my team. Chasing leaderboard greatness is the chief motivator here: the game rates your team and its individual players with each online game. That’s Diamond Dynasty’s undoing. Online play in The Show, a perennial black mark on an otherwise spectacular game, is still not something I would ever willingly subject myself to. I tried to play a few games for this review, but literally could not complete a single one -- my opponent and I always agreed to a friendly quit in the early innings because the experience was so awful. MLB 12’s online announcements claim, “While visual anomalies exist, the users [sic] input should translate directly to the result.” The first part, at least, is true. Pitches still stutter on the way to the plate, making it nigh-impossible to time swings; lag often throws off the pitching meter’s accuracy; and I once saw halves of two different swing animations chained together (first a standard swing, then a feeble tied-up hack). Even if these “visual anomalies” are lying to you, and the game works as usual underneath, it’s impossible to know for sure because of said visual anomalies. I’ll happily build up my Diamond Dynasty bank account against the CPU, but I’m sad that I won’t be able to take complete advantage of a fully online mode because the network side of the equation doesn’t compute. Diamond Dynasty is a microcosm of MLB 12: a terrific, addictive offline experience marred by frustrating issues that Sony San Diego has failed to address for a while. MLB 12 is a sign of a franchise growing stale, a formerly pristine playing field in need of re-sodding. As enjoyable as it still is to play, important elements of the experience aren’t up to par. The future remains murky for now, with Take-Two’s exclusive third-party license expiring this year (and an apparent lack of desire to renew the contract). Perhaps MLB 13 will see some stiff competition to inspire it to greatness.

Sony San Diego has consistently produced well-regarded MLB The Show titles that easily outclassed other simulation baseball games. The studio has for years been fighting the stagnation that typically results from a lack of st...


MLB 2K12 supports new playoff format, MLB 12 doesn't yet

Mar 05
// Samit Sarkar
Last Friday, Major League Baseball announced that it will be expanding its playoff format to a ten-team field starting this season: each league's three division champions will get a first-round bye while the four- and five-se...

Buy MLB 12 The Show on PS3 and Vita together, save $20

Mar 05
// Samit Sarkar
Sony's critically acclaimed MLB The Show series is making its way to the company's shiny new handheld, the PlayStation Vita, this year. The PS3 version of MLB 12 The Show costs $60, as usual, and Sony is charging $40 for the ...

Preview: Swinging away with PS Move in MLB 12 The Show

Mar 05 // Samit Sarkar
[embed]223169:42933[/embed] MLB 12 The Show (PlayStation 3 [previewed], PlayStation Vita) Developer: SCE San Diego Studio Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Release: March 6, 2012 MSRP: $59.99 (PS3) / $39.99 (PS Vita) Cramm acknowledged that there’s definitely a learning curve for MLB 12’s Move controls, and I can attest to that. Even after he showed me the basics, and after I watched the in-game tutorial videos (starring cover athlete Adrian Gonzalez), it took me a while to get my bearings. But once I had about two innings of hitting, pitching, and fielding under my belt, I felt like I was in the zone -- the fact that I was using Move had almost become an afterthought. Sony San Diego has designed MLB 12’s Move pitching controls to resemble the actual pitching motion. Once you have selected a pitch and moved the wand to aim it, you hold the trigger while pulling the controller backward to set the pitch’s potential power (the further back you go, the closer to 100% power you get). Then you whip the Move wand forward; the speed with which you do so controls the actual power of the pitch, while the point where you release the trigger determines your release point (and thus, accuracy). It feels natural, and although it’s less complicated than the analog-stick controls that Sony SD introduced last year, it has the same effect of making you feel as if you’re skillfully executing your pitches. Move hitting is much more precise than it was last year, and it offers a much greater link between you and your on-screen avatar. MLB 11 only rendered a bat floating in the batter’s box; now you can see the hitter holding his Louisville Slugger. If you actually get up in front of your TV and assume a batting stance before the pitch, which is optional, the wand will vibrate to let you know that it “sees” you. Once it does, the in-game hitter moves the bat exactly as you move the wand. It’s an impressive implementation, forming a unique player-avatar connection that makes you go “whoa” the first time you see it. MLB 12’s Move support is smart enough to distinguish between a contact swing and a power swing based on your own motion. If you quickly swing forward, as if you’re slapping at the ball, the game registers that as a contact swing. But if you move your hands back first, like you’re loading up to drive the ball, it will recognize that as a power swing. In either case, the speed at which you flick the wand forward determines the strength of the swing, so it’s still possible to hit a homer with a contact swing. Move even supports the franchise’s Guess Pitch function -- you hold the trigger and point at a zone. Fielding with Move requires less user input in one sense, but puts more responsibility on you in another. Once a hitter makes contact, the AI takes care of putting your defenders in position to field the ball; Cramm told me that moving fielders with the wand was simply too awkward. But that’s all the CPU will handle. MLB 12 does something that, to my knowledge, no other baseball game has done (except in the case of robbing home runs): it puts the onus on you to make the catch. A circle beneath a fielder changes from red to yellow to green to indicate timing; you pull the trigger to catch the ball when it’s green, and hitting it too early or too late will likely result in an error. Now that fielders don’t automatically scoop balls up, Cramm noted, MLB 12 Move players might actually be surprised by a hot shot to the pitcher or third baseman. “If you don’t hit the trigger fast enough, the ball’s going to hit you in the face,” he said, and I definitely let a few line drives accidentally smash into my fielders. If you do make the catch, you flick right, up, left, or down while releasing the trigger to throw to first, second, third, or home, respectively. Running the bases with Move also brings in an aspect of real-life baseball. You control your baserunners with gestures similar to those used by a third-base coach. Waving the wand in a circular motion advances a runner, while swiping left and right tells him to return to a base. If you hold up the wand horizontally, the baserunner will stop at the next base, and if you hold the trigger while doing so, he’ll stop in his tracks. This aspect of MLB 12’s Move controls took the most time to get down, but I think that was mostly because I had difficulty keeping track of the different gestures. I’m about as hardcore as they come as far as sports games go, and I assumed that MLB 12 wouldn’t be playable with PlayStation Move. But once I gave the motion controls a chance, I found that in addition to being satisfied with the experience, I was enjoying myself. Move might just surprise you, too.

Sony San Diego experimented with motion controls in MLB 11 The Show last year, implementing basic PlayStation Move support in a fringe game mode, Home Run Derby. The inclusion of Move controls in a casual party game and ...


New Destructoid Show: Dragon Age Nazi Dinosaurs?!

Mar 18
// Tara Long
Good evening and happy Friday, handsome readers of Destructoid! I would make a Rebecca Black joke, but I'm sure you've heard them all by now so let's get on with the program. On today's episode of Destructoid, Max gets ...

Review: MLB 11 The Show

Mar 17 // Samit Sarkar
MLB 11 The Show (PlayStation 3 [reviewed], PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 2) Developer: SCE San Diego Studio Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Released: March 8, 2011 MSRP: $59.99 (PS3) / $29.99 (PSP, PS2) Analog pitching is a tremendous addition to the series, a change that brings a newly challenging dimension to a long-stagnant element of the game. In previous iterations of The Show, once you mastered the meter pitching, it was far too easy to paint the corners with sub-par pitchers as well as number-one starters. Here, the analog controls mean that just like in real life, there’s a world of difference between Justin Verlander and Justin Duchscherer; because it’s much more difficult to be accurate with a scrub, you have to be much more conservative with aiming pitches -- since lower ratings mean increased location variability -- and that will likely lead to giving up more hits. MLB 11’s analog pitching setup requires the same general motion for every pitch -- pulling back on the right stick and then flicking up and left or right (depending on inside/outside location) -- and I find that consistency more satisfying than MLB 2K’s system of separate gestures for each pitch. In that light, the amount of variety and challenge that these controls offer is particularly impressive; the pressure is on you to execute every single pitch. I really enjoy the extra difficulty added by the shorter timing window while pitching out of the stretch, too, which heightens the intensity when runners on base raise the stakes. I also like the new analog hitting, which has you “preload” by pulling back on the right stick and swing by flicking upward. Because a check swing isn’t dependent on how hard you tap a pressure-sensitive face button, but is instead accomplished by pushing the right stick upward halfheartedly (or flicking upward and then quickly pulling back), it’s easier to pull off than in years past. It does seem strange that folks who might appreciate the additional challenge of having to move the plate coverage indicator with the left stick toward an incoming pitch can’t do that. You only choose where to swing by flicking up and to the right/left on the right analog stick; the left stick doesn’t move the PCI if analog hitting is enabled. Analog fielding/throwing is less successful. The power meter, which consists of concentric circles beneath a fielder, goes up too quickly for you to be able to fine-tune the “oomph” behind a throw, and even so, there doesn’t seem to be much of a correlation between a throw’s power and the chance that it will go wide. I saw a number of errant throws that didn’t result from a maximum-power analog motion. In this case, I think an on-screen throwing meter similar to the one in MLB 2K would provide a better system. And while it’s possible to preload throws during fielding animations, just as with the old button controls, I often noticed a small hitch between the animations of scooping up a ball and firing it to first base -- which, of course, could be the difference between “safe” and “out.” That’s particularly unfortunate in a franchise that’s renowned for its animation fluidity. In addition, if you’ve been flicking up and down on the right stick to jump and dive, respectively, you’re going to have to get used to pressing R1 and R2 instead, since the right stick only controls throws now. Thankfully, you have the full variety of control schemes available for pitching, hitting, and fielding. So, for instance, if you like the analog hitting and pitching but want to use button throwing, that’s completely doable. Road to the Show (RTTS), arguably MLB The Show’s standout mode, has also been revamped -- and it’s much better for it. The previous games featured a nebulous goal-based scoring system, which gave you specific tasks that didn’t always correspond to a situation’s “baseball logic,” if you will. MLB 11 evaluates your performance on a per-at-bat basis, with pitch count as a general underpinning: as a pitcher, your job is to be economical -- get outs by throwing as few pitches as possible -- and as a hitter, you want to see as many pitches as you can. That’s the fundamental conflict at the heart of baseball’s pitcher/hitter battle. Sure, striking a guy out is nice, but it’s less so when he fouls off seven pitches before you can manage to do it (that will result in an “OK batter” grade, instead of a “good” or “great” one). And while striking out is never a desirable outcome for a batter, well, at least you made the hurler work for it (“OK” as opposed to “poor”). In MLB 11, RTTS finally rewards you for being a smart baseball player, not for conforming to a particular assigned task, and it’s the best improvement that the mode has seen in years. The other major game modes, Franchise and Season, have better simulated statistics than ever before, but roster management remains an issue. The AI in MLB 11 prizes high-potential youth (and their corresponding cheap contracts) over everything else. I simulated a few years in Season mode, and one of the first things that the Yankees did was trade Derek Jeter -- only the team captain and face of the franchise -- for 20-year-old Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro (and other pieces). Of course, that’s something that the real-life Yankees would never do. I also saw some awards weirdness: somehow, the Cardinals’ light-hitting second baseman Skip Schumaker managed to win a Silver Slugger Award. MLB 11 also contains other nagging issues that have plagued the franchise for years. Even with another required five-gigabyte installation, the game suffers from dreadful load times across the board. While saving and loading a RTTS file, for example, the bar will quickly go to 100% -- and then it’ll sit there for the next 20 seconds or so. In addition, the game often hangs for a few seconds when transitioning between screens, and on the field, nearly nonexistent collision detection remains a problem. The replacement of Rex Hudler with Eric Karros doesn’t help the poor commentary. Karros’ lines were clearly recorded separately from Matt Vasgersian’s and Dave Campbell’s, and they’re flat-out wrong sometimes. He commented on my RTTS pitcher’s split-fingered fastball “falling through the zone,” but that pitch isn’t even in my repertoire! Online play has always been the lone black mark on The Show, and while Sony San Diego has improved it this year, it still doesn’t resemble the offline experience closely enough to be worth playing much. The immense lag in my first game made it essentially unplayable, but most of the games after that offered reasonably smooth experiences. But when lag presumably depends on the distance between players, it’s silly that regional lobby rooms no longer exist (at least there are finally “Guess Pitch off” lobbies). And it seems that you have to swing much later online than offline. That’s a boon for hitters, but it takes some getting used to. I’ve also found it damn near impossible to throw out base stealers. Being able to customize your camera angles is nice, but I still don’t want to play The Show online. Once again, Sony San Diego has delivered the best baseball game on the market. The new analog controls are largely an improvement over the button controls of yore, and Road to the Show has never been better. It’s somewhat disappointing that certain drawbacks persist, but at its best, MLB 11 provides a beautiful, unparalleled simulation of America’s pastime.

Keeping annualized sports franchises fresh year after year is an unenviable task, especially within the constraint of a ten- or eleven-month development cycle. Generally, sports-game developers endeavor to bring a few importa...

Impressions: MLB 11 The Show (3D, HR Derby with PS Move)

Feb 23 // Samit Sarkar
The depth goes “into” the screen, as on the Nintendo 3DS, while the HUD elements -- including the score line at the top of the screen, any statistical or interface overlays, and baserunner windows when you’ve got men on first or third -- stand out because they float “above” the screen. The Show doesn’t shout “THREE-DEE” from the rooftops, and it’s much more enjoyable for it. Even better, the options menu includes a slider that functions similarly to the physical slider on the body of the 3DS, allowing you to customize the subtlety of the 3D effect. Just for kicks, I turned it up all the way, which led to some very unpleasant ghosting for me. I assume that’s because I’m severely nearsighted and I wear fairly thick eyeglasses -- as it is, I have to deal with slight chromatic aberration at the edges of my lenses. As with any 3D effect, your mileage may vary; I found the effect most comfortable when I set the slider at about 30 or 40% full. Home Run Derby is little more than a fun diversion from the meat of MLB 11, and I was alternately impressed and disappointed by the implementation of PlayStation Move in the mode. I should mention at the outset that HR Derby is the only part of MLB 11 that supports Move; you can’t use it for anything else. When playing a Derby with Move, your slugger doesn’t appear in the batter’s box; all you see is a bat floating in mid-air. I found the tracking of the wand to be highly accurate, just as in most Move games I’ve played -- the orientation of the on-screen corresponds to the position in which you’re holding the wand. But that’s about as far as the accuracy goes; as for the actual act of swinging, you might as well be playing Wii Sports. You can stand up and get in a batting stance if you really want to, but it’s by no means necessary (although you do have to swing left-handed, or backhanded, if your hitter is a lefty). I was able to blast a ball over 470 feet just by flicking my wrist gently -- hitting depends only on the timing of the swing and the angle of the bat. (If you swing downward, for instance, you’re just going to drive the ball into the ground.) That is, you can have just as much success with a full home-run hitter’s swing as with a quick motion of your wrist. I was initially expecting the mode to demand a more true-to-life swing, but the PR rep pointed out that the Derby is something you’d generally only play as a party game. And you sure as hell don’t want to be the one guy at a party who’s taking everything way too seriously, pretending to be David Ortiz -- spitting in your hands and all -- while everyone else is just messing around, trying to have a good time.

When I first checked out MLB 11 The Show a few weeks ago, I spent a portion of the hands-on demo playing the game in 3D. I also tried the Home Run Derby mode, which debuted last year and now supports PlayStation Move. Sony S...

Preview: MLB 11 The Show

Feb 22 // Samit Sarkar
MLB 11 The Show (PlayStation 3 [previewed], PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 2) Developer: SCE San Diego Studio Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment To be released: March 8, 2011 The analog hitting and fielding in MLB 11 works very similarly to the way it does in MLB 2K. To hit, you pull back on the right stick to bring your hands back, and then flick upward to swing the bat. Timing is critical; you’ll want to pull back to preload your swing during the pitcher’s windup, so the swing ends up being one fluid motion (pulling back too early or too late will greatly reduce your chances of making contact). The option to use a contact swing or power swing still exists with a button press before the pitch. There are two ways to check your swing: pull down on the stick after you’ve started to push it upward, or merely let it go upward to the neutral position. To bunt, just push forward from neutral. I’m not a very good hitter in The Show as it is, since I spend most of my time playing as a pitcher in Road to the Show, so I had difficulty making contact. But the system feels great, and it’s good to see that it doesn’t offer any reduced functionality compared to button hitting. Analog fielding is really going to test your stick accuracy. Imagine the baseball diamond transposed onto the right stick: right is for first base, up is for second base, and so on. You push the stick in the direction of the base you want to throw to, and the longer you hold it there, the harder the throw will be. (For throws to the cutoff man, you hold L1 and flick.) The system asks for a deft touch. If you don’t flick toward cardinal east, north, west, or south, your throw will be off -- and if you hold the stick too long, it’s probably going to sail over your target’s head. On a stolen base opportunity, I had my catcher throw the ball to second base. But I pushed the stick up and slightly left; as a result, the throw ended up on the shortstop side of the second-base bag, and the runner slid safely in. And I saw more than a few instances in which my opponent air-mailed a routine throw, giving me an extra base or two. Analog pitching, too, requires pinpoint control -- especially with hurlers who aren’t aces. The system is both timing- and control-sensitive, just like real pitching. Unlike the gesture-based pitching in MLB 2K, where a four-seam fastball and a two-seam fastball require different movements, the basic analog-stick motion is the same for every pitch. Pulling down on the right stick initiates the windup, and a small baseball icon starts to move downward toward a horizontal yellow line on the vertical pitching meter. The idea is to flick the stick upward at the moment that the ball hits the yellow line. The intensity of the flick determines the amount of effort that your pitcher puts into the delivery, but you’ll quickly tire him out if you try too many throws with extra “oomph.” Of course, it’s only that simple if you want to throw the pitch over the heart of the plate. Once you start moving the ball around the plate, a direction indicator above the vertical pitch meter will correspond to how far your pitch deviates from dead center. With a pitch thrown right down the pipe, you’ll flick straight upward. But if you’re aiming to the right or left, you’ll have to flick the stick upward and to the right or left, respectively; the further away from the middle of the plate you’re aiming, the more your flick will deviate from true north, so to speak. The timing of the delivery will be quicker if you’re pitching out of the stretch instead of the windup, and if you don’t hit the yellow line exactly, your pitch will break less or more (depending on whether you’re early or late, respectively). As you can see, there’s a lot to take in. Analog pitching is also very unforgiving in its challenge; missing either the timing or the positioning may cause your pitch to end up in a place you don’t want it to go. You’ll be throwing many more balls than in years past, and what’s exciting is that the system really differentiates the wheat from the chaff. I created a pitcher in Road to the Show, and I noticed that I had to be very conservative in aiming with the 61-rated minor-leaguer. You simply won’t be painting the corners at will, and that’s the way it should be. I did notice one major issue inherent in the system: the meter in local two-player (or four-player, as the case may be; MLB 11 includes a co-op mode) games doesn’t give you the left/right control display. That makes sense, since you don’t want your opponent to know if you’re throwing inside or outside. But that means that determining location when pitching against a human opponent who’s sitting next to you is purely a “feel” exercise: you have to have an idea of how far left/right you’re aiming, and then you have to flick upward and left/right by yourself -- without the help of the on-screen indicator. It seems like something that’s going to take a long time to learn. If you’re having a lot of trouble, you can switch to Rookie difficulty, where you’ll only have to worry about the release-point timing, not the side-to-side control. [For a more succinct video explanation of analog pitching in MLB 11, go here.] This year, Road to the Show (RTTS) has changed up its player creation setup. You’ll still be allocating attribute points, but at the start, you have to balance your player on a set of sliders. Pitchers, for example, can be stamina guys or power guys, Maddux-like control freaks or hurlers with lots of movement on their pitches, and have a balanced repertoire or feature one dominant pitch. Similarly, you’ll have to put your hitter somewhere on the spectrum between power and contact, and arm strength and accuracy for fielders. These characteristics will determine the initial layout of your player’s attributes, and since you can’t max out any one rating at the start, you’ll have to play through RTTS to improve your skills. Sony San Diego really focused on visual improvements in MLB 11. I selected “rain” as the weather for an exhibition game, and noticed that the skies started out overcast and gradually darkened before a drizzle began. The field also looked wet; the infield dirt filled with darkened splotches, especially in the base paths. Also new is an optional eight-pitch warmup session for starting pitchers. You can turn this off, but if you leave it on and skip the warmup process, your starter will begin the game cold. I’m going to need to spend a lot more time with MLB 11 before I can decide if I prefer its analog controls to the tried-and-true button controls of yore. Everything else seems like a further evolution of a series that’s been great for years, so I’m excited to get my hands on the full game in the next couple of weeks. You can try it out for yourself right now: a four-inning demo went up on the PlayStation Store today.

Sony’s competitor in the baseball space, 2K Sports’ Major League Baseball 2K franchise, has included analog-stick controls for years. But the folks at Sony San Diego, the studio behind the MLB The Show series, vow...


MLB 11 'Yankee Killer' trailer has revisionist history

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Sony has just released a new trailer for MLB 11 The Show, and this one features Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who is on the cover of the game for the second year in a row. I wasn't aware that Mauer's performance against...

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