#3 of 2009: MLB 09 The Show

Posted December 30th, 2009 at 1:37 pm

The ranking of games in the best of 2009 list is based primarily on the personal amount of enjoyment had with a particular title. Some other factors include whether advertised features were fully delivered on, post-release support, community interaction and communication, overall gameplay experience, feature set, and online play performance. Again this is a personal take on the games. The analysis is weighted largely towards those which I had the most fun with while considering them as a whole and compared relatively to the others.

SCEA’s MLB The Show series has become one of, if not the most beloved sports franchise this generation. Some of that arises from the mystique of being PS3 exclusive though it is primarily based on offering the most true representation of a sport. Poor online performance has been the crutch holding the series back and that continued once again with MLB 09: The Show. Still for everything it excels at offline The Show was able to somewhat offset that making it one of the best and most consistent games this year.

Ask anyone what is great about MLB 09: The Show and the first thing mentioned will likely be a blanket statement about “gameplay” followed by “authenticity”. The Show is a definition of a simulation and provides the feel of being in the ballpark. It completely respects the fans of the sport and that resonates with gamers.

While MLB 09 didn’t add a whole lot in the way of features it properly enhanced the overall experience and what it did add worked well. The most stunning change was graphically where the improved lighting made it one of the best looking games this generation. The pitching meter was adjusted making it more of a challenge to spot pitches. The screenshot feature (actually is a PS3 feature that is activated for The Show) worked extremely well too.

Unfortunately it was another year of sub-par online play. For some, including myself, it was basically unplayable. The lag made the ball appear as though it was jumping on the way to the plate. Oftentimes you wouldn’t even see the bat swing, the swing would display late, or it would double-swing. That made it near impossible to know whether you were early or late for the sake of making adjustments. Check swings were absent in online games which really hurt and allowing “Guess Pitch” is a mistake for ranked games.

Meanwhile pitchers didn’t experience any timing issues which really made things unbalanced. The difficulty in timing swings turned online games into a competition of who would luck out and hit the most solo home runs. That way of thinking in itself is the opposite of what The Show prides itself on. Check out my full detailed online play impressions here.

Outside of the online play it is the frustratingly slow loading times cited as the biggest issue. This is something that has kept me from fully realizing the full potential of Road to the Show mode. More time is spent loading than actually actively playing. The time from booting to get to the menu is very long as is loading in and out of any games.

Notice though that the majority of any complaints about The Show are not gameplay related. For me it is primarily the online play performance and loading times. Both of those things could be improved on but then again they were issues in previous years that still have not been corrected. Hope is there for them to be better this year but at this point I won’t believe it until I see it.

Road to the Show advertised some enhancements but none that really stood out to me. What I was thankful for was being able to skip the instances when on the base paths. Base running is incredibly tedious and boring and not just that but the camera was broken making it completely frustrating. The slow load times are what especially damages this mode for me. Still it is where I spend the majority of my offline time and I do have fun with it.

While SCEA deserves credit for their usual community interaction and customer support they did release a patch this year that broke any Franchise or RTTS that was in progress forcing consumers to start them over. This was two months after release meaning many people were deep into those modes. The way they handled the situation was especially disappointing. They essentially avoided recognizing the issue by refusing to comment on it and never did pull the patch or fix it with a follow-up.

MLB 09: The Show was a fantastic game that had only a few glaring flaws. Sales were up significantly over the previous year proving that gameplay quality and reputation for just that will resonate with everyone and not just the “hardcore” crowd it attempts to respect. Still the online play experience continues to prevent The Show from reaching a level of greatness that it has been on the cusp of for a few years.

#3: MLB 09 The Show
#4: FIFA 10
#5: The BIGS 2
#6: NBA Live 10
#7: Madden Arcade
#8: NCAA Football 10
#9: NBA 2K10
#10: Fight Night Round 4
The Worst of 2009