MLB is one of the first sports games to be released for Sony Computer Entertainment America?s (SCEA) handheld, the PlayStation Portable (PSP). 989 Sports has developed MLB so that anyone with a PSP can take America?s favorite pastime along with them everywhere they go. As far as sports games go, MLB is one of the most fluent games I have played. The transition from batter to batter and the catch and release of players fielding balls is extremely smooth.
There are a couple different play options to choose from in MLB. Quick-play enables you to pick two teams to face off in any Major League ball-park at any time of the day you choose, day or night. Season Mode allows you to play a full season using any Major League team. The user can pick a team and then decide how long they want the season to last. Season length options are in games: 162, 82, 29, or 14. You can also control the number of innings in each game, so the games can be shorter for a faster season, or longer, for more realistic play. You can trade players and sign free agents during season mode, but as with most other sports games, players may be injured during the season; however, this feature may be turned off as well. Online Mode allows two users to connect to each other through a wireless connection, build into the PSP, and play a game against one another.
The transitions during game play are excellent. When a ball is hit and the fielder has to make a play, the actions of the player are extremely fluent. The players will spin around to throw the ball depending on the way they are aligned with the base they are throwing to. For double plays, infielders will bare-hand tossed balls coming from the other infielders. For a close play at home, the base-runner will even put his shoulder into the catcher, trying to knock the ball loose!
As for the playing of the game, 989 Sports has come up with a great new innovation for the pitching system. The Release-point Pitching (RPP) feature is easy to use and makes the defensive part of the game fun and exciting. The user has total control over what pitch is to be thrown, along with the placement and velocity of each pitch. The use of the RPP feature can make or break your pitcher. To pitch the ball you have to press the X-Button once to start the meter. Press X again for the velocity as the meter rises then again to release the ball. A line is displayed when the meter is on its way down and the closer the meter lands to the line, the more accurate the pitch. If you keep missing the line, the pitcher can begin to lose confidence and the batting team will have an advantage. Another feature that goes along with this is a mound visit, which has the ability to calm the pitcher between batters.
For fielding, 989 Sports, has come out with a feature that makes the retrieving of ground and fly balls easier, called the Playmaker Fielding Marker. When a ball is hit, a shadow is displayed on the field where the ball is going to land and the user can have the game set up so the fielder will automatically run to the spot or they can control it manually. Another innovative feature is the Branch Point Technology. This feature creates ?seamless fielding transitions? and ?smoother base-running.? When fielding a fly ball or a ground ball the user can pre-select which base to throw the ball to by pushing the button for the base while the ball is in the air or on the ground. As for the base-running element, you can steal and advance the runners by pushing the Left Button and the respective base they are on. The only drawback is that if you want a single player to return to the base he just passed and there is more than one base runner, they both return their respective bases. I have been stuck in many rundowns due to this inconvenience.
The controls when you are at bat are very similar to other baseball games. The batter has is the option to guess the pitch that the pitcher is about to throw. By holding the Right button and selecting one of the four pitches, the batter can have an idea of what type of pitch is coming, maybe a curve ball, fastball or a slider. In the Rookie difficulty mode, if the guess is correct a bulls-eye will show up where the pitch will be coming in. In Veteran and All-Star modes, however, the box that shows the power zones of the hitter will light up red and disappear. You will know what type of pitch is coming but the location is unknown.
MLB?s graphics are unmatchable. There are very minor flaws to deal with such as the lack of player and fan detail; however, there is a lot of detail put into each of the ball-parks, making them look almost as good as the real parks. The players basically all look the same feature wise. The size, race, and individual batting stance of each player is the only thing that differentiates them from one another. Like in most spots games, the fans are repetitious and they are like stick figures that bend at the waist and knees.
989 Sports has done a great job of making you feel like you are at the game with the fan and batting sound effects. The fans will cheer and shout out remarks about the plays and it almost feels like you are in the announcer?s booth with the announcers during each play. You can hear the bats hit the ground after a player makes a hit and the shattering sound of a broken bat as it crashes into the dirt on the field. Music plays during the change of teams, every half inning, over the PA system like it would at a real game. The only draw back for the sound of MLB is that you can play the game faster than the announcer can comment on the play by play.
There is no objectionable content to be concerned about in MLB. The lyrics of the music that is played during loading and menu screens are clean. In fact there are quite a few Christian bands that appear on the play-list such as Pillar, Chevelle, Switchfoot and Thousand Foot Krutch. Through the game play, the only violence that can found is the beaning of the batters. You have the option to hit every batter if you want, and sometimes when there is a play at home plate the base-runner will run into the catcher to try to knock the ball loose from the catcher?s glove.
The fact that you can take a quality game like baseball around wherever you go is amazing. I enjoyed this game so much I continued playing season after season trying to accomplish different goals. One feature that I would like to see in a future MLB game is an option to listen to music from the game, rather than the announcer. The only two major drawbacks that MLB has are that there is no Home Run Derby for the All-Star Game and there isn?t an Owner/Franchise Mode. Many players enjoy controlling all of the ownership details of teams and managing them from season to season. Maybe we?ll see these types of features in later baseball titles for the PSP, but MLB is an enjoyable game, for what features it does have.
» By Tom Cortolillo, Plain Games. Published 7/6/2005 7:43:17 PM.