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Volume 71, Issue 132, Friday, April 21, 2006

Life & Arts

'The Show' is quality, but no grand slam

Baseball title should satisfy fans despite some gameplay issues

by Zach Lee
The Daily Cougar

On the eighth day, God created baseball, and it was better than good; hell, it was better than sex. 

Baseball video games, on the other hand, aren't quite that good, but they're still fun.

Fans of EA Sports' MVP series of baseball titles were disappointed to find that EA had lost its exclusive contract with Major League Baseball and, as a result, the MVP franchise would be limited to NCAA titles for at least 2006. But Sony's MLB 06: The Show picks up the slack.

People who like a challenge should note before anything else that The Show is a little bit on the easy side. The default difficulty is too easy for even casual players, and the ability to guess pitches means that the Crawford Boxes are that much more accessible. Like any baseball game, it takes the hardest difficulty level and even some tweaking of the computer tendencies to satisfy the best gamers.

And there are small mistakes in the programming that diehard baseball fans will find annoying. When tagging out a runner on the basepaths, fielders don't actually reach out to tag them; they just run through them. One error is glaring to anyone who has played any baseball -- after a hit, baserunners who run through first base turn the wrong way. They turn toward second, which should make them vulnerable to a tag, but Sony programmers must not know that basic fact. Even if you catch renegade runners with a well-placed dive from the first baseman, they just trot back to first as if they had turned to the right. That's not being nitpicky -- programmers for a baseball game should know that.

That said, there are plenty of good things about making it to The Show. The announcing is fantastic -- a three-man team provides commentary that rarely repeats itself, and the pitching mechanics are incredibly realistic. One of the best things about the game is the frequency of walks. The CPU doesn't swing at every pitch, and pitch movement is pretty easy to pick up from the batter's box. Player movement is outstanding though, and little nuances -- like throwing the ball around the horn and sometimes hopping over the foul line on the way to the dugout -- make the players almost seem real. Celebrations at home plate, though not personalized to specific players, are remarkable in their details.

Career mode is an improved way to create yourself and work on making it to the big leagues and staying there once you do make it. The most annoying problem with that mode is an inability to manage the game meaning that you have no control over the length of your appearances. But players who can get over that should be able to enjoy their time in The Show. 

Certain problems in the virtual baseball world seem like they may never be fixed -- many players look to be clones of one or two face and body types -- but for the most part, The Show is a solid baseball game. It will be more than enough to hold fans over until next year's games come out.

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