MLB'07 The Show is a high-octane baseball title developed by 989 Sports and published by SCEA for the PSP. The Show promises to raise the bar over their '06 title with Adaptive Pitching Intelligence, Road to the Show career mode, Pitch Command System, and Online Suite features. The Show lives up to its namesake as it attempts to emulate your gameplay experience as if it was a live television broadcast.
I've been out of the sport for a "few" years, considering the last baseball game I truly got into was "Baseball" for the NES back in 1985. That was back in the day when epileptic-inducing 8-bit color blobs running across the screen defined cutting-edge sport simulation technology. "Baseball" fueled the sibling rivalry between my older brother and I for years and since I played fair never did win a game (he used to unplug my controller mid-game). One day I'll bring down the old NES and "Baseball" cartridge I have hidden in the attic to challenge my brother in one last final battle (preferably after he's broken an arm or something).
MLB'07 offers multiple different gameplay modes including Exhibition, Manager Mode, Career, Season, Home Run Derby, and King of the Diamond. The Career mode offers either the Classic or new Road to the Show mode. Both modes are centralized on you creating a player and playing up to ten seasons or more attempting to get your player inducted into the Hall of Fame. The Home Run Derby is one of my favorites; I can barely hit the ball during normal gameplay but here I can blast them out of the park like BAM BAM on crack. King of the Diamond is a trippy arcade style pinball baseball game where you attempt to out-score your opponent to keep control of the diamond. It may sound a little weird but it's really creative and fun.
The presentation of MLB'07 through the menus and into the game are clean, organized, and intuitive. The beginning of the game looks and feels like a live television broadcast with fancy onscreen animations, stat rundowns, and full announcer participation. The digitization of the various stadiums is detailed enough so that each arena has its own look and feel. Some stadiums have little animations of their own which, although small, add to the depth of the gameplay experience. The views used during gameplay are pretty standard with the back-catcher view used during batting/pitching, an aerial view used for field plays, and animation views used for replays and as a segway between batting changes.
The graphics in MLB'07 are pretty good considering how thin the line between realistic or marionette looking a sprite can be. I found the movements of the players during the animations and under my control to be fairly realistic and natural. I was surprised during a night game to see realistic shadowing effects on the ground due to the overhead lights. The iridescent reflections off the batter's helmet is a slick touch. The animations used during the game are fairly detailed and add a fluid element to the game. The spectators in the game look absolutely terrible and took away from the introductory sweeping views done before the game. The blatantly two-dimensional crowd looks like a split between a digital inebriated monkey doing jumping jacks and Kate Moss. To be fair, though, I'm sure the drunken monkey would win in a personality contest.
The sound in MLB'07 is excellent with a great selection of music, array of commentary from the announcers (including an astounding number of stats), crowd noise, and stadium PA announcements. The music selection includes but is not limited to great tunes by Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Alexisonfire, A Static Lullaby, and Chevelle. Classic crisp sound effects and voice over work really elevates the quality of gameplay and sells the TV broadcast feel.
The controls basically come down to those when acting as a pitcher (and field team) or as a batter (and runners). The pitcher has four different types of pitches in his arsenal or can pitch out or intentionally walk a batter. For those sneaky base-stealing types, the pitcher has the ability to throw to a base in an attempt to catch a lead-off runner. Different pitchers have a different mix of pitches available to them. In the game the catcher will pre-select which type of pitch and location he feels would be your best option. Whether or not you follow the back catcher's advice, a curved color coded bar appears (just like the ones used in golfing video games). Once the indicator in the bar goes all the way back and begins to whip it's way forward, you have to press the X button again quickly to launch the pitch. Unlike in golf, this colored bar doesn't control the power or speed of the pitch, but has more to do with the top spin and release angle. It takes a little getting used to, but after multiple pitches ending up in the dirt or laser-guided to the catcher's crotch I finally got the hang of it. When a batter hits the ball the controls move to the outfield where the controls basically use the layout of the square, triangle, circle, and X buttons as the layout of the field.
As the batter you have the option of type of swing (normal, power, check, sacrifice bunt, drag bunt) as well as how you will guess which general area the pitch is going go. You can guess either by the pitch type or based on pitch history. Once you've chosen which zone of your batting area you think the pitch is going, you use the directional nub to point to that zone and swing. If you're lucky enough to get a man on base, it's easy to get your man to lead off more and more from the base or start a running altogether using the top R and L buttons.
The online features for MLB'07 are a perfect example of how to keep replay value high in any sporting title: the ability to play other people. The online features have more personal interactivity than I'm used to in PSP games. Once you've created your own online persona you have the ability to post to Message Boards, send and receive Mail, upload and compare gameplay settings with other users, and actually get real-time ticker updates on games being played live. These features are of course in addition to the usual leader boards and point systems used to rank online players.
For someone who is not a die-hard baseball fan, I really enjoyed this game. I can only imagine that if I was crazy for baseball this UMD would only leave my PSP in a year's time when MLB'08 was released. The graphical quality is high where it counts (the crappy looking crowds suck but aren't instrumental to gameplay), and the sound production is bang on. The online features make the replay value of this title grow more and more appealing as the baseball season continues well into the summer season.