In 2006, Sony changed things up and got things going in the right direction, by tweaking the gameplay and graphical engines to create a game that despite some control and game management issues, can still stand tall with any other baseball game on the PS2, making it an excellent bargain bin title nearly four years after its initial release.
Among everything else, the presentation in MLB 06: The Show is fantastic. Commentators Dave Campbell, Matt Vasgersian and Rex Hudler provide a seam-less play-by-play experience that isn’t found on any other game, providing insight on every pitch, inning and big play that comes your way.
The actual gameplay experience, while being solid, does suffer from a few ailments that detract from the overall fun. Base running, for instance, can be a chore when multiple runners are on board. A lot like the arcade-styled running in the MLB 2K series, it may take gamers a while to get used to the button-mashing needed to successfully round the bases. Fielding at times seems more like a bother as well, as catching routine fly balls in the outfield can sometimes be more difficult than it needs to be and getting your infielders to dive for hard to reach line drives and ground balls can drive you crazy, at times.
Making up for the inadequacies of the fielding game in MLB 06: The Show is the hitting and pitching system, which is essentially flawless.
With a little practice, spotting your pitches on the corners of the plate and anywhere else for that matter is extremely fun and rewarding. The AI in the game is also very intelligent as well, making novice gamers pay for leaving fastballs over the plate in bad counts.
The hitting system of MLB 06: The Show is probably the single best feature in the game, aside from the game’s presentation. Hitters can now guess which pitch the pitcher is attempting to throw and if they guess right, the exact location of the next pitch is shown on the screen, giving a batter a much easier time at the plate. Again, this game plays very similar to the MLB 2K series in this respect, but improves on the formula, rather than copying from it.
Away from the diamond, MLB 06: The Show has a plethora of available gameplay features to keep any die-hard baseball fan busy. The all new rivalry mode, which allows players to maintain multi-game rivalries with multiple players and the fact that the game is fully supported for online gaming, makes it a solid choice for online and party gamers alike.
Despite the bevy of options available away from the actual game, MLB 06: The Show’s roster management system makes it too difficult to get the players you want on your roster, as a release player option is not available and signing free agents isn’t as easy as it should be, taking away from the statistical side of the game .
Technical issues aside, MLB 06: The Show hits gamers hard where it counts, with top-notch presentation and gameplay that despite a few shortcomings, gets the job done. Hardcore baseball fans may want to stick with Electronic Arts’ older offerings, but casual baseball fans can do a lot worse than MLB 06: The Show.