PS3 Fanboy hands-on: MLB 08 The Show

MLB 08 The Show is a thing of incredible beauty. Yes, although the build we recently played was still early, we saw some truly impressive technical feats on display. This game easily has the best character models we've seen in any sports game. They capture the not only the look of each player, but the feel. We were surprised to see the players come to so much life on the screen, with unique animations for a wide variety of situations. For example, when the Braves were in the lead, 3-1, we saw their defense start taking a fancier, more relaxed stance. Their catches had a bit more flair to them, as if to emphasize "we're better than you." Ouch.

Each batter has unique mannerisms when at bat, and it's those subtleties that baseball fans are going to love. Notice how the bat is held, and how it's swung. Each player feels as different as they should. Perhaps we shouldn't be so fixated, but the clothes in the game are remarkable: they actually fall atop of the characters, fold when players move. The clothes pick up subtle amounts of dirt as the game progresses, and is location specific. If a player lands on his knee, expect to see dirt there for the rest of the game. Attention to such minute details shows the San Diego studio's commitment into making this a real "next gen" baseball game.

The crowd is also much more alive than ever before. It's all fully realized in 3D -- no more sprites here, folks. But, even better than that, you'll notice that the crowd intelligently responds to what's happening in the game. If a fly ball goes their way, you'll see a small mob fight for the ball. You'll see people throwing around a beach ball in the stands. You'll be surprised at how much the crowd will do. Yes, there are some canned animations and repeating character models -- but, we were that much more engrossed by this feature.


The visuals aren't the only impressive feature about MLB 08 The Show. The audio package is stellar, featuring really spot-on (and specific) analysis of the game. The commentators are smart enough to remember what happened in every inning, and they will make all the references you expect them to. We haven't heard a single repeated line yet -- truly impressive! We loved the pre-game briefing, which highlights the history of each stadium, team and starting line-up. It's really well-executed. (On another note, we loved how the game's recreation of Shea Stadium showed the new stadium being constructed in the background -- and the announcers made some pretty insightful remarks about its progress so far.)

As is expected from any sports game, the presentation of the menus are sleek and very television-esque. However, MLB 08 The Show really takes it to another level. We joked earlier that The Show may be the most features-packed baseball game ever. Having played it for a while, we'd have to say that it's no joke. Every aspect of the game has a bevy of assist options. For example, batters can attempt to predict where the pitch is thrown. After each swing, a quick help options can tell exactly what was wrong about the last swing. Pitchers get a number of support options, with suggestions from the catcher really making a big difference to our game.

The enhanced Road to the Show is seemingly very comprehensive -- we haven't even begun to scratch the surface. The online functionality promised in the final version has a lot of potential, and there's even more we haven't talked about. All in all, we think it's a safe bet to say that baseball fans are going to be very happy when MLB 08 The Show launches exclusively on PS3 later in March.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.