Despite all the bugs, still the best baseball since MVP '05

User Rating: 8.6 | MLB 07: The Show PS2
(Note: This is strictly a review of MLB: The Show’s Franchise mode.)

I’ve been milking EA’s MVP ‘05 franchise mode for as long as possible, convinced that video game baseball could never get better. Finally broke down and picked up The Show this year after sterling review and sterling review.

The Show gets so many things right, it’s a total heartbreaker it’s such a buggy mess. While it’s true I’d rather play a great game with bugs than a mediocre, bug-free game, it’s just highly disappointing a game with this much polish and promise has so many irritating bugs that can’t be fixed on consoles.

What The Show Does Right:

1. The pitching mechanic. This is the best pitching I’ve ever seen. The breaks, speed and location are fantastic. It’s a real joy to pitch and you’ll look forward to working the corners, striking guys out or inducing popouts or grounders. It’s nice to see breaks with variance and you can’t paint the corners with pinpoint accurate breaking balls like in MVP ‘05.

2. In-game commentary/presentation. What makes it so cool is how unique it is to your players. If you’re in the top 10 for steals or on a 8-game hitting streak, the announcers might mention it or it will be highlighted in your stat display. Commentary is also really tuned to what’s happening on the field. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a line that was out of place or made no sense. In fact, most comments are very realistic and draw you into the game even further.

3. Default settings. This is a very realistic game of baseball with minimal slider tweaking needed, which is refreshing. You’ll tweak things according to preference, of course, but the default settings feel very authentic and simulated games don’t have ridiculous stat output.

4. Ease of editing players. You’re never going to be 100% happy with player ratings or development. You can edit any player on any team’s roster during the franchise at any point. The flexibility is a season-saver if you’ve ever dumped MVP franchises to start over with tweaked rosters.

What The Show Does Wrong:

1. This is really disappointing because it all boils down to bugs. This game is as close to perfect as you can get ... until the bugs set in. And these are not minor little bugs. They are incredibly annoying and I’m afraid I haven’t even seen them all. To date:

*Going into your bullpen to warm up a pitcher at the same time the CPU is making a pitching change can lock up the game. It will ask you to replace the CPU team’s pitcher on the mound, which you can’t, and you can’t get out of your own bullpen screen.

*Injuries can screw up your line-up orders because you can’t just click off injury warnings as you sim minor league games before your major league game. It will force you to “auto-fix” or “leave on bench” or put on the DL.The problem is if the player is a hitter in a starting lineup, and you either put him on the DL or bench, the CPU will re-order ALL of your lineups. There’s no “do nothing, i’ll fix it later myself” option. And minor league injuries happen a lot -- like every 3-5 games. So you’ll be re-ordering your major league lineups every time a minor league starting hitter gets any kind of injury. Which is incredibly annoying.

*Somewhat minor ... but the CPU will not sign free agents during the season. Roger Clemens will sit in the free agent pool all year if you don’t sign him. The CPU also will never offer trades to you. Semi-related, the trade logic is also incredibly wonky. It doesn’t seem to account for player’s age -- it’s too easy to acquire blue-chip young players for veterans just b/c the “overall” stats perceive the deal to be fair. The “overall” ratings are a bit inflated for some players if they have good defensive skills -- which makes someone like Juan Uribe very high overall and you can trade him for Jose Reyes b/c their overall ratings are so similar. If a team has a position of need, say, center field -- it will entertain ridiculous deals to get a center fielder, including trading away premier talent at other positions. I was able to trade a 26-year-old minor league center fielder to the Devil Rays for Carl Crawford.

*You can’t sign contract extensions mid-year. As far as I’ve seen, you have to wait until the season is over and the contract runs its course before you can offer a new deal. This sucks if you’re not sure how much money a player is gonna ask for in the new contract. You have to wait until the contract expires, so it makes trading players in their final contract year a bit of a gamble b/c you won’t know for sure how much money they really want in a new deal or whether you can afford it or not.

*This is one of the dumbest bugs -- each time you restart a saved franchise, all of your coaching staff is deleted. And not just your coashing staff -- the coaching staffs of every team in baseball disappears. You can re-hire the staff, but as soon as you save and restart later, it will disappear.

2. Useless micro-management. I'm sure there are people who enjoy the litany of silly financial tasks like setting promotions, ticket prices, ad sales, travel and rehab accommodations ... but I'm certainly not one of them. MLB has all of that stuff with no clear benefit on your players. You'll set budgets for all these team resources that claim to help your pitchers, hitters, defense and overall health, but there's no real cause-and-effect I can see.

Overall, this is certainly a game worth picking up if you loved MVP and want an update. Just be ready to deal with all the wonky franchise bugs in order to play a great season of baseball.