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MLB '06 The Show
Score: 87%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2 (1 - 8 with Multi-taps / 1 - 2 Online)
Genre: Sports (Baseball)/ Simulation

Graphics & Sound:
Graphically, Sonyís MLB '06: The Show is decent, but nothing spectacular. Player models look very nice, while the stadiums and crowd lack a bit in the visual department. What really impresses me, however, are the animations associated with the players, especially those in the field. The transitions between animations are smooth and fluid, and add greatly to the realism of the game.

All of the sounds of Americaís pastime are present in MLB '06: The Show. And like the animations, the announcer is very fluid when talking up the players. I especially love the opening sequences, when the commentary sounds identical to that of a live broadcast. The music is also attention-grabbing, and so are the in-game sounds. Kudos goes out to Sony in the sound department on this one.

Like most baseball titles these days, MLB '06: The Show uses the standard setup of the behind-the-batter view for hitting, and the camera switching to a three-quarter view when fielding. There are multiple game modes in MLB '06: The Show, including Exhibition games, Season games, and Franchise games. A new mode to the series is called Rivalries. Rivalries is the perfect setup for tracking your records if you and a buddy tend to play a lot of games together. Youíll be able to set up Rivalries to track many different numbers of games, from a modest 7, to as high as 162!

Another new mode is called King of the Diamond. This is a three-inning slug-fest, where itís you against the computer in a ladder-match style competition. Here, youíll have two minutes to score as many runs as possible in a basic field that contains only dummies to play defense. The time is relative though, because if you hit certain targets, youíll add to your overall time (while other targets may take time away from you). Youíll also be able to set up challenges, in which you can either clear the bases of runners or steal time away from the batters while youíre controlling the pitcher. King of the Diamond is actually a fun and addictive way to play baseball, while offering a pretty good challenge at the same time, because the hitting gets more and more difficult as the tournament wears on.

Of course, every baseball game released has its own style, batting, and fielding system. As someone who has played quite a few videogame baseball titles, I can say that I truly had mixed feelings about the batting system. When at the plate, the batting system can be quite frustrating at times. On the other hand, it allows for a naturally difficult feel at the same time. With the advanced batting setup, youíll have to aim your swings into one of the nine spots in the strike zone, while also trying to refrain from swinging at the bad pitches. This is a great way to help simulate the difficulty in hitting Major League pitchers, but also has a huge learning curve if youíre not used to that sort of thing. What I really liked, however, is the incorporation of being able to "read" the pitcher. If you guess the pitch or the zone that it will arrive, youíll get an on-screen hint at exactly where the pitch will be, giving you a great chance at making a nice attempt on the ball. Home runs are then quite possible (and in fact, can happen too often in some cases).

As mentioned above, the difficulty in hitting can be almost overwhelming unless you play the easiest mode. But with that increase in difficulty also comes an increase in satisfaction when you knock one out of the park, or drive in the winning run in the bottom of the 9th. In the field and while running the bases, it may take a few tries to master the controls, because itís all about pressing the correct direction on the game controller to know which base to run/throw to, and this may or may not be a different setup than youíre used to.

Game Mechanics:
The controls of MLB '06 are really pretty straightforward, yet I sometimes found myself causing errors in both running and fielding, because my natural instinct is to control my bases in a different manner than the one presented in The Show. But after a while, the controls can become second-nature, and youíll be able to do both with precision. Batting, on the other hand, still gives me a bit of a problem, but Iím really not complaining about that. In fact, even when I get frustrated, itís almost a breath of fresh air to have such a challenge in a baseball title.

MLB '06: The Show is definitely a solid title, and any fan of Americaís pastime should check it out now that EA doesnít have the license for Major League Baseball. The package as a whole stands up to be a great title, and will have you playing for a long time against the computer or a friend, but it especially will if you take it online. MLB '06: The Show is definitely worth a buy for any sports fan out there.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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