After owning and playing the '08 edition of this game, I knew what to expect when purchasing this years incarnation. Having said that, all I have to say now is.... WOW! They improved on the game graphically, statistically, and in the realism. There are still the 2 modes to play off-line in Franchise and Road to the Show, and there is also the on-line potion. I'll get to each part of those in this review.
My favorite mode for all sports sims has always been the franchise modes. In The Show you get to control every aspect of your franchise, from the way the team trains to the price of the hot dogs. It is extremely indepth and could be quite overwhelming for the casual fan. When starting your franchise you first pick a team. I chose the Red Sox, of course, and off to spring training I went. After looking over my roster, I was excited to see that they finally added 40 man roster control to the game. This means that there are now waivers as well as a Rule 5 draft in the off season. I tinkered with my line-ups and pitching staff and off I went to my first game. The first of the mprovements I noticed in the gameplay was that players now threw the ball with a bit more urgency. One of my biggest complaints last year was that if there was 2 outs with a runner on first base and the batter hit a ground ball, if you tried to throw to the force out, he would lacksadaisically toss it there and the infielder that should have been covering that base would just stroll to it. This was frustrating because more often than not the lead runner would be safe. They've corrected that this year, as the man covering hustles over to the bag now, which is great. However, the outfielders can still be somewhat "lazy" which leads to some frustration. The graphics flow as smoothly as I've seen in a sports title. The cut scenes are pretty, but do get repetitive after a while, but when they do you can turn them off. The play by play is basically the same as last year, with Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell and Rex Hudler. They can get a little tiresome and I hope they change them out next year. One neat feature this season is that you can now take music off your PS3 hard drive and add it to the game for custom batter walk up songs and relief pitcher entrances. It's pretty cool to have Big Papi walking up to the plate to "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred. You can also use your bluetooth headset to add your own custon cheers and jeers when certain players come up to bat. This adds a lot to the atmosphere of the game, having the chowdawheads yelling "A-Roid, A-Roid" when Alex Rodriguez comes up to hit. But back to the franchise, I played through my starting rotation, giving each a spring start, but was eager to start the regular season, so I simmed the rest of the spring and went to opening day. The stadiums look amazing. They have Fenway down to a tee. It looks great. The first thing I did after I started my season was look over my financials. I decided that I didn't want my multi million dollar players taking the Durham Bulls team bus on their road trips, so I went to a bank and took out a large loan to afford 1st class airfare for my players to travel. This may sound a bit frivolous, but the different modes of transportation affect your players mood and fatigue. This game is that realistic. After 11 games my beloved BoSox are sitting at 6-5, ugh. I've tried to trade Julio Lugo, but not many teams are interested in him, and I haven't played enough to really see where I need to get stronger. All in all, franchise mode is top notch!
The Road to the Show mode is basically the same as last year, where you create a player and go to spring training with the team of your choice or allow yourself to be drafted. I created a 6'11" 1st base giant and called him El Gigante. I was drafted by the Angels and went to training with them. It's a neat mode for the fact that you only play the parts of the game that your player is directly involved in. The games tend to fly by, and after an hour I alredy had 11 games played. I am hitting .347 but with no power, as when you start you only have limited abilities. I'm assuming I'll be sent down to AA or AAA after the spring, but we'll see. Having this game mode basically makes it feel like you're getting two games for the price of one.
The only sore spot for this game is the online portion. There is way to much lag in this game to enjoy playing it online. What bothers me is that this was a problem last year and they did nothing to fix it. In a game of timimg like baseball, especially this one where you have meters to hit to get your accuracy for your pitches, any amount of lag is unacceptable. This may be a big reason for some people not to buy this game, as there are a lot of online gamers now.
If the online wasn't so bad this would be a must buy game for EVERY video baseball game fan but if playing online is really really important to you you may want to wait to see if they fix it with a patch or something. If you're like me and love playing franchise modes, I can't stress it enough, GET THIS GAME! I know some people who have actually bought a PS3 just for MLB The Show '09, it's that good. Final rating: 9.5 out of 10 (If the online worked properly it would easily be a 10).