MLB 10: The Show

While our culture moves at increasing speed, baseball remains a game for the patient. In videogames, the sport has fallen by the wayside. When gaming is so often obsessed with more, better, faster, the idea of digging in for a duel fought one pitch at a time can seem archaic. How surprising, then, that MLB 10: The Show isn’t just one of the best sports games available, but with respect to the ratio between ambition and execution, it’s one of the best videogames, period.

Sony nails the core fundamentals of baseball with gameplay that’s free of bells and whistles. You won’t swing the bat by making a motion with the analog stick, nor will you use any gesture-based moves to pitch. All you need is a couple of button-presses, a good eye, and the patience to work the count. Moreover, the developers behind this series mastered the physics of the baseball years ago, and have mapped every stadium in the nation in minute detail.

Atop the basics is a composite layer of animation and AI that makes The Show feel unerringly natural. You’ll see everything but spitting and scrotum-scratching as players move with real grace, weight, and speed. You’ll be able to trace the momentum of a pitcher’s kick-out and the small, quick gestures of catchers and base coaches as they suggest strategies. AI improvements manifest in sluggers who tear apart ill-considered pitching strategies and shortstops who won’t routinely bobble difficult double plays. A new pick-off system reins in the base-stealing of past years.

The game’s core mode is Road To The Show, which describes the career arc of a player who works through the minors and hopefully earns major-league status, and perhaps stardom. The catchers’ careers are now modeled in more detail than ever before; you can actually perch behind the plate and call a career’s worth of pitches. That represents the patience and strategy of baseball taken to an extreme, but that’s what The Show is all about, and why it excels.