Every year at about this time a 989 Sports representative calls or emails me and tells me about how this will be a rebuilding year for its franchises. This has happened for the past three years now and we’re still waiting for the results of this so-called reclamation project. It’s taken awhile but we’ve finally seen the fruits of these labors and for the first time in nearly a decade, it’s safe to call a 989 Sports game a solid effort, instead of just another work-in-progress.
After assessing which elements worked from MLB 2005, the boys in San Diego took it upon themselves to refine the rough edges and polish the good ones, leading to a game that is finally ready to compete in the big leagues. The career mode makes a fantastic return, bringing the Eye Toy functionality with it. By placing yourself into the game, you’ll start out in spring training and try to earn a spot on the big league roster. Do well and you’ll make it to the show, falter and you’re stuck in the back of a smelly bus in the Las Vegas desert. Couple this with the XX mode and you have a feature set that will hold most baseball fanatics over for a lifetime.
MLB’s on-the-field action hasn’t changed much since last year’s game and it’s a double-edged sword. It’s still the slowest game of this year’s bunch with the average 9-inning outing clocking in at about 45 minutes. To soothe the pain a little the designers have added presentation to the game, giving it that really extra bit of oomph that the franchise needed. IF you’re not a big fan of stats, pre-game introductions and that sort, you can turn on the Fast Play mode to cut down some of the waiting time.
New to MLB 2006 is a pitch meter that mimics the system first introduced with the MVP Baseball
franchise. Like that franchise’s system, players select the pitch, select the location and then utilize a two-point meter, one point representing the pitch power and the other the release point, to determine the strength and accuracy of the pitch. Unlike MVP’s
system, however, MLB’s is much more unforgiving. Taking a cue from real life, the designers ensured that no pitch is entirely accurate and that no pitcher has pinpoint control. So even if you do match up the meters correctly, you’ll rarely actually hit the precise target that you selected. It’s a bit odd at first, but it definitely beats the microscopic pinpoint accuracy that you can get from the other games.
On the other side of the duel, the hitting system remains virtually unchanged. Using the directional hitting system from the old RBI Baseball
days, you simply push the stick in a direction and push the X button to swing. Before each pitch you can guess which pitch is coming your way; a successful guess allows for better contact and a higher probability for dingers. Overall, the batter/pitcher interface works well and is easy to get a grasp of. It’s not the most complicated one out there nor does it try to reinvent the baseball genre. It’s simply functional and is forgiving enough for new gamers to enjoy.
The action that takes place after the ball is put into play is solid and effective. MLB uses a very simple system where each of the face buttons is mapped out to the corresponding bases on the diamond and the R1 button controls the dive and the jumping functions. Although using the R1 button to snag line drives is awkward at first, it becomes second nature in the long run.
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