Eric has his Little League baseball team, and me? I’ve got the Playstation 3. So in the spirit of one downsmanship, I will be tracking my year on the virtual field, playing MLB 10: The Show, a masterpiece of a baseball video game and the pinnacle of the form.
I picked up my copy of The Show with little hesitation on the day it was released, at my local neighborhood big box store. It’s the centerpiece of my video game collection and the one game that can’t–barring some apocalyptic fundamental change–disappoint me year to year.
Dodging the blue shirts to grab my steal-proof copy empty box, I presented it to the girl at the front, who went searching for the actual game. On her way from the cash register to the Actual Game Bin, she forgot what game I was buying, so I had to declare aloud my commitment to the baseball franchise.
It was worth it. The Show is as purty as ever, with the detailed improvements that a veteran of baseball video games can really geek out on, like more lifelike throwing animations and more dynamic fans who actually–gasp!–reach down for ground balls skittering along the wall in foul territory.
Some would argue, accurately, that there isn’t all that much different with this year’s version, and that perhaps I put down my hard-earned for little in the way of innovation. I, however, budgeted for the 2010 version just as soon as A-Rod spit his gum out and jumped onto the World Series-winning pile, so I’m pretty happy with the cosmetic upgrades.
After a hiatus last year, I’m back into the online gameplay in 2010, as I usually reserve the long-form Road to the Show mode and Franchise modes for late in the year and the offseason, as a form of relief from the online format. For now, though, in the fresh new early season, it’s human versus human.
The year in The Show started off choppily in 2010. There were quite a few glitches to dance around in the first week of play, particularly in the online iteration. Simple online match ups quickly led to frustrating freezes and whacked out statistics. First, it was the intentional walk glitch, which brought the sleek supercomputer to its knees and required a reboot every time I tried to give someone a free pass. The rub was that whovever shut down their system first would get credit for the win, so there were a few times that, in my stubborn refusal to cede a win, I left the system running in its frozen state while I walked the dog, trying to wait out my equally frustrated opponent.
There’s also the typical annual imperfection of the online play. The Show is a timing game, and the briefest bit of lag can mess up a pitch or a swing. In the past, like in the early days of The Show on the PS2, you’d get online with a gamer who seemed to be tapping into The Show’s servers via dial-up from in an Internet cafe in Manila. Buster Keaton films have been smoother. This isn’t so much a problem these days. Now it’s more the occasional blip that comes unexpectedly when you’re trying to strike someone out with the bases loaded, and you end up chunking a fastball to the backstop or right down the pipe.
My team this year, for the most part, is the Seattle Mariners. They are also my newly adopted bandwagon team for the real season, so it makes sense because a) there’s that emotional affinity and b) I like their defense. The Show’s 2010 version seems to have a ramped up RANDOM-O-TRON that guides fielding play so there are way more glancing balls, blatant gaffs and balls scooting under gloves than in the past. The 3rd-ranked Mariner defense goes a good way to mitigate the negative impact of the new defensive crazy.
There’s a problem with my online play this year, though: I totally stink. Back in 2005, the typical sports gamer hadn’t yet discovered the hidden gem that was The Show. I was literally something like the 90th best player in the country. By now though every Madden addict fresh from football season picks up a copy of The Show and commits his fast-twitch motor skills and Mtn Dew-fueled attention to the National Pastime. I don’t stand a chance, and I’m currently fighting my way back to .500, ranked–and I’m not making this up–72,126th.
My highlight so far? In my only game playing as the Red Sox, I threw a no-hitter with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield against what was no doubt some frustrated ten-year-old with an itchy swing finger. The gimpy servers never did log the game, though, so my achievement–the first no-hitter I’ve thrown in a baseball video game ever–is currently lost in the data cloud, floating like a Wakefield knuckler in digital purgatory.
My favorite pitcher is, expectedly, “King” Felix Hernandez and his hammer down curveball and 97 MPH heat. My favorite hitter? A glitch in the Matrix has granted Jose Lopez Team MVP status. He gets the job done, verisimilitude and sabermetrics be damned.
As for The Show, it’s just getting started. I’m just gonna play it one game at a time, give it my best shot, and Good Lord willing, things’ll work out.