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.
One of the characteristics of a great baseball video game is its use of attributes. Power and contact for hitters, velocity, control, and movement for pitchers, these are the tweaks that let the gamer replicate a given player’s real-life style. If you want to be a slap hitter the way Juan Pierre is on the field, or an all-or-nothing slugger like Adam Dunn, the game should let you.
Well, MLB 2010: The Show goes a long way towards doing that, and here are a bunch of examples of players and plays in which real-life style translates to in-game replication, as I’ve experienced them in online play:
- Alfonso Soriano hits nothing but pop-ups to the left side, and occasionally one will leave the yard.
- A 78 m.p.h fastball from Tim Wakefield feels like 98 after a banquet of knuckleballs.
- Trevor Hoffman’s change-up is nigh unhittable (okay, maybe this is more circa 2009 Hoffman’s style).
- Felix Hernandez’s pitches are hard to hit even when they aren’t perfectly placed.
- Albert Pujols hits everything hard, all the time.
Results aside for a moment, for the real baseball video game nerd, everything comes down to style. Real baseball is a symmetrical ballet of movement and stillness, and the perfect video game should be too. From the game to the individual, the idea is to inhabit the bodies of these players and perform in the context of the game the way that they might on the field.
When baseball video games switched from generic players to granting individual players attributes according to their actual skill, the games began to sparkle. Suddenly, Glenn Davis was a power hitter, and Kenny Lofton a speedy slap hitter. From those first days, the desire for verisimilitude sucked in its first real breath, and each incremental step forward has been to satisfy the desire to control not just any team but the real team. Maybe there were some of us who were happy to hit with robots and children on the original NES, but for the most part the baseball gamer craves exactitude.
(The question I love is this one: will we ever reach the point when a video game will be literally indistinguishable from a video broadcast? I dream about that day.)
Well, at this point I am ready to re-annoint, for the millionth time, The Show as the best, most realistic baseball video game in the history of the world.
Why do I feel so strongly about this replication of real life? Because of Ichiro.
The Mariners can’t hit for beans, in real life or in the game, so the most important hitter on my team is the best one: number 51. And seeing as how I’m following the team pretty closely this year, I’ve had a chance to watch him hit, spraying grounders and glancers, whiplash hits and squigglers, from the opposite field to the pull field, with every variation in between. The real pleasure of MLB 10: The Show? Ichiro hits with the same variety in the game.
In one game against the Yanks, controlled by an online opponent, I experienced just such a variety:
1st at bat: Ichiro hit a low hard line drive past A-Rod at third base, who didn’t have time to react. Went for a single.
2nd at bat: Ichiro blooped a double that fell just barely out of reach of Thames in left field on a high inside fastball.
3rd at bat: I decided to guess fastball and yank one as far as I could. It worked, and Ichiro pulled a home run, just like the home run he hit against the O’s on May 13.
That rundown could have been The Day in Ichiro sections from Every Day Ichiro. I love The Show.