Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sony wins baseball title

MLB 08 The Show

Sony, for the PS3, $59.99


Major League Baseball 2K8

2K Sports, for the Xbox 360, $59.99


Baseball season has begun, so of course, updates of the two big MLB video games are in stores.

I got a chance to try out Sony's "MLB 08 The Show" and 2KSports' "Major League Baseball 2K8."

First, a look at Sony's entry.

"MLB 08" (also available for the PSP and PS2) has amazing graphics on the PS3. My son, Trey, was playing recently, and when I walked in, I honestly mistook it for a real game on TV.

But the game offers so much more than just good looks.

There's an up-to-the-minute ticker that keeps you updated with real-world MLB games, down to baserunners, strikes and outs. You can send e-mail to other players online. You can create a player and play a game from his perspective, driving him up the ranks from minor-league baller to major-league millionaire.

In terms of gameplay, "MLB 08" is very solid. It focuses -- as baseball games should -- on the interaction between the pitcher and the batter. A click of a button pulls up nearly every imaginable pitching stat. Another click reveals hitting stats, down to whether or not your guy is confident enough to swing for the big extra-base hit you need.

I found baserunning and fielding to be easy to figure out, and the announcers and sound effects were solid and added to the realistic feel. This is the best version of this game I've ever tried. By far.

"Major League Baseball 2K8," for Xbox 360, didn't look as sharp or as stunning as "MLB 08." My 8-year-old son also felt it was too complicated to play, which is why I rated it lower.

My biggest problem was with the pitching. It's too precise. If you miss your mark by a fraction, you're throwing ball four -- or a two-out, bases-loaded home run. Hitting, baserunning and fielding, meanwhile, seemed to rely too much on using the right analog stick.

But "2K8" is a very deep game. The wealth of control and customization is staggering. There's a 90-team minor-league mode, for example, and its presentation is even closer to a TV broadcast than "MLB 08's."

"2K8" could have been great, but it needs some tweaking and a little dumbing down, I think, to really appeal to the masses.

Naruto Ultimate Ninja 3

Bandai Namco Games, for the PS2, $39.99


There's nothing like a good side-scrolling fighter game.

In this latest installment for the franchise, you choose from more than 40 characters (with Japanese or English voices) and can fight through 20 stages.

The graphics aren't great, but that doesn't matter so much here: You simply bang away on the controller, learn combos through trial and error, and try to work your way to the boss ninjas.

After playing those baseball games, it was nice to pop in a non-sports game, sit back, and go at it without constantly hitting the pause button to check out the instructions.

Are you ready for rumble?

Sony's just-released Dual Shock Controller incorporates the highly anticipated rumble feature (which should've been included with the original PS3 controller). It costs $54.99.

The upcoming "Gran Turismo 5 Prologue" will make use of the force-feedback, and Sony says 30 PS3 titles -- including "MLB 08" -- will use it as well. Activating the feature on certain games may require a software update. A complete list of titles that will incorporate "the rumble" is at http://us.playstation.com.

VIDEO GAMES Langston Wertz Jr.
Langston Wertz Jr.: 704-358-5133; lwertz@charlotteobserver.com.

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