MLB 09 The Show: First look

Think A-Rod chokes in the clutch? Ever shout "Dodgers suck!" or yell "Drewwwwwww" when J.D. walks up to the plate? MLB 09 is about to bring out the crazed fan in all of us as not only can you record your voice screaming anything from "Where's Madonna?" to "we want a pitcher not a belly itcher" and put it in the game thanks to peripherals like the Rock Band mic and wireless headset, the fan yells will sound like your voice actually coming from the stands. You can even assign the recordings to be part of a chant and your voice will be put through a new process so that it sounds more like a crowd chanting "over-rated" and not just a single person yelling.

MLB 09 The Show First-Look Gallery

Roddick Take an exclusive first look at screenshots from Sony's MLB 09 The Show. Gallery

That's right, MLB 09 The Show not only takes you down on the virtual field, your voice is featured inside the cyber stands shouting at your opponent's favorite players.

I call it Trash Talk 2.0, the next evolution of getting inside your opponent's head.

And it's just one of the new features in MLB 09, a game that follows in the Cooperstown-worthy tradition of an 08 game widely considered to be both the best baseball game of the year and one of the most accurate sports simulations ever created.

Here's just a sample of what the 09 version has in store when it hits shelves March 3.

Ask anyone about MLB 08, and the first thing fans want to talk about are the visuals. From the cut scenes to the walk up animations to the way players acted so, (should I say it?), real. Scenes played out in MLB 08 like nothing I had ever seen before in a baseball game.

MLB 09 is about to up the ante.

Sony promises over 700 new gameplay animations, more than 150 new personalized pitcher and batter routines, and another 400 new presentation animations. But that's only just the start as the producers of the game have also added dusk to night lighting transitions, wear and tear to the field, Jumbotron animations, and a crowd that even features weather-appropriate clothing. Every team mascot will also be featured in the game performing their signature moves and dances. Hopefully that means a whole lot of Lou Seal pelvic thrusts when the Dodgers are up to bat against the Giants, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Road to the Show 3.0
This mode has always been a personal favorite as you create your own player then play both offense and defense from that one guy's perspective. The latest Road to the Show update includes an all-new steal and lead-off system (something that I thought was desperately needed), as well as interactive training to help improve your player's skills by competing in a series of mini-games. There will also be a lot more interaction with your coaches in 09 as they try to steer your player in the right direction on his journey through the minor leagues and all the way up to MLB superstardom.

Franchise 2.0
Sony has added a lot of little details that the hard-core MLB fans have been shouting for, including salary arbitration, waiver transactions, September call-ups, and the 40-man roster. Player personality will also come into play as gamers try to juggle the needs of the franchise versus the needs of their star players.

Not only will the game support Online Season Leagues with fully functional drafts, Sony has also added flex scheduling so gamers can jump ahead and play games out of order depending on which opponents are online. Up to 30 teams can participate and the mode includes full stat tracking and customization down to number of teams and games in the schedule.

There is also a cool Roster Vault option where gamers can create their own custom rosters and upload them online for other gamers to use.

Custom Music/Replays
When it comes to customizing the audio, crowd chatter, chants, and smack talk are only a fraction of the options available. Gamers will also be able to store their favorite songs to their PlayStation 3 and assign them to be played at various points in the game, including a batter's walk-up animation.

The game will also feature a Replay Vault where gamers can store their favorite plays to the hard drive for future viewing pleasure (nothing is better than making your friend watch the walk-off bomb you hit to beat him over and over and over again).

Hotshot Fielding

A ball is smashed right at the third baseman. In past games, if the fielder is standing in the path of the ball, more times than not he's automatically going to make that catch. MLB 09 is adding some new calculations to the mix to include more dynamic fielder reactions as some balls will simply be too hot to handle and your player will drop the line drive or misplay the ball entirely depending on the velocity of the hit and the fielder's defensive ratings.

Other fielding additions include improved bare-handed flips and even players who dive with the ball in their bare hand to make the putout.

Master all these and you might also be ready to challenge the game's new Legendary difficulty level. Not for the faint of heart (or weak of thumbs).

Just the Facts
There is so much in MLB 09 The Show, that it's almost overwhelming. Luckily for us, Sony sent us an advanced look at their fact sheet for the upcoming game. Here are some of the other highlights worth noting:

  • Progressive Batting Performance -- Reward players for superior performance and penalize them for hitting slumps. Specific to each individual batter, players are rewarded with contact bonuses for each batter that performs beyond his "natural ability" while under user control. Conversely, the user will be punished with slight decreases in contact for each batter that performs below his natural ability.

  • Post Game/In Game Pitcher and Batter Analysis -- Available both in-game, post-game, and throughout Road to the Show, the Pitch Analysis is a breakdown of all the pitches thrown during the current game being played. Gamers will be able sort by pitcher, LHB or RHB, pitch type and result. This feature is also available for Batters, and the batter analysis allows for a breakdown of how a batter has performed based on LHP or RHP, Pitch Type, and result.

  • Pitch Grips -- MLB 09 The Show details various pitch grips and arm angles that a pitcher has when throwing each pitch. 17 different pitch types including four fastball variations (four-seam, two-seam, cutter, split), six breaking pitches (10-4 curve, 12-6 curve, slider, sinker, slurve, screwball), four change-ups (straight, circle change, palmball, forkball), and three specialty pitches (knuckle, knuckle-curve, and Gyro).

  • SCOUT [SportsConnect Online User Tracking] -- SCOUT allows gamers to set their game preferences, stores them on the server, and then allows the system to look for a Quick Match with an opponent that fits their criteria.

  • In-Game MLB Live Scores -- Gamers will get up-to-date reports on what is going on in the Majors including scores and notable status, such as HRs, complete games, etc.

  • SportsConnect Headline News -- Stay on top of news around the league and receive all current happenings in sports today. Information is updated a few times each hour with news, trades, and events from 31 different feeds, each containing 25 unique items. Select General MLB headlines for updates from the entire league so news is not missed while online with MLB 09 The Show.

  • Key modes -- Rivalry, Career, Season, and All-Star game are once again available to provide players a chance to challenge friends or the Artificial Intelligence in a variety of settings.

  • Multi-Branch Fielding -- Branch Point Technology goes to a new level as gamers you can now take full control of fielders and break out of any animation in the process. Change a fielding decision and branch out of any animation after the first branch point.

  • Adaptive Pitching Intelligence (API) -- Catchers will call the game based on individual strengths and weaknesses of each pitcher and analyze tendencies of batters. Gamers will have the ability to trust the pitches called by the catcher or shake them off. (The catcher's recommendations are based off of thousands of actual MLB stats.)

  • Pitch Command System (PCS) -- A pitcher's "pitch comfort" will be predetermined based on a best to worst pitch scenario. The more a player works on a pitch, the better it becomes, and the more a gamer neglects a pitch, the harder it becomes to work the zone.

  • Release Point Pitching -- Gamers must utilize a timing mechanism to learn and realize each pitchers pace and release point, which varies from pitcher to pitcher.

  • Pitching Confidence Meter -- The ultimate pitcher/batter interface returns. Additionally, Pitcher Confidence plays a role in a gamer's ability to hit release points in the all-new pitch meter, while frequency of mistakes will impact the confidence level of a gamer's hurler, making it more difficult to paint the corners of the strike zone.

  • Guess Pitch -- Baseball fans can attempt to master the ability to knock one out or hit the grounder to advance the runner by checking pitch history and correctly guessing which pitch and location that the pitcher will throw next. If a correct pitch is selected, the power attribute is increased to give the batter a higher chance of hitting one out of the park.

  • PlayMaker Fielding -- Based on fielding attributes, but it's ultimately up to each player to decide how to play to each team's strengths and weaknesses. Excellent fielders will track down the ball for you while sub-par fielders will require some concentration.

  • My Sliders (Up/Downloadable) -- The My Sliders option gives users the ability to create their perfect game settings offline by adjusting game sliders. Gamers can then save these adjustments to memory and, when online, upload to for other users to try and let the online community be the judge on finding the perfect game.

  • Unrivaled Player Creator -- An infinite amount of options for creating players including everything right down to your own face with EyeToy (PS2 only). But it doesn't stop there. You can also adjust your personal rituals, swings – even emotions as you create Mini-You.

  • MLB Player Motion Captures -- MLB 09 The Show features authentically captured motions from dozens of professional athletes including David Wright, David Ortiz, Eric Chavez, Roger Clemens, Trevor Hoffman, Tim Hudson, Darryl Hamilton and more.

  • Revamped Umpire Personalities -- Each umpire will have his own definition of the strike zone, and it's up to the gamer to figure out if the umpire is calling the zone high, low, or giving the corners.

  • 3-Man Booth & Progressive Commentary -- Rex Hudler, Matt Vasgersian, and Dave Campbell return to provide the most comprehensive commentary available. Additionally, the game's Progressive Commentary system changes dialogue by adapting to current actions and situations.

Like we said, the list is overwhelming. Then again, baseball fans wouldn't have it any other way.