The flowers are blooming, the sun is beginning to shine, and already baseball has more controversy than the Michael Jackson trial. Well, maybe not, but we all know that Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds and the issue of steroids have become quite a household topic lately. With that being said, if you want to get away from the problems of baseball, you could always try to move onto the video game realm. And that somehow leads us to 989 Sports’ final (for a while anyways) iteration of the MLB series, MLB 2006. So is this year’s game the one to surpass EA and 2KSports? You’re going to have to read our full review to find out!
We all know that 989 Sports hasn’t had the best reputation in the industry for the past couple of years. With that being said, last year 989 Sports surprised us all with MLB 2005, which really made great strides to catch up to the rest of the pack. To be honest with you all it has been a while since I have been excited about a game coming from the 989 Studios, but MLB 2006 was a game I was look forward to.
The improvements to this year’s game can’t be pinned down by a couple of new features, as the developers touched all the different bases in the game and really did a nice job of tweaking everything. First off, the fielding in the game has had a much needed and a very impressive upgrade. In this year’s game, the developers really refined the fielding so it would feel very fluid, and they accomplished this beautifully. I can easily say that this is my favorite fielding system, out of the three baseball games this year. Another addition can be found in the pitching, which incorporates confidence in the mix. The more you do well the bigger the zone gets for your pitcher and the opposite holds true if your morale goes down as well.
What really is amazing about MLB 2006 though is its career mode, which really taps into a trend that I think will be taking off next year with the licensing of both the NFL by EA and the MLB by 2KSports. You don’t just take a created player and run with him straight to the majors, oh no you have to earn your way to the top by training and going through the minor leagues. Finally a game allows you to really feel the whole "career" experience, and we haven’t even gotten into some of the neatest innovations of the games career mode. So let’s say you get an offer from a major league club, but don’t like the contract. Well you can always opt to go into free agency and test the waters. The options on the career mode are really up to your own imagination, and this is by far the most entertaining career mode out on the market.
Another great feature of MLB 2006 is the fast forward feature, which allows you to really pick and choose what part of the game you want to play. For the most part I found myself using this very handy feature quite often, as it allows you to play in times that are exciting and times that involve your player. This feature is really a remarkable one and one that works great with the game.
So the game has the great career mode but does the core gameplay stand up to the test? Well like I mentioned earlier, the game does a great job with some of the new fielding and pitching ideas, but it still just isn’t as deep as MVP Baseball 2005. This is not saying there is anything overly wrong with MLB 2006, but it is just saying that the game really just didn’t have that long lasting complexity that MVP has. With that being said, 989 Sports made some excellent improvements with their game, and really made some key strides in the game of baseball that I think developers will use as guidelines for next year’s games.
To be honest, 989 Studios has not been known for their strength in the visuals department. For some reason the studio just has never seemed to emulate what 2K Sports and EA have been doing for so long now on the PS2. So does 989 get it right in MLB 2006?
MLB 2006 makes some very nice improvements in this year’s game, and most can be found when the game is actually in motion. With this being said the animation in this year’s game is in reality the best I have seen out of any sports game out of 989, it really flows beautifully. Also the player models have been improved this year, as the game really shows off the most realistic character models the series has seen. The stadiums in my opinion could have used some more work and a lot more detail.
The overall look of MLB 2006 is still a much improved game and although it may not be the best in the business it still offers up a solid experience that really shows that 989 Sports is really coming along with their visual quality.
MLB 2006 is a game that takes a leap into some unknown territory and actually comes up quite big. The career mode as a whole is just fantastic and really could put this series over the top in next year iteration. The gameplay is really starting to take shape and the visuals are beginning to catch up. The game has just improved so much in the last few years that it’s hard to even remember how bad this game used to be. This year’s game is by far the most fun I have had with a 989 Sports game in quite sometime.
MLB 2006 is not perfect, but it’s a darn good baseball game. The career mode is a great addition to the series and the gameplay is definitely picking up some steam. No longer is 989 trailing in the baseball race as all of these games are really neck-to-neck this year. But let me tell you, if you’re in the market for a great career mode, MLB 2006 is the way to go!
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.