MLB 2006 

Baseball video games substitute the real thing

The main problem being a baseball-obsessed dork is the post-October withdrawals. You find yourself overly interested in football, even though you can't stand football, and trade rumors and steroid scandals fill your brain to no end. It sucks, and spring training never comes quickly enough. November through April truly are the longest months of the year. The solution is simple-baseball video games. Bored evenings and lazy weekend days can once again be wasted with hours and hours of our national pastime. Also, owing to the fact that I have no cable, video games can alleviate my anger over network television's insistence on showing only one damn game a week. So video games are good all year long. With the recent cancellation of the High Heat game series, the MLB series has taken over the reign as the best in the business, in my opinion.

MLB 2006 is the latest in the series. I have no idea why it's called 2006 when it came out this year and is intended to cover the 2005 season. That's just the way it is. What sucks the most about baseball games is that you need the new version each year.

I currently have MLB 2005, which means Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez still wear Red Sox uniforms, and there is some weird team called the Montreal Expos. That just will not do. We need some more current info here. Hence, I need to pick up the latest version each year, despite what my wallet may think. But the good thing about upgrading is that the gameplay gets better from year to year. The coolest new addition to this year's version is that on the defensive end, the players' skill level is noticeably varied. For example, a gold glover like Jim Edmonds is going to have better range and less chance for errors vs. someone like Manny Ramirez.

One feature of most baseball games is the option to create a player. This means there's a fella playing third base for the Red Sox named Nick Schug whose skills far surpass those of a normal human being. See, you get to choose how well a hitter you are, how fast you can run, etc.-so naturally I set them all as high as possible. I admit that it's pretty cheap, but I can reconcile it by seeing my name atop all hitting categories as the season progresses and working toward that lucrative Triple Crown within the little world of my game. In MLB 2006, there is also career mode, which is pretty cool. Instead of just creating a superhuman player and slapping him onto your favorite team, you create a player and then actually have to work your way through the minors and into the majors. It's a lot more rewarding that way.

Overall, the graphics on this game are great, the players look very realistic, and it serves as a fine substitute for the real thing. I am, however, a tad disappointed that there is no bench-clearing brawl mode, but maybe they'll add that for 2007.

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