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‘MLB 09’ offers the total package

Even though I’m a sportswriter, I don’t pay a ton of attention to professional baseball for most of the year.

The Major League season is so long that even the most dedicated baseball fans suffer from a little exhaustion at some point in the season.

But my interest always picks up about this time of the year, with about a month to go before the playoffs begin. I’ll watch more games and pay more attention to the pennant races. And I dust off the best baseball video game of the season and squeeze a little more play out of it for the first time since May.

Over the past few years, there has always been more than one game to pick from. That’s the case for baseball, basketball and hockey, the sports for which Electronic Arts doesn’t own exclusive licenses.

But even though there are two choices for baseball gaming this year, only one is really worth buying. For the second straight year, Sony’s “MLB 09: The Show” clearly outpaces its competitor, “MLB 2K9.”

“MLB 09: The Show” isn’t as strong as the last great baseball game, “MVP Baseball 2005,” but this year’s version is the best baseball game since the last iteration of EA’s baseball series.

“MLB 2K9,” however, regressed for the second consecutive year with a game full of bugs. The 2008 entry was close to unplayable due to in-game freezes and bugs. This year’s game fixed some of them, but not nearly enough.

“MLB 09: The Show” presents fluid gameplay, and enough game modes retain a strong replay value.

The best mode is “Road to the Show,” which allows you to create a player and take him through a Major League team’s farm system. Most sports games have a superstar mode like this, but “Road to the Show” just might be the best of the bunch.

Everything else expected from a baseball game is here: authentic uniforms and stadiums, a rock-solid franchise mode and downloadable rosters that are updated regularly.

It’s that total package that has me playing “MLB 09: The Show” right now instead of the other choice in the genre.

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