Without a competitor, the “MLB: The Show” series could just be a roster update. San Diego Studios decides against the boring Madden route.
By Jeff Weisinger
Of all of the sports video game series that we have at our disposal — Madden NFL, NHL, NBA 2K, and FIFA — none of which continue to push the bar like the MLB The Show series. The result: another gem for Sony.
Despite being the only baseball console sim on the market, thanks to the exit of MLB 2K, San Diego Studios continues their dominance of bringing an authentic looking and feeling baseball game to the Playstation 4. And they didn’t need a “Million Dollar Perfect Game Challenge” to do so.
Although they don’t have a 2K game to compete with like EA Sports does with their NBA series (if we can even call that a competition), MLB: The Show decides not to be a massive roster update. Instead, the crew at San Diego Studios improves the graphics, the audio, the gameplay and adds some new, unique ways to play. It’s not a whole new game, but San Diego Studios added a lot more depth to a deep game they had in the 2015 chapter of The Show.
Graphically, this is the most realistic looking game of the series. Players faces, facial expressions and overall physicalities are as real as possible — from a distance, without seeing the button maps, or any video game related elements of a game, you’d think you’re watching a real game, with real people. The in-game lighting has even seen improvements as you can see the lighting in a game change from start to finish. A bright 1:05 p.m. start could get darker by the eighth inning at 4:05 p.m.
Players equipment is as one-to-one as their real-life counterparts. EvoShield makes its MLB:The Show debut, as do Oakley sunglasses. Nike’s equipment returns as does Under Armour. To go further into the details, teams that use matte-colored helmets get matte-colored helmets. There’s new variations of the newer catchers masks as well as other newer, up-to-date equipment.
But what makes the game feel real is the way it plays? Even with the smoother, more streamlined play in-game, MLB: The Show makes you earn everything: every strikeout and every hit, whether it’s a home run or a single. Walk-offs feel completely earned, which is how it is in the real game and the part that makes the game a bit addictive.
Road To The Show and Franchise Mode make their returns and both are deeper and more addictive than ever.
The single-player focused Road to the Show career mode loads so much faster than in the past, and plays a lot smoother. Gone are the days of having to go to the home menu in between games and watching the game sim on by in between innings pitched or at bats. Instead whatever upgrading you need to do between games you do after the game itself and players now have the ability to play back-to-back games without going back to the home screen at all — a tool that’s great for position players, not so much for pitchers.
The newest in-game feature in RTTS is the ShowTime feature. The highly-promoted in-game action slows down time at crucial points for the player to make a key play. It’s limited and more of a novelty than an actual necessity. RTTS also includes a new thing called “Perks” which give your players a specific boost whether for an at-bat or a game, however these are very reminiscent of the Madden cards of years past which take away from the realism that MLB:The Show is built upon.
Franchise mode gained a lot more depth this year, with a player’s WAR and self-morale playing a key role in their overall ratings. If a player is unhappy, it’ll affect his ratings and if your club doesn’t fit the player’s demands, he won’t sign with you. Other than that and the year-to-year saves, franchise mode saw very little improvement.
MLB Network’s Matt Vasgersian leads the play-by-play commentary once again, joined by Eric Karros and Steve Lyons with Mike Carlucci as the public address announcer for all 30 teams. The commentary was updated slightly, with Vasgersian going into a player’s storyline or recent performance on the field. Outside of a few new lines, the commentary seems smooth, but is still nothing spectacular in the end.
Two other new modes are Battle Royale and Conquest Mode.
Battle Royale is MLB:The Show’s equivalent of Madden’s Draft Champions. Draft a team, create a uniform, and lead them to victory. Lose twice, and you’re out of the tournament. Simple.
Conquest mode is probably the most unnecessary mode in the game, and one of the reasons that this year’s MLB:The Show doesn’t get a perfect-10. Conquest mode is an RPG version of the show which gets the player to build the biggest fanbase in the country, playing teams throughout the country in their regions who are also looking for their own supremacy.
This is easily the best version of The Show since its debut a decade ago. The realism that the game has been founded on by San Diego Studios is there and better than before, the game looks amazing graphically and plays just as such, especially with the player earning their hits and big strikeouts.
However, to try to appeal to the entire gamer community may be the thing that holds them back from the perfect score that this could’ve been. Conquest mode is as unnecessary as the in-game consumable perks, modes and features we got instead of an online franchise and, since we’re on topic, a Playstation Vita version.
Yet, despite San Diego Studios trying too hard to avoid complacency like a particular company that does the games for the NFL, they still manage to stay on top of the sports game genre.