It’s no secret that when it comes to sports games, there’s a big stigma that they’re all the same every year. While this may be true in some circumstances, the team behind the MLB: The Show series has tried their best to continuously give the franchise a breath of fresh air, and this year is no different. With MLB: The Show 17, it’s clear to see that the people working on this game love the sport, and it’s evident while playing the game that there is a great deal of care put into it.
The biggest attraction in The Show 17 is likely the fact that the studio has eschewed the normalities of cover athletes. Instead of choosing an up and coming star from today’s game, they decided to choose one of the legends of the game: Ken Griffey, Jr. “The Kid”, as he’s known, graces the cover of the game and brings with him a “retro mode”, which is essentially a throwback to the classic baseball games of our past. The mode does away with the more realistic camera options and instead offers simpler control schemes – fielding, batting, and pitching are all done with the analog stick and the X button.
While the mode does a good job of filling you with nostalgia (the sound effects and music for the game was cute, as well as the pixelated rosters and font choice), I didn’t find myself sticking around with the mode too much, and after a game or two I had found that I had my fill of it. It’s hard to want to play in a game mode that’s so stripped down when you have the real thing a couple of buttons away, and before long I was off to explore what Road to the Show had to offer.
Road to the Show, for those unaware, is probably the franchises claim to fame and is a mode that lets players create their own character, give them a position, and play your way into the big leagues. As noted in previous reviews, Road to the Show has always been one of the games best attractions but has felt hollow after some time. This year, Sony San Diego moved closer to RTTS a full-fledged baseball RPG by introducing the “Pave Your Path” feature. The feature, which takes things that might have been thrown to the side in previous iterations (choosing an agent, talking with coaches, etc.) and adds dialogue options to them, creates an air of consequences around what happens. Responding negatively to coaches can earn you a spot on the bench, and speaking to the media after the game can also draw the ire of managers if you say the wrong thing.
The dialogue and story elements are a welcome change to the series, but still feel a couple of updates off from being truly serious. The cutscenes offered no actual voice acting, instead letting a narrator talk over what was happening, and there were many times where it felt like what I said had no real impact at all. With franchises like the NBA 2K series offering truly cinematic experiences in their create-a-player modes, it’s nice to see Sony San Diego taking steps towards building something that will make you equally interested in what happens after the games.
Across the board, the games other modes saw some minor tweaks, although when it comes to things like franchise mode, there isn’t a whole lot to fix. The team did add features that will make the virtual GM’s out there very happy, however, as owners can now choose to play out at-bats and various other opportunities for certain players. Much like how Madden streamlined their franchise gameplay, MLB also allows players to quickly burn through games via “Quick Manage”, a system that turns any game into a text-based simulator. While it’s not the same as actually playing the game, it does allow owners to burn through 162 games if they choose.
Diamond Dynasty – the games most fun mode – is back, and with it comes the excellent Conquest and Battle Royale modes from last year. Collecting virtual cards has become a huge fad in the gaming world, and the team behind The Show have a great grasp on why. Building a team, watching them get better and update along with their real life personas, and using them to grind for better cards offers one of the best experiences in the world of fantasy sports games. The lack of contracts or card limitations also makes the mode feel more rewarding than its Madden and 2K brethren. With Battle Royale and Conquest making their return, there are more than enough game modes within Diamond Dynasty to satisfy players of all kinds, and I’ve now spent most of my time with MLB: The Show in this mode, building up my roster.
With the PS3 fully having gone the way of the dinosaur, Sony San Diego finally had a chance to develop a baseball game strictly for the PS4, and it most certainly shows. The game looks and plays better than it ever has, and the improved player animations truly make it feel like you’re participating in an actual baseball game. Through my time playing, there were some notable glitches that kept occurring, mainly centering around on the AI third basemen being unable to pick up and throw to first on slow ground balls, but nothing ever truly felt game breaking to me.
For guys like me who love the numbers behind sports, The Show has partnered with MLB Network to provide you their broadcast presentations, complete with their very cool stat tracking systems that detail everything from the arc of a home run, how fast an outfielder is running to track down a ball, and how much ground players have to cover as they run for plays. Also thrown into the game are checkmarks of sorts that track and record your stats in comparison to real life players. After every game, you’ll see milestones for things like innings pitched, hits, runs, etc. and how long you have to go before you reach the milestone of a certain player. That sort of stuff might come across as tiny details to some, but for fans of the stuff, it’s a very welcomed addition.
Anytime someone is looking for a great baseball game to play, it’s hard not to point them in the direction of The Show. For one, it’s literally one of the only baseball games on the market. Beyond that, however, is a game that continues to innovate with every iteration and is filled with enough content to please every type of baseball fan. Every mode of the game felt rewarding, and while there may be some rough spots to deal with, MLB: The Show 17 is still one of the most polished and best baseball games to have come out in recent memory.
This review was based on a review copy of MLB: The Show 17 for the PlayStation 4 provided by Sony.