As the de facto leader in the clubhouse when it comes to baseball video games, Sony’s MLB The Show series has often been criticized for being much of the same. However, throughout the last couple of years, SIE San Diego Studio has purposely aimed their efforts at making the game feel as fresh and exciting as possible. With this year’s MLB The Show 19, it seems as if Sony has finally gotten it right, as the game not only adds a ton of new features into it but also seems to get the franchise back on track and show that just because they’re the only competition around, that doesn’t mean you can’t better yourself in the offseason.
Of course, the first thing you’ll notice in The Show 19 is just how incredible the presentation styles are. The game does a really remarkable job of offering a near-perfect recreation of America’s pastime in a video game sense. Not only are commentators and television network broadcasts carried into the game, but each player, stadium, and team are all recreated in an incredible way. The Show 19 gets a lot right in this department, including the facial animations and general emotions of the players on the field, who are much more lively than they have been in any past entry. The gameplay itself hasn’t been altered too much, and MLB The Show 19 still gives players a ton of variety when it comes to how they want to approach the game.
Expert players can tweak settings and pour through the various options in the game, and those looking for a more arcade experience can also fine-tune their settings to offer that. All in all, there are options for everyone packaged into the game, and players of all ages and skill levels should feel right at home when they jump in.
Just as they’ve done in the past couple of entries, The Show 19 has included some new game modes for fans to check out. Unlike the last two years, however, these game modes are actually fun and seem to have been developed with some care. The newest mode titled March to October is a take on the popular Franchise mode that allows players to pick a team and then cruise through a season by only playing select, key moments.
Teams are broken down into one of four categories: Favorites, Contenders, Underdogs, and Longshots. Choosing one of these will affect what type of moments you see, so if you’re a powerhouse contender and looking to make it to the World Series, your key moments might focus on extending a division lead or building momentum with a huge win. For other teams, it might be stealing a series from a better team or giving boosts to your players throughout the season. With a 162-game season to simulate through, you manage to play a lot more than you’d think, and can even handle trade scenarios as you go through a season. It’s a neat little addition that offers players the thrill of a franchise mode without forcing them to grind through a full season of decisions and gameplay.
The other newest game mode, Moments, is probably the best of the bunch and allows players to play through the moments of various points of baseball history. One series of moments, for example, focuses on cover athlete Bryce Harper, and his rise to superstardom in the MLB. You can play through a handpicked series of moments from his career, all at different difficulty levels, in order to put yourself in his shoes. Moments is a great addition, but some of the challenges presented to you are a bit much. In the Willie Mays moments, for instance, challenges include hitting four home runs and stealing four bases across four games, and if you’re not particularly skilled, it will take you quite some time. The reward is worth it though, as the mode actually allows rewards earned in it to carry over into Diamond Dynasty, which helps you build your team while playing through other areas of the game.
Speaking of Diamond Dynasty, the fan favorite mode is back and pretty much about the same. Players will once again be using cards to build their custom team and then looking to improve and dominate their opponents. Much like any card-based team mode, microtransactions are a big part of Diamond Dynasty, but thankfully don’t feel too pervasive, and that’s thanks to how The Show 19 is set up. Throughout nearly every game mode, players can earn experience and in-game money (referred to as stubs) that work in Diamond Dynasty.
Essentially, playing other game modes will reward you in Diamond Dynasty, should you play it, and you never feel like you have to spend real money in order to better your team. The option is there, though, and in-game packs can be a bit expensive because of it. Online play has seen some improvements, and whereas MLB the Show 18 was rife with disconnections and lag issues, The Show 19 seems to have erased those entirely. Elsewhere in the game, the Franchise mode has seen its share of tweaks as well, but overall plays pretty much the same, allowing you to become the GM of a team and take them years and years into the future.
The selling point of MLB The Show 19, perhaps, is its Road to the Show mode, which allows players to create a player and take him through a full MLB career, starting in the minor leagues. This mode has changed drastically over the years, and in The Show 19, incorporates a ton of new, RPG-like features that all make your decisions much more effective. Newly added are Personality perks that can be leveled up by answering dialogue prompts in certain ways. You can be a Captain, the Heart & Soul, a Maverick, or a Lightning Rod for your team. Each option comes with its own perk tree, and as you level it up, more and more perks will become available, which you can use in-game for boosts and rewards. Training has also seen a bit of an overhaul, as you can now accept challenges while training that will boost your player should you meet them.
As is the case in every year, Road to the Show does contain a bit of a grind, and it seems as if there’s no real way to fast track your move to the major leagues. If you choose to be drafted by a team and are unlucky enough to sit behind a more talented player, it’ll take a lot of playing and possibly a couple of seasons before you’re playing in the MLB, by which time that team (and the league) will look completely different. Choosing to play on the Yankees, for instance, might be a good choice, but if it takes you three in-game seasons to get called up, you won’t be playing with anyone you recognize anymore. It’s not exactly a big downfall to the mode, but it would be nice to include an option that allows for faster development of a player.
Just by playing MLB the Show 19, it’s clear that SIE San Diego Studio has poured their heart into this game in a way that the series hasn’t seen in some time. Not only do new game modes feel complete and leave you wanting to play more, but the older modes have all been given a new coat of paint, and feel fresh again. MLB the Show 19 shows that you can always improve no matter the case, and it’s by far one of the greatest entries the series has ever seen. If you’re a baseball fan, this is the perfect game for you, and one that you’ll be playing all season long.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of MLB The Show 19 for the PlayStation 4 provided by Sony.