If you want a Baseball Video game that allows you to control the players in a meaningful way with some modicum of realism, then The Show has been your only fix for the past few years. Adding to that, since the game is developed by Sony, you can only play it on the Playstation family of consoles. However, if that’s not an obstacle, then MLB The Show 17 is a good investment if you want a fun and good looking baseball simulation.
The main thing I’ve liked about The Show in the past few years is that when you go into a game, you can set up various ways to play it to make it best for yourself. For example, there’s various ways of hitting (Using the analog stick, using a receptacle to try to track the ball as it comes, or just classic style press a button to swing and push the stick in the direction you want to try to hit it) and pitching (A “MVP Baseball” style meter, just throwing it, etc.) It lets the player find a good way to play the game that’s comfortable for them, and can lessen the learning curve time once they find systems that work for them.
The games themselves look good. Graphics have a nice quality to them, animations don’t look too weird or janky, and it just feels like you’re playing baseball and the things that happen are things that usually happen in a game.
Games also have a realistic atmosphere. You’ll see occasional fans in the seats wearing the visiting team’s gear, and while you won’t see a virtual Ken Kendrick berating people for sitting behind home plate in Giants gear, you will hear fainter “Let’s go Giants!” chants at a Chase Field game and it makes me angry that that’s accurate.
The games are announced by Matt Vasgersian, Harold Reynolds, and Dan Plesac. So yeah, not exactly Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola. However they are people who announce baseball games, so it’s something. Harold Reynolds is also accurate because on opening day of a Franchise mode game Yasmany Tomas got a double in his first at-bat. Harold’s response was something to the effect of: “Maybe this is what gets him out of this slump this season!” Saying inane things that make little sense is pretty much Harold Reynolds’ brand, so spot-on!
There are a few main modes to cover. Obviously, you can pick up a controller and play a game, obviously. Beyond that there is the Road to the Show mode, Diamond Dynasty, Franchise, and a new Retro Mode. We’ll go in reverse order.
Retro Mode is a new mode for this year’s game. It’s basically an exhibition game, but played in the style of an older 80s/90s style Baseball Game. (RBI Baseball, Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball, etc.) It has the graphics of the main game, but the interface and sound effects are all retro-looking.
I later discovered that each team has two old/legendary players on their roster in Retro Mode. For the Diamondbacks they were Steve Finley and Luis Gonzalez. For the Dodgers they were Jackie Robinson (makes a lot of sense!) and... Eric Karros (Don Drysdale hung up on us!)
It’s not the meat of the game, but Retro Mode is a fun little distraction if you want a simpler game.
"Retro Mode" in MLB 17 The Show pic.twitter.com/6oDVqAii4j— Charlie Gebow (@CLEFOAINTACRIME) March 28, 2017
Franchise will let you be the GM of a team and try to take them to glory. While it doesn’t have the depth of, say, the Out of the Park franchise, for a console baseball sim it’s pretty deep. You can control minor league systems from High-A to Triple-A, it understands concepts like “Service Time” and “Options” and you can offer arbitration to players at the end of a season. And, like the main game, you can set it up to make it as easy or as complex as you want. You can switch on or off whether you can get fired, you can make it so that the AI teams always accept your bad trades (this is my newest Dave Stewart conspiracy theory), you can have the AI control certain aspects of your team for you (Setting lineups, automatically managing DL stints, etc.) Eventually, you hope to get your team to the promised land of a championship.
Diamond Dynasty is a sort of card collecting/team building mode that seems to be in every sports game nowadays. You basically collect card packs and stubs in which to purchase them throughout your play in any game mode. Those cards are players/stadiums/etc that go on your custom team (Which you can make custom uniforms for, so that’s cool.) It’s mainly an online mode, and there are several sub-modes to it, like a 4X Space Strategy type “Conquest” mode where you win fans from other teams by... winning baseball games.
Like I said, it’s an online mode mostly for playing against people, and there is value to that, and it’s all very well-made, but I must admit it’s not something I personally go to a lot, since getting yelled at by bratty 13 year olds online isn’t really a thing I’m into. You might be, that’s fine. More power to you!
“Road to the Show” is different this year, slightly. It has the same sort of beats as last year’s edition: Create a player, play in a showcase, get drafted, improve your skills, and try to get to the Majors and become an all-time great. However, in the lieu of other games’ career modes having RPG elements, there’s that this year too. It’s not an intricately written and woven story like the last few years of NBA 2K, but you are presented with dialog options when scouts, your agent, your manager, teammates, etc. talk to you. You can respond humbly, shortly, like a total butthead, etc.
It’s presented in this documentary style. Like there will be a very staid and stoic voice narrating things like “The scouts will look at a prospect and evaluate them based on drills and game situations.” It’s all very dry, it could spice up a little. Since this is me writing, you need Werner Herzog for MLB 18
“The Outfield Prospect hopes to lead a decadent life by playing sport, using the physical gifts that were bestowed upon him by this chaotic world to his advantage. He disgusts me, because he thinks he can stem the tide of nature and entropy through this. Also he has trouble picking up breaking pitches from left-handed pitchers.”
There is one thing that bothers me about it, and it has nothing to do with the actual game itself. This is the box art for the game:
That is, of course, Ken Griffey Jr. Recently placed into the Hall of Fame, one of the prettiest swings I ever saw, one of the best pure power hitters, and an icon from my childhood.
From my childhood.
At the time of writing, I am a 30 year old with a steady job and bills and a car and stuff. Ken Griffey Jr. last played in 2010 and was culturally at his apex in the 90s. And yet, despite not playing in the last seven years, he’s on the cover of the flagship video game of Major League Baseball, rather than a current player. It feels like a symptom of MLB’s seeming inability to market its own current talent to a broader audience. Also, slowly, a generation is growing up that doesn’t have vivid memories of Griffey playing. I dunno. Baseball more than other sports seems to like to strip mine nostalgia, and if you’re gonna choose a player from the past, then Griffey is a prime choice. It seems like marketing efforts should go into finding someone to be a Griffey-like persona and putting them out there.
(Though it should be noted that The Show isn’t the only pro sports video game franchise guilty of something like this in recent history.)
Overall, MLB The Show 17 is a very good baseball sim, well-made, and has a lot of depth to keep you going, and an adjustable learning curve to help you out. MLB The Show 17 is available on Playstation 4 for a retail price of $59.99 at places that sell video games or the online Playstation store. I will close with a video of a 9-3 putout of Brandon Belt: