Note: All screenshots were taken by me while playing.
If you want any sort of realistic Baseball Simulation available for gaming console, MLB: The Show, exclusively on Playstation, has pretty much been the only way to go since about 2014. You can debate whether this is good for Baseball exposure when its only really good video game is only available on 1/3rd of the major consoles, but that’s not here nor there. We’re here today to talk about the latest installment in this series.
The core gameplay remains mostly unchanged. I believe I mentioned this last year, but one of the best features of The Show is the ability to play the game in a variety of ways, depending on what you’re comfortable with. If complex meters and analog controls aren’t your style, you can do a more classic Baseball game control scheme and still be competitive. This is probably one of the reasons The Show has been the most well-regarded of recent Baseaball sims.
Like I had mentioned in the Out of the Park review, one of the smaller things changed that made a big difference this year was that the menus are more vibrant. Instead of a background of a generic-looking field, you get menus themed with whichever team you picked as your favorite, or if you’re in Franchise or Road to the Show, whichever team you’re playing as/on. You have this nice background of your team’s stadium sparkling in the daylight* and it’s just that much nicer.
*Except the Rays
The game looks as good as it ever has, and even better in a lot of cases because Sony has found a way to scan the faces of more players, so they look that much more realistic. But going into an actual game where you’ll see a diverse looking set of fans in the seats, having team loyalties to either the Home or Away team, and wearing different types of gear, is a fun attention to detail of something you actually see in real life.
The biggest change to this year’s edition is that Road to the Show, the mode in which you create a custom player and try to get him drafted and to the majors, has been overhauled. Instead of getting generic points that you can assign to attributes however you want, your attributes increase via you doing well in certain situations. If you field a grounder and throw a runner out, your attributes of Reaction, Fielding, and Arm Accuracy increase. If you hit a monster Home Run against a Left Handed Pitcher, your Power against Lefties rating goes up, and so on and so forth. You also can no longer throw down actual money in a microtransaction to soup up your player’s stats to make it easier.
A cool new feature is the “Batting Stance Creator”, You can customize your player’s batting stance to the limits of normal human stretching and physics. You can move their hands, how their hands rotate the bat, how much they waggle the bat, where they plant their feet, etc. There’s nothing like this for a pitching motion yet, but I bet in a few years science will catch up.
When you create your Road to the Show player, you can pick from a number of Archetypes (Joseph Campbell wrote all about the Baseball Player Archetypes before he died) to give your player a template of what they’re gonna be. The ones you can select vary on what position your player is, and each comes with a current-day and historical player of that type. For example, if you’re a pitcher, you can choose to be either a Flamethrower (More velocity on your pitches, less movement and control), a Control Freak (More control, less velocity and movement) or Plain Filthy (More movement, less velocity and control), Doing this sets certain attributes higher to start out, and also imposes an attribute cap for some ratings.
You increase ratings through the aforementioned doing well in-game, but you also have a once a week training session where you can either choose to raise certain attributes instantly, or you can raise the cap on those attributes (to a certain point). It’s a balancing act between getting better quickly, and thinking in the long run of your player’s career.
Other game modes are mostly unchanged. If you’re the type who likes to play online (I am not, because having 13 year olds yell slurs at me isn’t really what I’m into these days), Diamond Dynasty allows you to create your own team and collect cards of various players to try to be really good. Retro Mode from last year is back, if you feel like playing an Old Timey Video Game style game, complete with cartoonish sound effects, but with the modern graphics, making it a weird Steampunk kind of thing.
I’ll end with a very small, but very cool feature The Show has. If you have a thumb drive, and put a folder called “Music” on it, and put music files into it, you can plug in that thumb drive into the PS4 and import them into the game to use as music when you’re scrolling through the menus, or as custom music that can play when your player comes up to the plate, which is why my Road to the Show player walks out exclusively to Brass Bonanza.
MLB 18: The Show retails for $59.99 and is available now for Playstation 4.