(NOTE: All screenshots in this article were taken by me in-game)
If you’ve wanted to have a Baseball video game that has licensed MLB teams and MLBPA players, but is a standard game and not an Out of the Park GM sim, The Show has been your only bet since about 2014. Thankfully, Sony has used their exclusivity well, and has put out solid games year after year (Glances vaguely in the direction of Madden to see if that point was clear.)
With yearly sports games, though, it can be hard to justify a new purchase if subsequent editions of the game are too similar, save for updated rosters. On the other hand, if you change around things too much and, to use a baseball term, swing and miss, it’s going to affect your sales of MLB: The Show 20. I think this year’s edition threads that needle pretty well, for the most part.
The biggest change to the actual in-game play is that hitting has become somewhat harder. Using the zone receptacle , if you use “Zone” type hitting, becomes very important as you try to square up a pitch and get good contact. Also, on higher difficulty levels, the pitches come at you faster. However, it’s not so much harder that you can’t adapt to it with enough playing time. It is a bit of an adjustment if you’re used to previous editions of The Show, however.
The presentation of the game remains solid, with a few updates. Matt Vasgersian, Mark DeRosa and Dan Plesac are still your play-by-play announcer and color guys, respectively. Do DeRosa and Plesac still sound way too similar that it’s hard to differentiate between the two sometimes? Reader, they do. Heidi Watney of MLB Network joins as a sideline reporter, which is a fun new wrinkle that makes the “in-game” broadcast seem more like an actual broadcast.
Also, as a new feature, you can unlock certain announcer calls for Vasgersian to say for Home Runs/etc. Even before you unlock them, you can preview them. What follows is some extremely cursed 2019 energy:
Oh— Charlie G (@CLEFOAINTACRIME) March 26, 2019
Other game modes, like “Retro Mode”, which lets you play an RBI Baseball type casual game, and “Diamond Dynasty”, which let’s you create your own online team and through your skills and microtransactions, you can dominate, are still there. As well as “Franchise”, which is more-or-less the same as previous year’s franchise modes. New game modes, and some modifications to an old one are the hallmarks of the 2019 edition,
One of the newest mode is “March to October.” This has a double meaning, as the MLB season takes place from the months of March to October, but also means your team is marching to October. Get it? GET IT?!?
In this mode, you can choose any of the 30 MLB teams. When you choose one, a video plays as a setup to this season. I can summarize the Diamondbacks video as such:
“Boy, y’all were hot trash last year, huh? Lost your best player too, eh? Well, you could still be good. Maybe. Good luck with that.”
In this mode, a season is mostly simulated, except it will stop and put you in control in a game situation where you have to pull out a win, usually. If you do, your team gets “Momentum” and will win a lot of the next few simulated games. If you lose, you get cold and lose games. The goal is to succeed enough that you make it to the Playoffs and the World Series. The general idea is that with enough breaks or momentum, any team can go all the way, even the Marlins.
Occasionally, it will throw player challenges at you. You take control of a single player in a game, and if you do well, that player will get a stats boost for the rest of the season. It’s a fun mode for those who might not want to go face-first into Franchise mode, but still want to experience a season.
The biggest change to The Show this year is that the game’s marquee mode, “Road to the Show” has undergone a lot of cosmetic changes, and some updates and wrinkles that make it a new experience.
Apparently, it’s all story-based? You start out as a Cowboy? Maybe this will lead to the invention of Baseball or one of the leagues, but it just seemed out of place. Also there’s a lot more Horse customization options than I remember ever needing to be in Baseball.
.... Wait, I’m being told I loaded up the wrong game on my PS4. Apologies
Last year, RTTS introduced the “Archetype” system, where when you created your player you chose what kind of player they could grow into (A power guy, contact, speedster, high-velo pitcher, high-control pitcher, etc.) The system is still there, but the types have been reworked a little bit. You can now choose any archetype no matter your position if you choose to be a hitter. Last year you were limited to what you could choose by if you were infield/outfield/catcher. Also, the Max Cap for all attributes if off, and you can now get up to 99 in every category. Some will just be harder than others to do so, but it is possible.
New in RTTS as well are personality types, and connections. Basically, how you react to the dialogue options given to you can put points in a personality type, and if you level those up, you get certain perks you can use in the game. The personality types are:
LIGHTNING ROD: You’re just kind of random, like wearing packages of lunch meat as a hat, but you are a catalyst for your team.
HEART AND SOUL: You just care so so so so so much, and people see that.
CAPTAIN: You’re a leader. You’re the guy talking to the cops after that night club incident in Miami that somehow left a Lamborghini in a tree.
MAVERICK: You’re kind of a dick, to be honest.
You also build up relationships with your teammates, which gives you and the teammate boosts. If you really nurture those relationships, you become the pinnacle of stereotypical-male friends: “Bros.”
There are also mini-games during workout sessions that are basically timing-based. If you do well, you get more attributes. That’s basically the long-and-short of RTTS stuff, but the new modes do add a layer of depth.
The last new game mode I’ll go over in this review is “Moments” In this mode you can relive, or change, moments in Baseball history. There are individual moments you can try to recreate (Jose Bautista’s Bat Flip in the ALDS) or you can relive a certain stretch of a player or team’s history (Babe Ruth, The 21st Century Cubs, etc.) If you remember around NBA 2K11 or so, this is very similar to the Michael Jordan history mode. It’s another fun challenge mode, but you do kind of get taken out of it cause not all of the past players were licensed, so “Boston Braves Second Baseman” is quite literally the name of a player.
My favorite quirk of The Show is still the ability to import, through a USB stick, your own music in the game. I will one day recreate, in RTTS, this tweet:
/Enters MLB game as relief pitcher, laboriously warms up for entirety of Neil Young's "Cowgirl In The Sand," walks one batter, gets removed— David Roth (@david_j_roth) September 13, 2017
Overall, MLB 19: The Show is a deep enough baseball sim, and has enough changes, to justify purchase if you have a Playstation 4 and the funds. As I mentioned before, for its specific type it’s the only game in town. However, it is a good one, and worth your time.