Game Review: MLB 13: The Show

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It’s been a long winter without baseball but, with Spring Training beginning, it’s time for Sony’s premiere baseball franchise to come back and give baseball fans another great simulation. Will this year’s edition live up to the hype? Let’s take a look at MLB 13: The Show!

The Show has an interesting position compared to most other sports franchises, it’s a first-party sports title that’s exclusive to PlayStation platforms. While for most games over the years, this has been a disadvantage, The Show has thrived and arguably been the better game over 2K’s MLB 2k for the past 4-5 years. Years ago, we saw many different first-party sports titles trying to capitalize on the quick buck they could make from eager sports fans waiting for the newest title each year. One by one, these first-party titles dwindled down to nothing and it seems just as all of these games were disappearing, The Show started making people take notice.

I’m not a huge baseball fan but, I do watch here and there and I did purchase MLB 12 last year and was amazed at the detail and immersion that the game provided. I’m a huge hockey fan and the first thing I thought about playing that game was how much I wanted San Diego Studio to try their hand at other sports like hockey because of how much polish they put into their finished product. This year wasn’t any different.

mlb 13
The animations in MLB 13 are some of the best in any sports game.

When you first pop MLB 13 into your PlayStation 3 and start a game, you instantly see how amazing the visual quality is and how much detail is put into everything from the facial animations, to the stadiums, to the equipment. Everything looks great except the fans who really don’t look that great in some stadiums. It’s not something you look at too much and you can still really fool your buddies into thinking this is a real MLB broadcast if you’re careful enough, it’s that detailed. There is an interesting story about a popcorn vendor too. I was playing a Road to the Show game and all of a sudden, I see the popcorn vendor in the crowd walk straight through the top of the dugout and into the locker room, then back up the stairs. That was one of the very few gaffes I ran into and it had no effect on the gameplay so, it really didn’t matter very much.

While the visual details on the field really make you feel like you’re in the game, the commentary will make you fall asleep. I don’t know what it is about the commentary in sports games but, it’s either really decent or really terrible. The commentary in MLB 13 is definitely really bad, they’re just not very engaging and just feed the same lines continuously without much emotion. I’d honestly much rather play with the commentary off and listen to the sounds of the game themselves which are much, much better. Players chatter on the field, fans give little tidbits of input, and the umpire yells out calls. Basically, the on-field audio is exactly like a baseball game should be and could not be done much better. Let’s not forget you can upload your own music and sounds into MLB 13 as in previous years to add your own flavour to your games.

mlb 13 menu
The menu shows the many different game modes MLB 13 has to offer.

Gameplay is largely similar to last year with a couple changes. Pitching is the same three control system with pure analog, simple button presses, or the Pulse Pitching that was added last year. Pulse pitching is my choice but, I will say it can get frustrating especially if you dig yourself in a hole and the vibration starts going. Hitting also has quite a bit of variety with a mix of grounders, broken bats, line drive, pop-ups, homers, foul balls, bunts, and smashing it off the pitcher. Ok, that last one is a little bit evil but, still. You can use buttons, zone-based, or pure analog. Fielding introduces a throwing meter this year which allows you to toss it with accuracy or whip it to first for the quick out, it’s also an exercise in frustration if you press the button too early/late, especially in a tie game. All in all, the gameplay hasn’t changed much because it didn’t need to.

Of course, the main reason most play this game is for Road to the Show and that returns this year with some very minor tweaks. If you put in the time and the effort into RTTS, there’s honestly nothing more satisfying than making it to the big leagues and with the quick games that can be simmed to just your fielding opportunities and batting opportunities, you’ll probably never want to sim a game. The postseason received a lot of atmospheric polish this year with pre-game ceremonies and a generally electric atmosphere that makes playoff baseball better than ever. The Show Live is another new mode the mimics real-life and allows players to play the game as it’s being played that night with real-time injuries and scores being put in as they happen. Diamond Dynasty, Franchise and all existing modes from MLB 12 for those who prefer the more traditional gameplay.

mlb 13 hud
The clean display of MLB 13 is not intrusive at all and allows players to see all their options very quickly.

MLB 13: The Show is a great game but, I have to stress that much like most sports games, this one hasn’t innovated anything this year and opted more to enhance everything they already had in the game. This isn’t a bad thing but, some people won’t want to upgrade simply for that. I do however believe that MLB 13 is a worthy upgrade and any baseball or sports fan in general will get enjoyment out of this one well past when MLB 14 releases San Diego Studio has created a great franchise here and I’m really hopeful that it makes a great transition to the PS4 next year.

*A copy of this game was provided to FYIG by Sony Computer Entertainment Canada for review purposes*

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