Game Review: MLB The Show 16

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It’s spring time and that can mean only ones thing…baseball. SCE San Diego is back this year with MLB The Show 16. Can this year’s edition of the yearly franchise be the best one yet or has the series hit a wall?

Baseball games are realy hard to come by these days. Where there was once multiple different baseball games in a year (both simulation and arcade), there is now really only one true choice for any fan of the game and that is the MLB The Show series. The series continues this year with MLB The Show 16. The question is though, is there any reason to upgrade to the 2016 edition? The answer is a resounding yes.

The amount of new content that SCE San Diego packs into each new game in the MLB The Show series continues to astound me. This trend continues in MLB The Show 16 with a bevy of new features and improvements that are sure to be of great use to both hardcore and casual baseball fans alike.

I can say that I’ve never seen a sports game that lives and breathes as much as MLB The Show 16. From the great player models to the fans around the stadium to the weather effects. This game makes you feel like you’re at the ballpark in ways that no other game has before. There are boatloads of new player animations that make this feel like a brand new game. Whether it’s Rogers Centre in Toronto or Comerica Park in Detroit, it feels like you are right there in the middle of the action. Even the retractable roofs in the dome stadiums that use them are now able to be open or closed to add to the realism.

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JV getting set to take on the Twins.

The presentation in the game continues to be stellar with numerous different camera cuts in the action showing anything from the crowd to the 3-run home-run that you just rocked out of the park. This year, MLB The Show 16 introduces, “Showtime”. Using “Showtime” players can slow down plays for maximum control kind of like the “Gamebreaker” from early 2000s NHL games. This allows players to make diving plays and swing the bat with higher precision than ever before.

Now we all know that the visuals are just one thing and that if the audio is bad it can ruin the whole experience. Amazingly enough I felt that the commentary matched the visuals in terms of quality. There were a lot of new lines, dialogue between the commentators, and quick informational tidbits that added to the experience. I even heard things about umpire tendencies, previous at-bats during the games and seasonal streaks. Now these aren’t exactly new things, however, they are done so much more organically this time around. You can really tell the developers put a lot of time into making it less robotic and much more fluid.

The big addition this year as far as audio is concerned is that Sounds of the Show has made its return to the MLB The Show 16. Some may not care much about this feature, but it is a big deal to be able to customize your own tracks into crowd chants, walk-up music, or even your own menu music. I wish more games would follow suit with this for those that don’t have Spotify.

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A view from the pitcher’s mound.

Let’s talk about the improvements to the gameplay modes since that’s the bread and butter of this franchise. Road to the Show is first with a time-saving addition. For the first-time players can play a whole series without navigating the menus. Such a simple thing that saves so much wasted time. Players can now unlock Gameplay Perks by playing through RTTS as well as a revamped Topps Prospect Showcase with Bowman Scout Day and a new scouting report. RTTS didn’t receive that much love, but to be honest, it didn’t need much. It’s probably the most solid mode out there in sports games.

Diamond Dynasty added an interesting element this year with Captains. Players can earn XP and tickets toward one of 5 captains (Donaldson, Rizzo, Altuve, DeGrom, Hosmer). Each captain has a store with frequently updated items for purchase. Captains add a very fresh dynamic to a pretty popular mode in The Show. Special “Flashbacks” cards also come into play this year adding cards from specific periods in a player’s career such as a rookie card. “Flashback” cards will be used as rewards for missions in Diamond Dynasty. A reward is offered for completing specific goals.

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The Captains screen in MLB The Show 16.

Sticking with the Diamond Dynasty them, “Conquest” mode makes it’s debut this year in MLB The Show 16. Conquest is basically like a coast-to-coast Risk 1-player game where players attempt to conquer territories. “Battle Royale” is another new mode also based on DD. In this mode, players build their team through a 25 round draft. Players will then face other players online going head-to-head with their drafted teams. The more teams defeated, the higher reward; lose too many and you’ll have your entry revoked and your team gets eliminated. High stakes! Both modes are welcome additions to a game that generally hasn’t added many new modes in the last 10 years.

Franchise mode has received the biggest additions this year with the addition of player morale and revenue/expenditure models. If you ever wanted to be a GM this is about as close as it gets. Even the luxury tax and revenue sharing were added in this to make the mode that much more realistic. I felt like I really had a handle on everything with my franchise, there is so much to play with that you could be sitting on the menu for an hour fine-tuning your team exactly the way you want it. However, if you don’t meet those owner expectations, you won’t even get the chance because you’ll be fired. Couple that with the fact that you can carry over your MLB 15 save file and this is easily the definitive version of franchise mode in an MLB game.

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Miggy with the walkoff!

Every year I come into this review expecting to rip this series apart for not changing anything and every year they surprise me with the vast amount of differences both aesthetically and gameplay-wise. This year, the team even added 2 new modes for players to sink their teeth into. Hats off to SCE San Diego for keeping The Show on top of the mountain for another year and not becoming complacent. MLB The Show 16 is a must-buy for any sports fan!

 

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