It’s the beginning of spring which means it’s time for some baseball. Check out what we thought about SIE San Diego’s latest baseball sim in our MLB The Show 18 Review!
|Release Date||March 27, 2018|
|Developer||SIE San Diego|
I’ve been playing the MLB The Show series regularly since 2012 and it has steadily become one of the most dependable sports titles on the market over that time. This series doesn’t give you many flashy things that take away from the game itself, it simply focuses on delivering a quality baseball simulation and with TV presentation. That’s exactly what you get with MLB The Show 18, but it’s starting to become a little bit too familiar. This is still a high-quality baseball experience, but there aren’t many huge improvements that are going to lure in new players.
The gameplay is better than it has ever been this year. It doesn’t make a monumental leap, but hitting, in particular, feels much more natural. It’s not as frustrating as it used to be due in large part to a redesigned feedback system that allows you to better evaluate your swing timing and contact in a more timely manner. I had a lot more fun at-bat in this year’s game than I have in past years.
The variety of different hit types has also gone up from MLB The Show 17 resulting in the ball traveling much like you’d see in a real baseball game. There are a lot more fading line drives, short pops, and balls flying down the foul line. This makes you the variations in the way the infielders play the ball that much more noticeable. Agile shortstops will make those game-saving diving catches while veteran infielders might not get to those balls as quickly. An infielder playing the outfield doesn’t get to a ground ball as quickly as a natural outfielder. Catchers have even received a bit of an upgrade reacting to balls in the dirt much faster than they did previously. There are even a plethora of new tag animations that make the play flow better than ever before. Everything just feels so much more natural than ever before on the gameplay side.
On the presentation side of things, MLB The Show 18 introduced a number of new updates to enhance the game. The player uniforms now include various textures and the numbers and logos seem to pop more than ever before. There are also some new camera angles and effects between innings. The MLB Network presentation package returns from last year to bring it all together. Harry Reynolds was replaced by Mark DeRosa on commentary and I felt like it was pretty fluid for the most part. There were certain miscues like saying I swung at a fastball when I clearly did not, but it sounded like an actual broadcast to me. The thing I like most about the commentary is that it references past performances and stats which brings a touch of realism to what can otherwise be mundane commentary.
Now let’s talk about the game modes. Franchise Mode hasn’t changed very much this year. SIE San Diego redesigned the menu system which makes things much more streamlined. Seasons are also broken into phases which helps ease the process of performing the day to day tasks of an MLB GM. The only other notable addition is improved AI which worked well with things like performance-based benchings and promotions. It didn’t, however, perform well in simulations making some less than stellar moves involving signing veterans and trading away young talent. Visually, the crowd size differs depending on your team’s win/loss record, time of day, etc. There are even some location/time-specific weather events which are a nice touch.
There are many new features that have become standard in other sports franchises that have are still missing from MLB The Show 18. You can’t create new teams or relocate existing ones. Contract and trade negotiations are simplified menus with very little interaction. While this is still one of the deepest franchise modes in all of the sports genre, it’s losing some of its momentum by standing relatively pat for the past few years. In addition to that, online players will be sad to note that online franchise mode has been removed from the game entirely.
Where Franchise Mode stumbles, Road to the Show picks up the ball and runs with it. The main premise of the mode is the same, but instead of being a rising star, you’re a late-round draft pick hoping to crack a major league lineup. I ended up being selected with the 7th pick in the 20th round by the San Diego Padres. The big difference here is that instead of building your character up from scratch, you build him around a pre-selected archetype. The archetype I selected as a pitcher was the Fire Thrower which is a power pitcher who throws a lot of heat. I found these archetypes really fit well with whatever player you were trying to be and it added a different dynamic to RTTS.
The biggest change to RTTS is how your player evolves over time. No longer do you earn and spend XP points where you want to, your ratings automatically improve or regress based on your performance. This does mean that there is a little bit less flexibility especially being bound to the strengths and weaknesses of your selected archetype. Training is also no longer interactive. Now training is simply selecting whether to upgrade your attributes or your maximum potential. I had a lot of fun with Road to the Show and I think they’re heading in a great direction with it. The whole presentation style and the way you shape your player’s career easily make it the best offline mode in MLB The Show 18.
Diamond Dynasty returns this year with more legendary players like Babe Ruth, Nolan Ryan, and Jackie Robinson. There are even more missions you can compete in to earn extra items. This mode is otherwise pretty much untouched, but there isn’t much new that you can do with it. This is fantasy baseball at its finest allowing you to place someone like Ken Griffey Jr. with a guy like Jackie Robinson which never would have been possible.
There are a few other additions that I haven’t touched on yet that I’d like to touch on a little bit. There is a new batting stance creator that you’ll probably only use once when creating your player, but it gives you some personality for your created character. You can also play Franchise Mode in Retro Mode is you so desire, but I don’t see why you would want to unless you just want a casual experience. There are also 3 legends teams included just for fun that are pretty awesome to play with if you’re looking to hit a bunch of homers.
MLB The Show 18 remains a fantastic baseball simulator despite having very little competition. While there weren’t many big additions, the small things that the development team have added to the game were more than enough. If you’re on the fence about upgrading to this from last year’s game, I’d say the gameplay tweaks and additions to the presentation are worth it. If you’re jumping in for the first time, I’d definitely recommend the purchase. This is easily the best baseball game out there.
*A copy of this game was provided to FYIG by PlayStation for review purposes*