The Major League Baseball season is right around the corner and with it comes Sony’s highly touted yearly MLB “The Show” franchise. Year after year Sony has managed to deliverer the goods to the point where everyone seems to unanimously declare “The Show” the king of virtual Major League Baseball games. This year is no different as baseball fans and PS3 gamers alike can pick up “The Show” with confidence. Yes it is still that good and remains the best in the business. Once again you can expect a glut of new features that serve to only improve an already fantastic baseball experience.
If you played MLB 12: The Show on the PS3 last year you will probably agree the 2013 edition feels awfully similar. Sure there are some new wrinkles added to the mix with a “Post Season” mode, “Beginner” mode, some new animations, enhancements to the existing modes and gameplay, Steve Lyons joining the broadcast team and so on. Yet at the end of the day it still feels like the same game, but hey this is nothing new for those sports fans that remain loyal to their sports gaming franchises. Bottom line, if you played last year’s game will be able to pick up and play with ease. For those new to the franchise there is indeed a learning curve, yet unlike “The Show” of the past, the new Beginner mode makes this game a little more forgiving for newcomers and is a welcome addition to the franchise.
In addition to the Beginner mode making “The Show” a little more accessible, this mode also uses an advanced and adaptive AI system that dynamically updates the skill level as you play. You will start out on the easiest of difficulties but after you start teeing up on opposing pitchers slamming home runs into the bleachers with consistency the game adapts and advances the difficulty as you improve. Despite having spent some time with “The Show” for the past 4 or 5-years in a row I still managed to find this mode enjoyable as I became acclimatized with the pitching and hitting mechanics and essentially shook the rust off.
The new Beginner mode is a success in my view but what good is any baseball game if the hitting and pitching mechanics suck. Well once again Sony delivers. Hitting feels natural and remains a challenge, as you have to be selective in terms of what balls you take a swing at. Likewise, you won’t be able to strike out batters by simply firing fastballs down the plate. Pitching truly is a strategy game in every sense of the word and Sony has masterfully perfected this aspect of the game. New to the hitting/pitching match-up this year is the new push/pull hitting trajectory tendencies engine (Editor’s Note: say that as fast as you can 5 times). By simply hitting the select button during the pitcher-batter matchup the in-game screen will show you what type of hitter you are facing. For instance, if you hit select when Ryan Howard is up to bat, the game will label what type of hitter he is, help you determine what pitch you should be throwing, and where you should be throwing it. This is clearly geared towards the more hardcore fan but a pretty cool addition nonetheless as the data used is derived from real yearly spray charts provided to Sony by MLB.com.
Another new addition you will readily notice this year is the new button accuracy meter for the fielders. Granted anyone who has played baseball games over the years will have seen this meter before in some variation or another. The meter is all about having more control over the accuracy and strength of your throws. Wild throws will no longer occur due to merely the luck of the draw. This year you will know right away when you have made a bad throw as the meter will essentially tell you. It certainly makes the task of fielding a little more challenging and there is a learning curve, yet after a few games I really started to get the hang of it and started to enjoy this new wrinkle added to the mix.
The core MLB: The Show experience is also back with your typical exhibition, ‘Road to the Show,’ Home Run Derby and season modes. For veterans of the franchise, you can skip this paragraph, but for those new to the franchise here are what the modes are about. Exhibition mode is great for jumping into a game right away. Pick two teams and off you go. This is generally my first stop, as I usually want to see how the game plays and feels before I get into a full MLB season. My next stop is usually the season mode. Here you pick a team and work your way through a full 162 game season, or a shorter game season if you want. One of these days I will play an entire season but when a game takes 35 minutes to an hour — you do the math. Who has that kind of time? The ‘Road to the Show’ mode is where you create a player in an effort to make the ‘Big Show’ (Major Leagues). You guide your player through spring training, spend some time in the minors, and eventually gain a spot on a major league team roster. Finally, the Franchise mode, which includes managing a team (e.g. signing players, making rosters, trades, etc.), returns and remains unchanged from last year.
The ‘Road to the Show’ mode is indeed the flagship mode for the game and it too has seen some improvements over last year’s game. It is really all about trying to make the experience as real as possible and the development team has managed to take it one step further. This year there is more focus in making things a little simpler. Also, we see some new improvements to the games environments, the sound and some new camera angles. All in all, it remains a fantastic and highly addictive mode as the pace is much quicker than a typical full length season game.
The “Post Season” mode, which is also available on the Vita, is a new mode that allows you to jump right into the post season and take a run at the World Series. You can either play with one team or all 10 and even includes those single elimination Wild Card round games. In the end, this mode is nothing incredibly innovative but it is a slick little way to relive some of the moments from last year’s playoff games.
While the cross platform play where you can take your PS3 season, save it to the cloud, and continue playing on the road with your PS Vita is back, Sony added another layer to the cross platform abilities of the franchise in the form of a home run derby. Here you can swat home runs online against someone on their PS3 or some random dude on their Vita. It is nice they included this but I almost found it to be somewhat of an after thought, as it never really held my interest. Not to mention I am not convinced The Show fans would go online just to play a home run derby.
One of the last new additions this year that really stood out for me is The Show Live, and this is found in the franchise mode. It is an exhibition-based mode that involves using data from MLB.com to populate daily match-ups, line-ups and starting pitchers. This gives you ability to play out a game that mirrors the real life game that is occurring on the date you are playing. Commentators will reference the previous day’s games and you are given the choice to play a game from the actual day your playing or play any game from earlier in the season.
Visually MLB 13: The Show for the PS3 is top notch. The development team have truly maximized the power of the PS3’s hardware and have me curious how the team can make the game look even better on the PS4 next season. This year’s game is easily an upgrade in the graphics and animations department. Players look incredibly life-like and ball parks look wonderful. My girlfriend actually had to do a double take for a second as she thought she was watching an actual MLB broadcast. Yes it looks that good, but it is not without its shares of glitches. For starters I did notice the odd clipping issue where players would morph into one another. Also, I found the fans in some stadiums did not look as sharp as they could. Otherwise, this year’s game is as smooth as silk as I was stunned with every little detail Sony was able to pick up with America’s favorite past time.
When it comes to the sound, MLB 13: The Show is solid and sounds great in 5.1 surround sound. There is no question Sony’s best-selling franchise does a wonderful job at creating that MLB big league atmosphere. From the chants, cheers and jeers of the fans to the sounds of the bullpen pitches smacking the catcher’s mitt, everything is awesome and spot on. The commentating does appear someone canned and repetitive at times but this is nothing new to virtually any and every sports game.
Sony’s MLB franchise continues to prove itself as the top dog in the virtual baseball world. Stunning visuals, silky smooth gameplay and an endless list of enhancements proves there is enough new here to justify the $60 dollar plunge. This being said, the core game remains by in large unchanged and some may question whether Sony brought enough to the table. Personally I felt like they have, but I also feel there is even more room to grow. Regardless, there is no question MLB The Show 13 is more than just a roster update and is about as good as it gets when it comes to baseball games on your PS3.