Developer: Sony San Diego Studio
Platforms: PS4, PS3
Released: March 29th, 2016
While some of its sports contemporaries have struggled in making the jump from console generation to generation, MLB The Show has chugged along undeterred. When it made its debut on the Playstation 4 it evolved into a graphical showcase for the franchise while keeping intact the stellar gameplay it is known for. With barely any competition on the horizon (R.B.I. Baseball is more for the casual arcade fan) Sony San Diego Studio’s biggest challenges have come from within when trying to innovate and evolve the series every year. MLB: The Show 16 takes a few steps in that direction while it remains the most realist baseball experience around.
Looks So Good
The Show has always been one of the best looking sports games on the market but Show 16 ramps it up another level with the new lighting effects. There are some fantastic lighting elements on the tarp in the ballparks and metal and helmets pop more distinctively. Sony didn’t stop there as player animation and movements look more lifelike than any other year that I can remember. If you put on a cpu vs cpu game and sit back and watch you could almost mistake it for the real thing. It looks that damn good in action. Another of the big additions made to The Show 16 is Physically-Based Rendering (PBR). In a nutshell PBR is an advanced rendering technique that dictates how lighting in the game reacts to metallic/non-metallic surfaces, smooth/non-smooth surfaces, and glossy/non-glossy surfaces. As a result the various textures, from dugouts to stadium walls to ornamental structures, really look stand out.
Sounds of The Show
There isn’t one category that The Show 16 does terribly but if there’s one area that’s never been my favorite in the series, it’s the commentating. The crew of Matt Vasgersian, Eric Karros and Steve Lyons are still using some of the same catch phrases that have been in the game for the past few years. While there are some new player-specific content I don’t feel like the crew bring you into the game as well as a typical baseball broadcast does. Going forward I’d like to see the commentary totally redone with more of a fluid conservation between the three commentators. One thing I was ecstatic to see make its return is the fantastic Sounds of the Show, the dope PS3 feature whereby you can assign chants or walk-up music to any team or player.
On The Field
Last year, The Show introduced directional hitting to the core batting gameplay of the title. This year, the basics of batting and pitching are kept in place. The fielding this year feels more intuitive and smoother than it previously did. The improved routes fielders take to balls in play is also something to pay attention to. Outfielders react more realistically to fly balls, with a greater emphasis being place on common errors that happen in the outfield. There are truer bat-off-the-ball physics and there’s also tons of new player animations. The Show 16 has also included six classic stadiums: The Polo Grounds, Griffith Stadium, Crosley Field, Shibe Park, Forbes Field, and Sportsman’s Park. The throwback vibe continues with the 30 legends added to the game and you can use them in your franchise mode.
So Much To Do
There are quite a few modes to pick from in The Show 16, but Road To The Show (RTTS) has probably seen the most upgrades. New to this year’s edition is the inclusion of the Bowman Scout Day, which is part of the Topps Prospect Showcase. At the Scout Day, potential MLB players will now be graded on the 20/80 scale that actual scouts use when evaluating players. Now while this won’t mean much to the casual fan, diehard baseball fans will love this addition to scouting. The scouting scale is also available in the franchise mode when you’re scouting prospects.
RTTS also introduces the new ShowTime feature. It’s specific to this mode and it allows you to slow down time in key situations in the field or at the plate to increase your chances of having success. It reminded me of Bullet Time in the old Max Payne games where you could slow down time to pull off enormous feats. Gamers accrue ShowTime through various gameplay accomplishments and have access to it in a way that is not unlike a turbo or nitrous meter in a racing game. Now I appreciate what the developers were trying to replicate here-athletes are fond of saying when they’re in the zone and the adrenaline is pumping that the game slows down for them-but Showtime just felt cheesy to me and I wasn’t too fond of it. Thankfully it’s not forced upon you in RTTS and you can choose not to use it if it’s not your thing. Gameplay perks are also something new and they are akin to small increments of powerups depending on what you choose to upgrade. These perks grant your player new skills and abilities. Examples of some of these perks include the ability to moderate energy when you become tired or increasing the rate at which the other team commits errors. While some of these abilities last all game, others may only be used a few times per game. Playing through RTTS is a lot faster this year because you don’t have to come out to the main menu interface to play your next game. You can simply kick off your next game or training session with minimal load time.
Franchise mode has also seen some small upgrades including the aforementioned player scouting tool. For anyone unfamiliar with how professional scouts rate players with the ’20-80’ system, it works like this. Any category there is a 50 typically refers to the player being average where as a player with high 60s to 70s will be above average. A hitter rated 70 for power can be expected to bang out 30 homers a season, while an 70-rated pitcher throws at least 94mph or more. In the test franchise I started up, I’ve yet to see a player rated 80 in any category but I have seen some 70s. There has also been a player morale system added that will change how you go about your business in franchise. For example, the way a player feels about his team role can range from happy when batting cleanup, to angry if he’s downgraded to eighth in the lineup. When a player is angry his overall rating takes a hit, making your managerial decisions even more thoughtful and complex. Other factors affect player morale as well, such as playing time, team success and even proximity to their home state are among these changeable elements. A player’s morale affects his in-game abilities, and as development is based on performance, the best way to improve your charges is to keep them happy and therefore playing well. The morale system also comes into play when its time negotiate contracts, an unhappy player will be harder to retain as opposed to one that’s been satisfied all year. Free agents also come with a set of demands that you will have to fulfill in order to have the best chance of signing them. All of these are welcome additions to a mode that while it was pretty deep, was getting stagnant over the years.
Out of all the modes Diamond Dynasty (DD) has probably shown the most growth since it was introduced in MLB The Show 14. There’s more cards (something that was lacking last year) and new objectives led by Captain Challenges from six of the game’s biggest stars. All of the great team customization that The Show pioneered in this type of mode also returns. Cards can be copped through either buying cards with real money or earned in-game currency or by playing online. Inside Edge Daily Ratings will also be incorporated into the mode, with cards having dynamically changing attributes depending on their real-life match-up that day. DD also introduces two off-shoots in Battle Royale and Conquest. Battle Royale is similar to Madden’s Draft Champions mode in that you fill a lineup from a 25 round draft and try to win as many games as possible with it. Conquest is more of a grind where you have to beat every single team across the country with the goal to become the most popular team in the United States. Conquest was easily my least favorite mode but playing it isn’t really mandatory for enjoying Diamond Dynasty.
Sony has rolled out new netcode once again and while online isn’t quite yet a flawless it has improved a bit. While I received this game a week early for the purposes of this review the servers weren’t active until right before the release date so what I have experienced is a small sample size. My first few ranked games crashed but that was followed up by two games in a row that were pretty smooth and were played to completion. I then played a game that was laggy, and that is detrimental to a sports game that requires such intricate timing. Hopefully over time Sony can iron out these issues because Diamond Dynasty is really fun against another user.
BMR Postgame Comments
While last year’s release seemed to level off in regards to the number of improvements MLB The Show 16 has moved forward. Featuring a highly addicting Diamond Dynasty, stellar gameplay and many other improvements that will have you enjoying America’s pastime like it was intended to be. While there’s still some things we’d like to see-like the ability to transfer roster and RTTS files via the year to year saves feature and more robust commentary-there’s no doubt that this is one of the more consistent sport sims on the market – written by DJRhude (@DJRhude)
BMR Approval Rating: 9.0
The product in this article was sent to us by Sony for review on the PS4