MLB 13: The Show Review
The most prevalent complaint in the wide world of sports gaming is that publishers have an annoying habit of resting on their laurels. People get upset, and understandably so, when shelling out full price for a game that boasts few innovations apart from a roster update. With the announcement of the PlayStation 4, one would naturally think that MLB 13: The Show might have been excused for just updating the system and really going for glory next year… and while the overall experience is essentially the same, several little improvements have been made. Considering the solid foundation upon which to build, the result is one of the best sports games made to date.
Probably the most noticeable change this year is the introduction of a throwing meter for fielders. Like most other sports titles, this is a simple gauge that fills the longer you hold down the button. As one would expect there is a sweet spot. Going for more power diminishes accuracy. Unfortunately, this new mechanic is far too sensitive. Unless you get it just right, expect to be regularly picking the ball out of the dugout or the stands. This is especially true early in a career when your stats suck. Fortunately, just like analog swing controls or pulse pitching, you can set up the more classic button control scheme if you prefer. Some will like this inclusion, but I turned it off after a few games.
Apart from the new throwing meter, the overall experience is far more forgiving. The batters have the advantage this year. One welcome change takes place when you are swinging the lumber. You have slightly longer to decide to swing. This may not sound like much, but most agree that hitting a major league fastball is the hardest thing to do in sports. Having an extra blink of an eye to read the break makes a huge difference. The practical application equals more foul balls, which allows the batter to stay in the box longer and can lead to some epic duels with the pitcher.
Road to the Show is still arguably the best version of the “Be a Pro” mode on the market. You begin by creating your avatar and picking your position. I like to create two different players, one as a pitcher and one as a fielder. Starting in the minors, you play your position and earn points through your exploits on the field. These points can then be spent to upgrade specific stats like arm accuracy or base running ability. The goal, naturally, is to make it all the way to the majors.
It’s gratifying to see your avatar develop. When you finally reach the big league, you certainly feel like you earned it. You can tailor the experience to your liking: playing every play or just those at the plate. When on the bases you have the option of watching all the pitches in the next at bat, or just ones where the ball will be in play. Considering that running the base paths has always been a weak link, one major improvement is the ability to spot your third base coach as you round second. Of course, you can skip running the bases altogether if you want. You can even simulate all the fielding opportunities as well.
While the on-field experience is well rounded, both teammate and opposing manager AI can still leave you scratching your head. The managers don’t always make the best decisions, or even remotely realistic ones. Early in my minor league career, my avatar was batting over .400 and had hit 30 homers, and they were STILL pitching to me!
In a move I found surprising, The Show directly copies the mode from its competition whereby you play along with your favorite team in real life. It’s called The Show Live. Following the day-in, day out action, updating rosters to take into account injuries and the like, it’s fun to try to change history as it happens… provided you have the patience. Playing an entire season is a major commitment.
Graphically, the game again looks top notch. The “broadcast” style presentation is better than ever. New camera angles add to the authentic feel of the production. The animations are amongst the more fluid I’ve seen in a sports game. Players react realistically, make breaks on the ball as they should in the outfield, and turn double plays just like the pros. Instances of clipping or “fast-forwarding” to make a catch are few and far between. The game runs smoothly for the most part, the only real drawbacks being some less than stellar crowd animation (the infamous bane of the sports video game). The commentary, while not boasting anything terribly new or exciting, is still one of the more complete, functional versions in the industry.
The online experience works much better thanks to what appears to be better server support. Instances of crippling lag or flat-out being booted are far less frequent. The only real tragedy is you can’t play online with someone who is playing on a Vita unless it’s the Home Run Derby.
Speaking of the Vita version, while still excellent, isn’t nearly as smooth as it’s console brother. This is to be expected, of course. A lot of animations and broadcast presentation elements have been removed entirely. This speeds up play considerably, which makes sense for a handheld. Sadly, such sacrifices turn out to be inconsequential due to the fact that loading times border on extreme.
Of course, the real draw of the Vita is the cross-play ability. You can upload your saves to and from the cloud on the go, so continuing a long season is a breeze. Almost all the game modes have been recreated on the handheld. Unfortunately, unlike PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, you don’t get a code to unlock the Vita version when buying the console release. If you want to play on the go and at home, you’ll have to pony up the dough for both versions. However, MLB 13 on the Vita is still an excellent baseball game in and of itself, so if you want to have the portable option it’s still worth checking out.
Even though MLB 13: The Show may not boast any laudable improvements that will raise eyebrows, it is still, without a doubt, the best baseball game on the market. I imagine Sony is saving all the good stuff for the PS4 release next year. Having said that, this game is still probably the best baseball sim I’ve ever played. From the more forgiving batting to the improved presentation, from the animations to the gameplay, this is one of the more complete packages in sports gaming.
Reviewed By: Simon Waldron
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
This review is based on a copy of MLB 13: The Show for the PlayStation 3 provided by Sony Computer Entertainment.