When it comes to sports titles, it’s hard to find a franchise that has single-handedly continued to put out excellent products like MLB The Show.
Despite being the only MLB sim experience on the market – and only being available for one console – MLB The Show always seems to be looking to continue its run as the top sports game on the market. With MLB The Show 16, the developers at Sony San Diego are looking to put an average year behind them with a bevy of new additions in the form of game modes and gameplay features.
Many of the game’s core features remain the same in MLB The Show 16. As a whole, the gameplay feels nearly identical to that of both MLB The Show 14 and MLB The Show 15. In fact, if you were to just load up a game on all three products side-by-side, it may be tough for the average fan to tell the difference between the three games. Sure, lighting and graphics have been tweaked over the last three installments on the PlayStation 4, but there hasn’t been enough graphical change to truly distinguish between them. One has to wonder if it’s a case of Sony San Diego reaching the graphical capacity of the PS4, or is it due to the developers still creating a version for the PS3 which leads to a lack of time to improve the current-gen version?
Much is also the same in terms of game mode offerings. Road to the Show, Franchise Mode and Diamond Dynasty all return with various updates.
Franchise Mode – both online and offline – doesn’t see too much when it comes to additions. The moral system is the only true major franchise addition. For Road to the Show, players now take part in a scouting combine before the MLB Draft. The combine, which really is just you trying to place your allotment of pitches, replaces one of the three games that you would usually take a part in. Now it’s the combine and two games before the draft. It’s nothing too big, but still a nice touch to the mode. It would’ve been nice to have more drills available, but I’d expect that to come in future installments should they keep the feature.
The new training system is nice, and it helps you build the player that you want. That being said, there isn’t much too different this year. The mode that sees the most attention and improvement is Diamond Dynasty.
The overall of the mode includes two new modes to enjoy – Conquest and Battle Royale. Battle Royale was fun at first, but can get pretty old quickly because you have no connection to the team you’re playing with. Conquest, on the other hand, is a blast to play. The goal is to take your team, conquer – for a lack of a better term – different territories, and become the most popular team possible. It really makes facing the AI so much more rewarding.
Though I do have fun with Diamond Dynasty, the focus of the mode continues the trend of micro-transaction-heavy modes in sports titles getting most of the attention by developers. From a business standpoint, it completely makes sense. However, it gets pretty annoying when the game seems to try and force real-cash purchases on you while you’re just trying to enjoy the game. And as someone who loves single-player modes like Road to the Show and Franchise – a mode that gets the shaft from most sports titles – it’s a bummer to see the focus shift so much.
The gameplay is as fun as ever with the feeling of actually being a part of an MLB game. It’s something that Sony San Diego has mastered in recent years, and there appears to be no sign of that stopping. The new ShowTime feature sounded pretty gimmicky when it was first announced, but that feeling quickly changed after utilizing it.
Slowing the game down may take away the sim feel of the game to some, but it doesn’t change the gameplay to a ridiculous level like the old EA NHL Breakaway camera did years ago. It’s a small, yet at the same time big, addition that adds a bit more excitement and suspense on the field. The Challenge of the Week hitters vs. batter mode is a pretty nice time killer as well.
Where the game does fall flat on its face, as per usual, is with its servers. Constant crashing, lag when playing online and the long load times constantly kill the joy that comes with playing. Online is virtually unplayable at times because of the input and general lag issues. And losing connection in the middle of a Diamond Dynasty game quickly becomes a real easy reason to turn it off, and not come back to it.
Servers have been an issue for a long time with MLB The Show, and it’s a shame it hasn’t been fully addressed yet.
MLB The Show 16 still feels a lot like 14 and 15. However, enough has been done to make it feel like a new game. The gameplay still remains the best in all sports video games, but it would be nice for visuals and features to take a larger step forward after three years in the current console generation. That being said, MLB The Show 16 just has a lot of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it moments”, and you can’t punish them for that.