MLB: The Show 18 Review for PlayStation 4 (PS4)

MLB: The Show 18 Review for PlayStation 4 (PS4)

Yet Another RBI

When you first boot up MLB: The Show 18 , you are treated to a montage of athletes, old and young, that, presumably, seeks to evoke a mixture of nostalgia, passion, and culture; It’s a good use of pathos that even manages to rekindle this cynical nerd’s former love of the game and appreciation for an athlete’s journey. Obviously, this sort of feeling can be manufactured by a company’s marketing team or, indeed, an essayist, but the franchise’s consistent tendency to elevate the sense of finesse with each subsequent iteration ultimately leads me to believe that this cutscene is not merely and appeal to emotion. Instead, it seems indicative of the team’s collective love for “America’s greatest pastime” which, thankfully, shines through in every critical element of this year’s release.

This year improves on one of the facets I most appreciate about MLB: The Show 18 : its unintimidating and unassuming design. I’m inclined to liken it to Gran Turismo , another Sony exclusive. Gran Turismo manages to be accessible for newcomers of the genre who just want to speed around a track, but also offers depth to a variety of gearheads seeking the ability to fine tune their vehicle towards optimal performance. MLB: The Show 18 is similar. Want to play some baseball? Go for it. If, however, you’re the type of person who scrutinizes player stats and intimidates their fantasy baseball league with your encyclopedic knowledge of the game, well, this game and its RPG elements has a lot on offer.

MLB: The Show 18 bases its core gameplay on easy to understand strategy. As an example, pitchers will perform at different levels of efficiency, depending on the type of pitch selected. The concept is easy to grasp, as a meter conveniently wrapped around the corresponding button in the UI denotes exactly where the pitcher stands on the matter. This system is meant to add a tactical element to the game, essentially creating a risk and reward dynamic in choosing a pitch. If, however, little seems to be working and the pitcher’s confidence and energy level is heavily depleted, it is suggested that the player make a substitute for another pitcher.

As is the usual, MLB: The Show 18 has multiple modes on display. “Play Now” throws players right into a game. Franchise mode casts players in the role of team manager. This is easily the deepest mode in MLB: The Show 18 , with an emphasis on player stats. Home Run Derby is standard fare where sluggers play against one another to simply crank out homerun after homerun. Get the most homeruns? You win. Additionally, there is a Retro Mode that is designed to capture the classic baseball games of yesteryear. This mode is exceptionally easy for beginners to understand. Then there are the more intensive, time-consuming, and immersive modes.

One that really grabbed my curiosity is the online Diamond Dynasty mode, where players build their own team by collecting trading cards. These translate to an ability to recruit a wealth of baseball legends. Aiding the sense of team ownership, players are asked to create their own team name and logo before competing online against other players. It’s the collecting aspect of all of this that I am an absolute sucker for. Unfortunately, this mode wasn’t available at the time of review.

Then, there is the captivating narrative mode Road to the Show. This is a returning mode where the goal is to make a character and rise to the big leagues. Often, Road to the Show waxes poetic, just as the opening cinematic does, and for a fan of the sport, it makes your heart swell just a little bit. And, if you are particularly attached to all the hard work you may have put into this mode in MLB The Show 17 , you can import your data into this game so you can continue your legacy.

MLB: The Show 18 Screenshot

The customization options, including the dialogue choices, are about as reminiscent of the role-playing genre as a “non-RPG” game can get in Road to the Show. Physically, players can make a half-decent depiction of themselves, recreate a celebrity, or, as is my tendency, build an unfortunate looking abomination. Beyond facial features, batting stances can also be customized with the versatile batting stance creation feature.

Leveling up or, in more casual terms, training your character has been revamped as well. Now, instead of primarily navigating menus to improve, stats are raised by actions performed on the field. Strangely, they can also diminish by poor performance which waves in the face of the game’s otherwise realistic nature but, mechanically, it feels right. Additionally, players can choose to train their players when they aren’t in games with a straightforward, but creative, system that even allows players to choose which athletes train together to maximize their gains. I’d wager that Road to The Show is the mode for people who want to customize their experience as much as possible. In fact, if customization is at the heart of their interest, run game simulations instead of actively playing through them.

MLB: The Show 18 Screenshot

MLB: The Show 18 ’s customization options don’t stop at character or team growth, though. They are also refreshingly present in the control schemes. Batting exemplifies this point. When batting, players select from three radically different input types: directional, zone, and pure analog. Directional hitting prioritizes the left analog stick which will control direction. In this option, the type of swing is mapped to the face buttons: X will initiate a normal swing, circle a contact swing, and square a power swing. This input is the one that feels the most traditional.

Zone hitting, on the other hand, uses face buttons in a similar fashion but the task of the left analog is to move a reticle, called the plate coverage indicator, to find a sweet spot. Then, on the most basic side of the spectrum, there is the pure analog input method wherein the player simply flicks the right analog stick directionally in timing with the pitch. The direction of the analog replaces the function of the face buttons in the other hitting interfaces. I found this one to be the most basic. A variety of input options are also available for baserunning, pitching, and throwing. It is almost guaranteed that players will find a mode of input that feels intuitive for them. I’d suggest experimenting with each option to find what clicks.

Players also choose between various camera styles. The broadcast style creates the appearance of a game being broadcast over the television as contrasted to the polar-opposite option which produces a faster, more typical gaming experience where the emphasis is on the competitive aspect of the game’s fundamentals and mechanics. A hybrid option offers a nice compromise between the two. It’s worth noting that a lot of effort seemingly went the creation of an enveloping visual experience so your choice in these options is going to be largely dependent on what level of atmospheric presence you desire from the game. I wholeheartedly recommend trying the broadcast style, at least for a little, because it better showcases all the finer details of MLB: The Show 18 .

Visually, MLB: The Show 18 features nearly photo realistic fields that are only disturbed by decidedly less realistic players. True, they look better than they ever have which is precisely why they can be slightly off-putting to look at; the uncanny valley is becoming common place in this generation of games, it seems. That said, it is only a small gripe which is easy to forgive when you consider how well-animated the models are; movement looks natural and varied as opposed to stock and universal.

MLB: The Show 18 Screenshot

Further assisting the realistic tone of the game are the visual and audible details of the environment. It is surprising the level of familiarity I get from playing in stadiums that I have visited in real life. Weather effects somehow manage to increase the magnitude of the competitive drama encountered in the middle of a game. Commentary provided by Matt Vasgersian, Mark DeRosa, and Dan Plesac is a welcome treat for fans of the sport. Also, team-specific player celebrations are fun to watch but, more importantly, help twist the dagger during a rousing bout of smack talk against a friend in the wake of a triumph. Moments like that are staples of the genre and, in a way, can give it a universal appeal to gamers in general.

MLB: The Show 18 is a refined experience that stands tall as the best baseball game currently on the market. Of all the iterations of the title, this is, to my eye, the definitive best and, I imagine, exactly what fans of the genre are looking for. Beyond that, in a similar vein to soccer or hockey games, MLB: The Show 18 is an enjoyable, competitive, multiplayer experience that can easily be enticing to non-sports fans if they simply look past the baseball veneer to see the mechanically sound, tactile, multi-faceted game below the surface; you don’t need to watch or play baseball for the game to function as a more than serviceable pastime and I recommend a rental to anyone who is on the fence about getting into this genre.

Almost everything is beautiful about this game although the character models seem out of place within the beautiful environments 5.0 Control
Multiple options so players will find an input that works for them. Very responsive and there’s a tactile feel to hitting that is so, so satisfying 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The narration is on point and times out well with the in game action. The soundtrack, however, won’t suit everyone’s taste. I promise 5.0 Play Value
There are so many modes and so many ways to play. Playing against friends or playing against strangers is satisfying in different ways. The single player experience can also offer hours upon hours of gameplay 5.0 Overall Rating – The Best
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Road to The Show® Natural Progression: Experience RPG gameplay like you’ve never seen in a baseball game. Create your own player and rise up from the minor leagues to The Show using an all-new skill progression system to balance short-term focuses, emergent team opportunities, and career defining long-term goals.
  • Create The Team of Your Dreams: From Babe Ruth to Ken Griffey, Jr. to Aaron Judge, build and field your ultimate roster from 2,000+ current players, all-stars and baseball legends in Diamond Dynasty1,2 . New Legends in The Show 18 include some of the biggest names from this year’s Hall of Fame nominees1
  • Year-To-Year Saves: Don’t lose any progress from your copy of The Show 17. Saves in Road to The Show and Franchise will carry over to The Show 18, so play without worry of losing your hard-won progress and the stories you’ve created along the way.

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