Here we are again! It’s baseball season and that means a new MLB The Show is out! We got a review copy, so let’s get to it!
A Look Back
Now before we start, I have to address two things:
First, last year, I reviewed MLB The Show 17, compared it to NHL 17 and the former came out on top by a country mile. I also said that I was done with the yearly roster update that the NHL series had become. Well, I lied because I bought NHL 18 on sale. Guess what: it is garbage, worse than 17. It’s a frustrating game where EA “improved” the AI by making it godly at passing and stick checking. I regret buying it. Anyway, enough about NHL…
Second, despite a glowing review of last year’s instalment of The Show, it was written before a series of unfortunate patches and early server troubles. Patch 1.03 broke the hitting and I remember installing the update, not thinking too much of it and then starting the game. I was playing my hard-hitting Road to the Show player and nothing was connecting. Just flyball after flyball after flyball. My power hitter was either hitting home runs or popping out. On top of that, a lot of players had trouble connecting to the servers and partaking in the online modes. I hated it. It actually took quite a few patches to fix it. Anyway, just to say that my review of The Show 18 is going to be positive but I can’t account for future patches.
A Step Forward
One of the things this series is known for is the incremental improvements made to the game with each release and MLB The Show 18 is no exception. Last year’s modes were largely the same as they were in 16 but 18 brings some fresh air.
Franchise Mode, which is targeted to the hardcore armchair managers, is now more accessible thanks to Phases. It’s a system that helps amateur GMs navigate a baseball season by cutting it into time periods and setting priorities based on these. For example, at the start of the year, you’re looking to complete your roster and the game will recommend you focus on scouting in anticipation of the draft, while at the end of the year, forgoing roster changes to put your efforts in getting to get to the post-season and winning becomes the recommended priority. It’s definitely an improvement!
Road to the Show
Road to the Show (RTTS) got the biggest makeover, especially when it comes to player progression. Instead of earning generic training points during matches, your stats will increase by performing in situations that relate to those attributes. Hit a single, you get a boost to Contact. Hit a double, you improve Power. Swing like an idiot at a ball in the dirt, your stat regresses. Your base stats and their max limit are determined by the type of player you create. My first character was a third baseman (nickname: Big Daddy Diddy) with the Power Corner type which means his Power is high and can reach the maximum, just like his Fielding. On the other hand, he’s slow as hell and his Speed will cap much faster. Now, you might say: “Doesn’t that just limit what you can do with your player?” Yes, you’ll never be a 99 overall but let me explain how the system works and why it’s a good thing.
First, those initial caps aren’t set, although the maximum possible caps also have limits. Every day your player doesn’t take the field, you can partake in training sessions which will not only improve your stats but also help you go past the initial capped limit. In the previous years, you could be the greatest home run hitter in history, while also being the fastest player ever and a perfect fielder. I know because my last character in 17 was a 99 in everything. He hit 70 HRs a year, stole 40 bases and won the Golden Glove every year. As did my previous character who was also maxed out. There was no way for those guys to actually get worse. I could have never swung at a pitch ever again or dropped every flyball and those 99s were forever set at 99. When I got tired of being a living baseball god, I would make another character but he’d just wind up in the pantheon again.
Second, the new system makes every character potentially great at certain aspect of baseball but yourself, as a gamer, must match it by playing well. Also, like real MLB players, your character now has a flaw, represented by those maximum caps. Aaron Judge pounds home runs but he’s not necessarily the best fielder at his position. Kimbrel throws fire and shuts down every 9th inning but he runs out of gas after 25 pitches. Tired of being a power corner who runs like a gorilla with a bad back? Make a speedy contact hitter and he’ll play differently from the other guy. That’s why this is a good system: it makes RTTS that much more interesting and increases its replay value.
Get In On the Action
Fielding has always been off in The Show. In previous titles, the fielding and the running system were not coordinating really well. The catcher AI system had trouble anticipating where the ball was going and the fielder could “see” the runner going but wouldn’t be able to predict what the next move should be, resulting in weird hesitations. That’s all gone in MLB The Show 18. Catchers explode out of their catching stance in the right direction right away and they have an animation to connect their ball recovery and their throwing to the base. Fielders are much quicker at tagging players. Remember when I said NHL had improved by making the AI cheaty? Well, The Show avoids that: the CPU players get better information and make better decisions, they don’t just suddenly throw faster to compensate for their dumb AI.
The last thing I’ll mention before wrapping up that the camera angles and controls were improved. If there’s a player on first, as an infielder, your camera will position itself so that you see both the runner and the batter. You can zoom in and out before the play to give yourself a bit more freedom. Finally, they added an indicator in RTTS for when balls are popped behind you. Instead of frantically looking for the ball while holding R3, you now get a white triangle behind your player and when he turns around, the camera follows. Much much appreciated.
Another Home Run
Overall, I maintain my recommendation to buy MLB The Show 18. It might not be the year for flashy updates but it’s in line with their usual MO of tweaking it just right. If you like RTTS, this year’s game brings the biggest changes to the mode we’ve seen in a while.
Tune in next year to find out if I bought NHL again.
DISCLAIMER: MLB The Show 18 review code provided by PlayStation Canada. The opinions expressed in the article above have not be affected by, dictated or edited in any way by the provider. For more information please see Girls on Games’ Code of Journalistic Ethics.