MLB The Show 18 Review: And the Crowd Goes Wild
It's spring, and that means it's the start of baseball. MLB The Show 18 is one of the most anticipated sports releases of the year, but does it knock it out of the park like Babe Ruth, or does it swing, miss, and disappoint its teammates like I did in so many little league games?
The Sound: The Crack of the Bat
MLB The Show 18 will fill your ears with the sounds of cheering fans, the crack of the bat, and announcers questioning your pitching choices. Everything sounds as realistic as can be and puts you on the field with the players. They also have a great list to choose from for names that the announcers can say so that more players than usual will be able to hear their own name echo throughout the stadium. The nostalgic throwback retro mode has charming, old school-sounding beeps and boops to match its visual style.
This year's soundtrack has a lot to offer. It's got a good mix of genres and artists to make sure everyone's got at least one song to keep them satisfied. I was particularly pleased to see Beck and Queens of the Stone Age. The coolest part of it all is the ability to customize an individual player's music as well as their chants and yells. As the soundtrack consists of fewer than 20 songs, you'll probably switch over to Spotify once you've heard MLB The Show 18's musical offerings a few times through. It'll be good while it lasts, though.
The Graphics: Beards Upon Beards
Everything in the game is superbly designed in terms of graphics. All the players look realistic, there is a lot of detail put into the player's gear (with customization available), and the stadiums are faithful to their real-life counterparts. The instant replays and random shots of the players will immerse you in the big ballpark experience. The developers add in small scenes like the one above that show players stretching during a practice for flavor, and it adds a bit more character to an otherwise routine experience.
The sheer amount of customization you have available to you in the player editor puts EA Sport's releases this year to shame. Just like those games, you can pick your equipment from a wide variety of brands and makes, colors, and even web styles. However, you can also edit every aspect of your player's face. This game probably has the most beard hair customization I've ever seen, and as someone with a beard, I appreciate that. You can even create your own batting stance!
The Gameplay: Knocked One Out of the Park
The core gameplay of the game is magnificent. It handles super well, with loads of options to choose from in terms of batting, pitching, etc., meaning everyone can find a gameplay style they'll like. The basics of the gameplay are super simple, with each pitcher having a few pitches to choose from and each batter having three swings and bunts to utilize. This simple system becomes increasingly complex as player stats are taken into account, different pitches are chosen from, and players learn how to properly use the leading and stealing mechanics for their runners. The simplicity gives new players like me something to hold onto, and the complexity, along with tons of available customization, keeps the veterans happy.
I can't get enough of the Road to the Show mode. You create a player and play only their position throughout the game. It lets the games go by much more quickly, something a casual sports gamer like me can appreciate. Not only was I able to create a character sporting my beard, but the announcers are also able to say my full name. This aided in immersing me in the story. It's not quite as complex as some of what EA has to offer, but it does give you dialogue options and enough fast-paced action to keep you satisfied.
One of the newer changes to MLB The Show 18 is how you improve in Road to the Show. In previous games, you were able to choose how your character progressed; in this year's edition, however, you pick an archetype at the start of your career, and your player grows based on your choices. For example, I played a pitcher, so I could either go for fast strikeouts, control, or gimmicky pitches. Some players are definitely going to be upset at this change, but I found it helped me focus on the gameplay without having to worry about screwing up my progression by customizing my character incorrectly.
I don't play sports games much nowadays, but I used to play them more as a kid, especially Triple Play 98 on the PSX. Retro mode is a game mode in MLB The Show 18 that lets you play with more old-school, simplified controls. While it is not as fun as the core gameplay over extended periods of time, it is still a nice bit of nostalgia and one of my favorite aspects of the game.
Franchise mode is a straightforward multi-season game mode without the added story element. This is the mode I was most comfortable with as a casual sports gamer, as I was able to speed the game up to the most interesting points. This allowed me to play a full game if it was a big one but to skip through the bulk of the games I didn't feel like playing. I found that this helped to hold my attention, but over time, I ended up getting so into the game that I just played through with full innings.
MLB The Show 18's Diamond Dynasty, Diamond Downer
I don't know when it started happening, but sports games lately have had a terrible habit of including card game-style gimmicks to try and take as much cash as they can from fans who have already invested a sizable chunk of change to purchase the game in the first place. There is no reason to ask players to fork over $100 more for in-game collectibles, especially when the price is so high that you make players go to the PSN store just to see it. It's not even like the collectibles are new DLC items, either. You can still get the items by grinding, but it'll take much longer and put you at a disadvantage against someone who has the cash to outplay you.
Overall, MLB The Show 18 is likely to draw in any baseball game fan because of its solid gameplay, engaging story mode, and customization options. The game's graphics are superb, the soundtrack is one of the best on offer from a sports game this year, and the gameplay is enough to entice any MLB fan, casual or pro. However, a big downside of the game is the Diamond Dynasty mode. You can make the argument that you can grind for whatever you want over time instead of spending the money, but these modes are something I refuse to get used to. All things considered, MLB The Show 18 is recommended if you're looking for a realistic baseball game. If you are not fond of the developers playing it safe this year in terms of new modes, you can wait this one out.