Every year when The Show comes out, I follow the same routine: Create a new player from scratch and head into Road to the Show. This year, my mountain-man bearded, 6’4″, 220-pound first baseman from Florida (you can’t select Toronto for some reason) wasn’t doing very well in the showcase games where you get scouted for the upcoming draft. Even though he looked like a bearded hulk, he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat and ended up being projected to go late 2nd/early 3rd round. I wasn’t happy about it, but ended up being drafted late by the Houston Astros. Then something happened.
I was given the option to tell my manager and the Astros how I felt about being drafted there. I obviously told them that I wasn’t happy, and that I was hoping that another team would have snagged me. So they dropped me. They told me that they wanted a player more excited to play there and told me to pack my bags! I had to wait a year and go through the whole showcase again, giving me the chance to start fresh, steamroll through the showcase games and hit home runs that would make Barry Bonds blush. I was projected 1st round and ended up being selected 2nd overall by the Rays.
This is the beauty of the new Documentary-style Road to the Show mode. You’re given the option to create a personality for your created player. While these dialogue selections don’t have a huge impact on the gameplay, they do allow you to create a personal narrative which adds an interesting element to a normally routine experience. Your dialogue choices range from extremely cocky and arrogant to a “yes sir, yes ma’am, just happy to be here” humbleness that adds interactivity between games and starts.
The whole thing is narrated in a somewhat “behind the music” kind of way, which—honestly—is a little strange. When you hear “The player is called into his manager’s office…” for the first time, you think he’s getting the worst news in the world based on the tone of the narration, only to potentially find out that you’ve been called up. The scenes where you make choices become repetitive after a while as well, specifically—as I hit a ton of home runs—when your batting coach wants to congratulate you after a great hitting game. The choices are just enough to really immerse you in the career mode, though still not on par with the likes of the NBA2k17 or FIFA 17 “The Journey” career stories.
In terms of gameplay, MLB 17 has a few notable upgrades. Something I didn’t realize was that the ball-on-bat physics in previous versions were based off of the bat being square, resulting in balls hit with little trajectory and minimal pull/drag. This year it’s based off of a round bat, which results in ultra-realistic ball trails that are influenced by top spin, wind and other factors. This increases the chance of winding ground balls, curving line drives and pop-ups that deceive fielders, all making it a very realistic experience. The fielders’ AI have also been upgraded, and it’s a welcome improvement. One of the biggest gripes I had about MLBs prior was the annoyingly frequent habit of infielders taking way too long to set up and throw the ball to first, often resulting in a runner who had no business being safe beating the throw. Infielders now react based on the speed of the runner, so they’ll move with more urgency when facing a speedster. It’s a huge improvement that makes the play a lot less frustrating. There are also a whole lot of new hit types and player animations, making an already great game look even less mechanical and more fluid, though frame rate issues were still noticeable when there were a lot of players on the screen, like when a game-winning home run is hit and everyone crowds around home plate.
The game also looks better with an upgrade to the lighting system, making day games look much more authentic. It has also included ShowTrack, an overlay that happens during replays that showcases the distance/trajectory/speed of that last home run, or showcases the movement of pitches. It’s a great break in the action, and really interesting to watch as well, very much like a professional broadcast.
The old school game is a miss though. 199-s text and graphical overlay combined with current-gen player models is somewhat off putting. It could be fun if you had a bunch of people over to play a quick game, but other than that I don’t see myself spending any more time there. Online play is good, but still suffers from noticeable lag that affects hitting just enough to make it jarring. I have a great internet connection at home and have no problem playing other sports games online, so I’m not sure where the issue is here. If it was just a little better, I could see myself spending a lot of time online.
Overall, MLB The Show 17 is a no-doubt home run for fans of the series and new fans alike. Great graphics combined with improved physics, gameplay and animations make this a must-have for any baseball fan, hardcore, casual or otherwise. Have you played it? Let us know what you think in the comments!