MLB: The Show 18 is exactly what you’d expect from Sony San Diego: it’s beautiful, plays wonderfully and is graphically better than the previous year. These are the things we’ve come to expect from the sports game that is the definition of consistency. Inherent in it’s consistency however, is also one of its biggest flaws: every year we get basically the same game peppered with a few upgrades, new animations and updated rosters. MLB: The Show 18 is no different.
There’s a reason MLB: The Show has stuck around for so long: instead of improving by leaps and bounds and adding huge new features, Sony San Diego chooses to simply improve what already works. Year after year it improves its modes, appearance and gameplay – perfecting the feel of an authentic baseball broadcast to give players the most realistic baseball simulation possible.
This year MLB: The Show 18 looks better than ever. It features more realistic ball physics, allowing the ball to travel off the bat in a more natural way. You can really feel when you hit the ball, making batting a pleasure, especially when you line one up perfectly and smash it out of the park. You can also customize your batting stance this year, with nearly limitless potential. Raise your elbow a little, squat a bit lower, change your kick style – it’s all here. You can also choose from a larger-than-ever list of pro stances, which even includes Toronto Blue Jays hero Joe Carter.
Most modes have been improved including Diamond Dynasty, Franchise and Road to the Show. Franchise mode has had its tedious menu system overhauled in favour of “phases”, which allows each manager to do their part during 19 distinct periods during the baseball season. This includes sponsorships, trades, salaries and more – with the option of toggling tasks to ‘auto’ if you don’t feel like they’re important enough to do yourself. While better this year, it’s still behind franchise modes in other titles like NBA2K18.
Diamond Dynasty is huge and quite honestly, a little intimidating. Admittedly, this is my least favourite mode, so I haven’t played it this year.
The reason I play MLB: The Show, however, is the Road to the Show mode. It sticks to the documentary-style presentation that worked well last year, with players answering questions and showing off their personality (though I’m still not sure if the answers you give have any impact on anything regarding your career). Every year, I create my player and grind his stats until he’s a powerhouse – winning games with walk-off home runs and diving outfield catches. It’s what I love about this game, the ability to start from the bottom and live through the meteoric rise through minor ball to the majors.
So when I was introduced to the new “Archetype” system, I was a little confused. MLB: The Show 18 has taken away the XP system of old and replaced it with real-time stat upgrades based on performance. Where last year you could spend your XP to increase specific attributes to make your player your way, this year you choose a player archetype at creation, and your stats increase in direct correlation to what you do on the field, as well as through static training screens. Do well on the field, they get better, do poorly and they regress. The problem with this is that your levels have caps that need to be ‘trained’ higher and you’re only able to train what’s available at that time. So often I find that my preferred attributes like hitting power and contact are capped, and not available to ‘train up’ to increase them, so I’m training things like bunting and base stealing in hopes that they’ll be there in the next training session. Additionally, when double XP bonuses appear randomly, you better have a great game, because while your stats advance at double the rate when you play well, if you have a bad game they also recede at double the rate. It’s all quite frustrating. The plus side is that micro-transactions have been removed from the mode.
If you’re looking to play this game online – and if you’ve ever played any game in this series online, I don’t think you are – just don’t. Lag, as usual, makes it nearly unplayable – messing up your timing in a game that relies so heavily on it. I’m not sure what the disconnect is here, but I’m stunned that this is happening after so many opportunities to improve this feature over the years.
Overall, MLB: The Show 18 is the best baseball simulation you can buy, and the best game in the franchise so far. It is, however, more of the same; but when the same is this good, no one can really complain. If you’ve played it, let us know what you think in the comments!