Sony San Diego’s latest entry in its annualized baseball sim series, MLB The Show 17, looked to improve on several of the previous year’s shortcomings as well as bringing some new ideas to America’s favorite pastime; and boy did they knock it out the park.
What makes The Show stand out above the rest of the baseball sims is its incredible career mode entitled, Road To The Show. RTTS has received a makeover of sorts and the Sony San Diego team has stated that this is a foundation year for the mode and it will be refined and added to in future installments. The basis of RTTS is to create a ballplayer and take him on his journey from the minor leagues to hopefully Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame. This year’s version boasts a create-a-player option, RPG-like stat boosts, and the biggest addition; having the player make choices for their career. The whole mode is designed to be like a documentary following around your player with narration and the ability to choose how to handle situations, called “Pave Your Path.” For example, I was brought in to my minor league manager’s office and was told that they were going to try me out at a different position. I had the options to accept it, meekly go along with the plan or flat out refuse. I love the dynamics this brings to RTTS, which was quickly becoming stale in previous years. It offers an extremely high replay value and I can’t wait to see how they build on it for next year’s RTTS mode.
Franchise and Season modes are back and are still a ton of fun. Whether you just want to play out the 2017 season or take over as GM of your favorite team for the next couple of decades, you can do that. Instead of playing every game of the 162 game MLB season, The Show 17 introduces different ways to play during these modes. These options include playing the full game, quick manage, player lock (The RTTS of Franchise mode) and manage the full game. Quick manage lets players take the role of the manager and make strategic decisions while simulating the game. The big plus for this option is it only takes 5 minutes to get through a game. If you decided to hop in and play traditionally, you can with ZERO load times. If you want to hop back to manage mode, it takes seconds to make that switch and you’re off giving signs to the third base coach. Critical Situations is another addition to players who simulate through a season. Critical Situations are key moments that can either win or lose the game for the ball club. Whether it’s a man on third base with 0 outs in the bottom of the 9th with your team down by 2 runs or trying to get the cleanup hitter who has crushed your pitcher that game out for the first time, Critical Situations allow you to take control of your team for these moments. It’s a super great idea and it is implemented perfectly. The Franchise and Season modes still have some kinks that haven’t fully been ironed out yet though. The CPU controlled teams often trade away a star player for almost zero return and I wish there was more of a big to-do for the Hall of Fame inductions and actual activities to do in the offseason.
Diamond Dynasty is The Show’s version of Ultimate Team in the FIFA series. I’ve stayed away from this mode in the past, but felt drawn to play this whenever I put the game in. The object of the mode is to collect baseball cards from buying packs or completing missions (which will be constantly updated throughout the year) and using the cards to field your team to play against others online. The allure of collecting your favorite players brought back the nostalgia of being a kid and buying packs upon packs of cards to have the ultimate collection. For the most part it is super fun to play against others with your assembled All Star squad. However, there is some performance issues depending on your opponents internet connection that can really make it unplayable.
Another big draw of Diamond Dynasty mode is Conquest. Conquest acts like the old board game of Risk where you place your team’s fans on the map of the country trying to take over the entire league. You do this by attacking other team’s fans by playing them in a 3-inning game. Once you get to the other teams “Stronghold”, you can attempt to take them over and in turn take their fans. This on paper sounds like a lot of fun and it is. The only drawback I can find with this is the slowburn. It might be that I am not very good at this, but it seems like it takes a long time to progress on the board and when you do finally make it to where you want to go, the end result doesn’t seem super gratifying. They also always put your team in the same spot on the board and it would be nice to have some choice on where to start.
A new edition to The Show 17 is Retro mode. It plays exactly how it sounds. For the most part it is a one button accessible game mode where you can move your batter in the box to direct your hits and your pitcher on the mound to aim your pitches. While this mode is fun and a nice throwback, it doesn’t seem like one that will keep me coming back. The 8-Bit filter is a nice touch and shows how far baseball games have come.
Any game that boasts brand new modes and new ways to play, would mean nothing unless the gameplay is solid. I’m very happy to say that MLB The Show 17 feels fantastic. Fielding and batting relatively stay the same and both feel great. Once you get a hold of a ball and crush it over the fence, you feel ready to take on the world. Pitching is the real star though. Pitches move and dance just like in real life. I found myself thinking like the pitcher to try and outsmart the hitters at the plate. When you mess up and throw a giant meatball down the middle, the CPU will make you pay. It is one of the most realistic feeling sport games I’ve ever played.
The Verdict: 9.7 out of 10
MLB The Show 17 is a master class for the sports game genre. I feel the urge to get back in and play from the moment I wake up, to way past my bedtime. Luckily, the game plays great and you are rewarded constantly for doing just that. Even when the game suffers some technical setbacks (online play) or makes some weird and stupid decisions (Trade logic), the presentation and great gameplay is there to keep me coming back. I don’t know how Sony San Diego does it in such a short time span, but they are extremely talented and it shows. It’s one of the best baseball games ever made.
Kyle Stephenson is a lifelong gamer and movie lover emanating from Long Island, NY. When he’s not playing games or watching movies, he is cleaning up the streets of Gotham City and playing superheroes with his 3 nieces. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd to keep up with what he is doing.