“Seven years,” my friend sympathetically replies every time MLB 18 The Show screws me out of a win. It’s been like this for seven years. The whole scenario is comical, really. I spend close to sixty dollars for one of my favorite sports sims, and each year it ends in furious uninstallation. We’ll get in to all the gory details on why I’ve finally given up hope on The Show, and I hope my review accurately exposes some of the game’s biggest flaws in an effort to right this steadily sinking ship.
Before we begin there, however, we’ll need to run through a brief overview of all that’s included in this year’s version of The Show. All of our beloved game modes return with the exception of an online franchise mode (that segment has been removed). Conquest, the risk style conquering of all 30 MLB teams, returns with improvements; the board no longer takes minutes to cycle through the attack phase, and each subsequent phase moves at an adequate pace. Road to the show underwent some significant changes, particularly in the way you upgrade your player. You can no longer purchase microtransactions in order to boost your player up to max rating, and your abilities improve as you do on the field. Franchise, along with the coveted fantasy draft, still exists, and the arcade mode with the retro visuals option returns this year, too.
Diamond Dynasty once again rules the day (for me), and it returns with the card building gameplay that I’ve come to love. In this year, however, The Show made creating a character a lot more tame. In order to increase your character in DD, you’ll need to accomplish program missions. In any event, your diamond player, while still very productive, will never feature the same intense power and speed of the ones that used to haunt me before. Still, Diamond Dynasty also features the most inept gameplay of the whole game.
Before I get into the frustrating miscues the game forces on your players, I need to address something. The hitting in MLB The Show 18 this year is atrocious. I understand that the best hitters in baseball only have a 30% chance of getting a hit during any at-bat. That’s fine. I understand that even when they put a great swing on the ball, it may go nowhere; that’s fine, too. Late and early swings can result in little bloops or blasts, and every scenario under the sun. I get all of that. What I don’t get is the inconsistency in the game. If I put a good swing while looking in where the pitch is located, I should, more often than not, get a hit. If I’m guessing location and pitch and putting good swings through an entire game and am being no hit, I start to get frustrated… especially when the other team has 6 hits on bad swings while leaving meatballs to hit.
Inversely, my pitching is typically stellar. I love pitching in The Show, and I have usually put up a strong, sub 3.00 ERA with my collective rotation. I know I can’t pitch well with certain pitchers and try to avoid them (painfully, Corey Kluber is one such pitcher I bomb with). In The Show 18, my pitching gets rocked. It doesn’t matter if I have perfect or good releases, the game seems to dictate where my pitches will go. I’ll have a perfect game going through 6 innings on 40 pitches, and my pitcher will go wild 90% of the time. When I start to get into the divisional series of a ‘season’ (each month is a new season, and the divisional series it’s the 2nd or 3rd highest ranking you can achieve), my well pitched pitches are ALL rocketed for home runs. They could be a foot beneath or outside of the zone, but these players somehow blast each pitch. When I bat, nothing. I understand it won’t always work out, but it definitely feels that, too often, the game will kill my streaks – and I have plenty of witnesses to vouch for that.
And if, by the miracle of a heavenly entity, I have pitched extremely well to a certain point, the game will make sure to apply pressure. I roll with Francisco Lindor (during this current, all star event, I have to use Xander Bogaerts), one of the top defensive players in the game, and he will (along with literally EVERY shortstop I have ever used), without question, make an error in the 8th or 9th when I’m up by one. Those are the only errors my SS makes, but it’s every time in a big game. There isn’t an “it only happens once-in-a-great-while”; no, it has happened the past five games when my SS has been in that situation. Otherwise, the game will force some of the best defenders (Eric Hosmer, for example, misses routine pop ups often and Michael Brantley will let a ball bounce off his head) to make some of the worst mistakes. It’s beyond frustrating, and it often will cost the entire game for me.
Still, with my frustrations aired, the value of MLB The Show 18 is a perfect 100%. I can sink hundreds of hours into each iteration of the game every year. This year, I haven’t spent a penny on stubs (I got a lucky Mike Trout in an early booster pack and sold it for close to 400,000 stubs). With the various programs unlocking many more players, MLB The Show 18’s Diamond Dynasty modes offer more opportunities to build a better team without forcing people to pay for it (to be clear, they never required anyone to buy stubs, but the market often dictated the need).
In all, MLB The Show 18 is still the best baseball sim and one of the best sports sims on the market. Despite the glaring flaws I pointed out earlier (seriously, devs or veteran players, teach me how to hit better, if possible), I still hold an approximate .650-.700 win percentage and a team ERA of about 3.50. I have played the game pretty consistently from launch, so my skills are probably the sharpest they’ve been since picking it up. The other game modes work well, and there is unlimited gaming potential within The Show. Baseball fans and PS4 owners can rejoice once again, even if it comes with some serious sides of rage.