Baseball’s Back And Better Than Ever
MLB The Show 16 combines the amazing presentation style and gameplay of its predecessors with a host of new features to make MLB The Show 16 my favorite game of 2016. The core gameplay remains generally the same, but there are enough new elements that prevent the game from being a simple roster update from last year’s entry. These new features, while taking away from the realism of the game, increase the RPG qualities of the game and dramatically improve the online multiplayer.
MLB The Show 16 fulfills any baseball fanatic’s fantasy. Want to manage your franchise to the World Series? Create a player and earn your way to Cooperstown? Draft your own fantasy team and take on drastically different (sometimes hilarious) lineups? The Show has all that and more. And once you’re done with the offline modes, you will easily get immersed in the online multiplayer experience.
As said above, the core gameplay is essentially the same. However, the new “Showtime” meter is a major change. At the bottom of the screen is a meter, pressing R2 will deplete the meter, but slow down time, letting you crush that high fastball or strike out Miguel Cabrera with a nasty slider. As a batter it’s really only good for two swings, so choose wisely, but it makes pitching ridiculously easy. It doesn’t cost much to use Showtime for pinpoint accuracy. I was averaging ten or more strikeouts a game with my pitcher because of Showtime until I amped the difficulty up. Showtime slightly removes the immersion and makes The Show feel more video-gamey than its predecessors. If used properly, however, Showtime can create some awesome moments. I wasn’t too thrilled about it until I absolutely crushed a 450 foot homerun with my clean up hitter. That moment made up for all the lack of realism and failed attempts before. It’s worth noting that this feature is entirely optional, since you can simply choose not to use it.
The Show has the same offline features of previous games in the series. The Show’s Road To The Show option lets you create your own player and step into the shoes of a professional baseball player. After a three day showcase, you’ll get drafted (or choose your favorite team) and work your way through the minors until you finally make it into the majors. Playing well earns skill points, which are used to upgrade your player. RTTS has significantly improved from last year because you play a whole series without having to go back to the home screen. So instead of staring at loading screens, I’m playing baseball. The only new component of RTTS is perks. Reaching a certain level in a skill, such as speed or fielding, unlocks a perk that enhances the player skills at the cost of lowering your Showtime meter. These perks range from useless to overpowered, such as the chance to begin every bases loaded at-bat with a 3-0 count. Like Showtime, perks sacrifice realism for a more typical video game experience. And like Showtime, perks are entirely optional.
The Show also lets you manage your own franchise and has streamlined the managing process. Budgets are easier to comprehend and trade suggestions easily let you shape your franchise however you like. The new morale system is a nice improvement. Players have shifting morale based on their role within the team, playing time, chemistry with other players, and other intangibles. Players with high morale play better, whereas players with low morale play worse. This feature made me care a lot more about the individual players on my team and felt more realistic as I massaged wounded egos left and right.
It’s in the multiplayer that San Diego Studio really tried to innovate. Diamond Dynasty from last year remains the same. Unlock real-life and past players for your team by playing online games. The games are generally well-balanced (except when you play the people who have clearly spent actual money to unlock Babe Ruth and the like) and fun. The two new features are Conquest and Battle Royale. Conquest is a bizarre experience I never warmed up to. North America is divided up into tiny grids with large areas controlled by MLB teams. For instance, the Arizona Diamondbacks control the Arizona region. Each grid has a number correlating to fan support. Your team is plopped in the middle of the map and told to expand your fanbase by conquering grids. Basically it’s a real-time-strategy mod for a genre that certainly wasn’t asking for one. It felt too much like a Total War, which does not mesh well with The Show.
Battle Royale is a great new feature. Draft a team and compete in a double elimination tournament. The games are only three innings, so you can play them quickly. The rewards are greater, but it costs 1,500 stubs to play. This is my favorite feature because the games feel incredibly even. No team has an inherent advantage because of the draft. Everyone is insured the same amount of diamond (hall of fame players), gold, silver, and bronze players. Battle Royale games are entirely based on your skill, not whether you have the best cards or not.
The graphics are slightly enhanced from the PS4 version of the The Show 15. As always, the crack of the bat and the dull thud of the ball in the glove sound perfect. The stadium always feels lively and full of cheering fans. The presentation style is slightly more cinematic and the game is better for it. The slow panning of the camera over your player as he stands in awe of the crowd at his major league debut was fantastic and reminded me of great baseball movies. The song list that serves as soundtrack while you upgrade your player and sit through loading screens is great but irritatingly short. I’ve only heard about six songs and I’m getting really sick of them.
The offline gameplay has zero bugs or glitches from what I have noticed. Online gameplay, however, has the same problems that have plagued the series since its inception. There is far too much lag, which is a deal breaker for online games. I’ve struck out too many times because a pitch, that was clearly a ball, suddenly teleported into the strike zone at the last second. Also, I had to restart the game several times because it froze or would not transition into the next inning. I’m sure this will improve after a patch or two, but it’s really lessened the fun of playing online.
MLB The Show 16 is a fantastic sports game. The gameplay is as fun and immersive as ever. I shouted at the umpire over close calls and pumped my fist at each home run, just like I do when I’m at games or watch them on TV. The new features take away from the realism, but I love that they’re optional. Depending on my mood, I can treat it like a video game or treat it like a true baseball simulator. Although Conquest is a bust, Diamond Dynasty, Road To The Show, and the new Battle Royale are an absolute blast. If you’re a baseball fan, or just a fan of sports or sports games in general, you should absolutely pick this up.