MLB 13 The Show Review
Let's me start this off by stating that baseball is my at least my third favorite sport somewhere behind football and basketball and that football has a pretty strong lead over basketball. So, what I'm saying is that baseball isn't anywhere near my favorite. Nonetheless I like it in the sense that I will watch it at a bar if nothing else is on or that I will watch the seventh game of a playoff series. It's also been a while since I have played a baseball video game, probably five years give or take a couple of years. Yet when the opportunity came to review MLB 13 The Show I jumped at the chance for reasons I don't really understand. So after playing it for a couple of weeks do I think I made a wise choice in wanting to review it or was it a decision that I wish I could take back? You know how to find out....read on!
As I mentioned it's been quite some time since I've gone out to the old virtual ballpark and shagged some balls. I got shut out of my first attempt to play because of a variety of system updates and the recommended hard drive install that all told took about 30 minutes. I pretty much didn't feel like playing anything after that. But the next day I laced up my shoes and slapped some pine tar on my controller, not too much, eh Mr. Brett, and finally got things underway. What happened next was something I was not fully prepared to handle and was certainly surprised by; I loved the game. I will go into details and all of that, but I was totally blown away by this game unlike any I have played since BioShock (which I consider one of the all-time greatest games). Maybe it's because I haven't played a baseball game in long time or maybe it's just that MLB 13 The Show is just a really good game, I tend to believe it's the latter. The Show shines on so many levels: graphics, animations, audio, variety of game modes, deep gameplay, and the nebulous fun factor.
There are a ridiculous amount of game modes to The Show with one really standing out to me. These include Franchise, Post Season, Diamond Dynasty, Mini Modes (batting and fielding pratice among others), The Show Live, among others. The one I enjoyed the most was Road To The Show (RTTS) where you create your player and start him off in AA ball and work your way up to the majors. RTTS focuses on your dude the whole time and you get to feel very involved in his progress. I really wanted Joe Marino, #13 of course, to do well and felt slighted when he was used as a pinch hitter in one game instead of being a starter. There are a bunch of options to get things going here but I like selecting the mode where only plays my guy was involved in would show up. Of course all at bats for Marino were interactive but to keep things going quicker you can bypass fielding plays that didn't involve your position. I was a right fielder and there would be time where I would not be involved in a play for a couple of innings. It seems like it might take you out of the action, and in a way it might, but it makes the games easy to digest in little nuggets of about 10-15 minutes a game. If I'm honest here, part of the reason this review wasn't done sooner was that I kept wanting to play RTTS a little more. Totally worth it.
One of the issues I had, and there were not many, was a lost feeling I had at the start of the game. There are a bunch of icons, graphics, stats, and abbreviations that I had no know what they meant. It was a little frustrating at time, but the game was entertaining enough for me to keep going despite my lack of knowledge. Luckily for me there was a Beginner difficultly level that helped ease me into the basics of the game, but still, I would have really liked to have some more assistance with what all the different on screen indicators meant. On a side note, I was also disappointed that they didn't have a real Coke bottle in the outfield of the San Francisco Giants stadium but some sort of generic freak of a bottle.
To those that have previous versions of The Show and wonder if there are enough new features, the game highlights several improvements over its predecessors including updated graphics, new scouting and training system in franchise mode, new push/pull hitting trajectory engine, challenge of the week real-time leaderboard, a cross platform home run derby with the PS Vita, and more. I'm not sure how much of an improvement MLB 13 is from 12, but 13 is awesome...so there's that.
Fielding and batting are done very well. I didn't progress enough in my still level to take advantage of some of the more advanced controls but it was obvious from the little tinkering that I did that they are responsive and well thought out. Seeing how many levels of control modifications there are and how long I have been playing with the most basic level it's easy to see many hours of challenging gameplay ahead. I took me awhile to get my bearings when switching from the more personal camera perspective in RTTS to the more broadcast type seen in the rest of the game, but each has their strengths. So there is a learning curve and it takes a bit of time to figure out how to control your fielder. Playing as a pitcher is even more complicated but thanks to the Beginner level slowly ramping up the difficulty it's not too hard to handle. Batting feel natural on Beginner level and also slowly ramps up until you are really controlling your swing.
There are a bunch of great online features that will keep social butterflies happy. I toyed around in them and could tell they were easy to use and offered a tremendous amount of fun and competition.
Final Rating: 97%. In a world where some game franchises seem to just be releasing uninspired updates, MLB 13 The Show shows what happens when the developers really care about their game, both the video game and real world variety.