Didn’t we just watch the lights go off at the Super Bowl? And yet here I am in early March with spring training under way ready to talk about the latest entry into The Show lineup with MLB 13: The Show. After years of domination of the virtual sport, this year’s entry comes to us at the tail end of the Playstation 3 life cycle hoping to continue to build its lead on the MLB 2K series.
Last years game was all about small iterative changes, and the same can actually be said for MLB 13: The Show as well. The bulk of the action in this series has been in the franchise and the Road to the Show mode. And we will get to those in a second. The only really substantial new mode, which I enjoyed a lot, was the Playoff Mode. Often times in Franchise mode I simulate 95% of my games, and in Road to the Show I am only playing one position. So it was nice taking my Angels of Anaheim (see what I did there) through the Playoffs and actually playing all of the games. They have in the year since MLB 12 significantly upped the excitement level of playoff baseball by adding a more exuberant crowd both in visuals and in sound. I still think that bar needs to be raised even higher. I had a pivotal Game 7 against the hated Yankees up only a run in the 9th inning and the crowd still felt a bit timid like it was a game in the middle of August rather then October.
Road to the Show is still one of the if not the best career modes in a sports game, only rivaled by that of the NBA 2K franchise. However I would be deceitful if I didn’t mention my frustration that they are beginning to play it a little safe. The mode is still incredible and they have made some significant improvements with the camera angles for all positions. I played as a short stop and found that fielding for ground balls, turning double plays, and running the bases all felt far more fluid then in years past. I still think the game is missing a huge element outside of just playing the game. They need to expand past the grind of the 162 game season, rather then just playing the game. We know players have to deal with interviews, endorsements, slumps, injuries, etc. Lets get to experience some of that.
One thing the Road to the Show mode has really nailed over the years and continues to be rewarding you for your success. There is a huge sense of accomplishment going from AA to AAA and off to the big leagues. I actually had my player get demoted back to AAA for a few games and then get placed back up in the majors permanently. There was a huge sense of setback when that happened and it wasn’t overly pleasant. But hey this is what the pros have to deal with and to be honest I wasn’t playing well.
I played far more Road to the Show then I did Franchise, but I played enough to know that it’s still a fantastic mode. This is a mode for only the true die-hard baseball fans and for more of the casual player might be too overwhelming. Look the game of baseball is complicated, and just dealing with the farm system is a game within itself. You could literally spend hours just tinkering your team both in the pros and minors. There is then the day-to-day management of the team, and all sorts of extras. One thing I did notice is that it is far easier to navigate around the crazy complex world of the franchise mode that was a much needed change from past years games.
So we have been talking modes but we haven’t really been talking about the game of baseball itself. Part of that is because of how much stuff there is to do outside of the main game. The other reason is that MLB 13: The Show still plays a lot like MLB 12, which is to say amazing. This is one of those games that a casual onlooker will think you are just watching a game on TV. My biggest problem with MLB 12’s gameplay was the pulse pitching which was back and unchanged from last year. I’m telling you that mechanic makes me nervous and jittery, its was to difficult even with the best pitchers in the league so I switched it back over to the far better meter pitching.
The rest of the on-field action is as pure as its been in the past. I love what they have done with the franchise and there really isn’t much need to change much. Not to mention the game not only plays well but it looks stunning. Outside of the minor league stadiums that look expectedly bland, the major league ballparks are incredible. There is this incredible amount of detail and nuance put into each ballpark. I wish they would just have a mode to tour the virtual ballparks.
MLB 13: The Show is admittedly a small step forward. It has cleaned up some of the rougher edges in both the Franchise and the Road to the Show mode while maintaining its near-perfect on the field action. What else can I say, MLB 13: The Show remains one of the pinnacle sports franchises in the business today.