It’s sort of amazing when you take a step back and look at the sports video game landscape today compared to five or ten years ago, and see all of the casualties that the genre has seen in that time period. There are very few sports (Basketball and Soccer the exceptions) that have more than one entry a year. Football has Madden, hockey has NHL, and for baseball, you have MLB The Show. For some that can lead to complacency but for MLB The Show in particular it hasn’t slowed Sony San Diego down in the slightest. Since arriving on the Playstation 4, the series has continued to evolve and improve as it reaches its third entry. Does this game continue to make a big push forward for the franchise?
If you’ve read any of my reviews of past entries in the MLB The Show franchise, you know I have two areas that I put 99% of my time into. Those are the Road to the Show and Franchise modes. For this review I will start with Road to the Show which felt like it had more substantial updates then the Franchise mode. You start Road to the Show by creating your player in an incredibly deep creation tool and then put them through their paces both in a scouting camp and a couple of rookie exhibition games. From there your player will be evaluated and given a score and then thrown into the MLB draft. This is a nice way to ease you into the minor leagues before you start the long trek to the majors. As you progress you will star to encounter one of the big new features in Road to the Show which is player perks. These are abilities and in-game upgrades that allow your player to up his performance when needed.
The other major change that has a big impact on the Road to the Show mode is the new Showtime feature, which is basically like bullet-time for baseball. Depending on the perks you choose for a game and as you replenish the Showtime bar, you can hit R2 and slow down time. What this means is as a pitcher, when you want to hit a corner you hit R2 and dial in your pitch. At the batter’s box this means you can slow the pitch down and clobber it, and in the field it gives you plenty of time to make an epic grab. It’s an interesting feature and especially useful as a pitcher. I don’t think it necessarily adds any extra “wow” moments because of how much it slows things down, but it’s a nice addition. I found it most useful when I needed to get my player out of a slump at the plate, allowing them a little extra help with locking one in and getting the bat on the ball.
I know everyone plays the Franchise mode differently. Some love to sim all the games and play GM. Others like to be the coach and just make lineup decisions and let the games go as they may. For me though, I’m not interested as much in the management aspect of the mode and more just an easy way to play as my Angels through a long season and deal with the high level coaching decisions (injuries, slumping players, fatigue, etc.). From that point of view, the franchise mode hasn’t changed much from last year’s game. But for those who do like to dig deeper, there have been some pretty substantial improvements/changes to the mode. Probably the biggest change is that the players of your team have morale that you have to manage. Start to hit a slump or have a player not getting the playing time he thinks he deserves, and problems ensue. It’s an interesting level of complexity that happens quite a bit in the real deal, but for me, it is just way too much to think about. There is so much complexity to the franchise mode now, that for newcomers, I imagine it’s overwhelming.
The on the field moment to moment gameplay continues to be fantastic over all, though it may be time for some further refinement. Two areas in particular stood out to me. First is fielding. The animation from the ball leaving the bat to reaching the glove in the field is sluggish. Not to mention the transition from the glove to whatever base you throw to hitches slightly. This means on replays, you'll notice a bit of a disconnect between the animations, leaving everything looking a tad off. Second is base running, a true Achilles heel for baseball video games if there's ever been one. There are far too many times that baserunners get caught at the same base or running the wrong direction. Sure this could just be user error, but it’s something that after 1000+ games in this franchise, I still screw up all the time.
MLB The Show 16 is yet another great game of baseball, but for the first time I felt like the franchise is starting to wane in its greatness. I mentioned at the beginning that this is a franchise that has continued to push forward without competition, but this is the first game that’s really starting to feel like the franchise needs some big changes. The core game here is still fantastic but it’s in need of some major overhauls in the moment to moment action on the diamond to keep it at the high pedestal the franchise has been at over the years.
I'm the Owner & Editor in Chief of Darkstation.com. After spending seven years as the reviews editor I took over the site in 2010. The rest is history. Now I work with our amazing staff to try and bring you the best possible video game coverage. Oh and I really like sports games.