After the unforgettable conclusion to the 2016 MLB season that saw the Chicago Cubs break their 108-year drought, baseball is back and with it comes the latest entry in the MLB The Show franchise, MLB The Show 17. After years of competition from Electronic Arts and 2K Sports, MLB The Show 17 is the only non-arcade baseball game again this year. Does the lack of competition mean Sony San Diego will rest on their laurels?
My favorite part of any MLB The Show game is Road to the Show. It's what I'd consider to be their flagship mode which involves taking a player through their career. Road to the Show has been in need of an overhaul, and it has finally happened in MLB The Show 17. The entire perspective has changed this year and is now being presented in the style of a sports documentary. I created a starting pitcher with the name Joel Ziegler who started with the Erie SeaWolves (the AA team for the Detroit Tigers) and after two up and down seasons, I was finally promoted to the Toledo Mud Hens where I played a season and a half before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and given a spot in their bullpen.
During a season, the narrator would pop in between random games with a brief cutscene and updates from your agent or coaching staff. I'm not exaggerating but the narrator couldn't have a more mundane voice. This isn't helped by the terrible cutscenes. The entire package of these scenes is a huge letdown. This isn't the first sports game to implement a story (see NBA 2K17 or FIFA 17 for great examples) but when you keep things as broad as Road to the Show you're left with an incredibly uninspired and uninteresting presentation. There's nothing about the additions to Road to the Show that push you forward. Once you get past the mode's newest setup, the rest of it is the same. You get experience points for being a good ball player and lose them for mistakes. There are tangible impacts to your player's performance based on these upgrades which makes the grind of a 162 game season much more engaging than it sounds.
Action on the diamond, whether in Road to the Show or the game's many other modes, remains much the same in MLB The Show 17. That's not a bad thing as it continues to be one of the best playing sports video games available today. The one big noticeable changes are the insane amount of new player animations. As someone who's played a ton of this franchise it always felt like there was a set trajectory for every hit but a lot of that has been improved in this year's game. There are a lot more line drives down the first and third-base lines than I ever remember in past games.
The other big addition to MLB The Show 17 is the retro mode. To honor Ken Griffey Jr., who graces the cover of the game, they made a mode that vividly recalls Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball. To do this, they combined their simulation game of baseball with a new mode with a visual style that will feel right at home to anyone that played those old games. It's a fun distraction and even better if you play with friends (even those who don't play games often). Otherwise, the novelty wears thin after a few games.
I did review MLB The Show 17 using the Playstation 4 Pro on a 4K HDR TV. The game defaulted to a 4K HDR setting which had serious framerate issues. After digging around with the settings, there were options to tweak the visuals and performance and I ended up going with a higher framerate over higher resolution. I didn't see a discernible difference in the resolutions but did notice the framerate dips were less frequent on the high frame rate setting.
MLB The Show 17 is still a great game of baseball but one that with each season seems less and less impressive compared to other sports games available. With a lack of competition, it's hard to not recommend. But with each year I'm still wanting to see the team at Sony San Diego push the envelope even if there isn't any competition to force their hand.
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.