This might sound odd, but I love reviewing sports games. I really do. I’ve been doing it for over a decade and it’s an annual check in to see how some of my favorite video game franchises are doing. With the start of spring, it means it’s time to check out and review the latest baseball game from Sony San Diego, MLB The Show 18. In my review of MLB The Show 17 last year, I mentioned that I felt the franchise was beginning to feel a little long in the tooth. So, were there big changes in this year’s game?
The short answer is sort of. On the field MLB The Show 18 is a much more refined experience and from my eye, it seems like it’s the area that has received the biggest improvements in the game. When you first load up MLB The Show 18 there’s a brief tutorial that allows you to test out all of the different control schemes available for hitting, pitching, fielding and base running. As I say every year they should eliminate pulse pitching from the control options but that’s probably just my opinion. It ended up being a nice refresher to the game and gave me the opportunity to try out all of the different control options available.
The biggest change in MLB The Show 18 seems to be in the batter’s box. In the past, I’ve found MLB The Show to be unforgiving when it comes to hitting often making me just switch to playing the game as a pitcher in Road to the Show. This year though I found that there’s just a little more give in hitting. Part of that seems to be a much-improved animation system with hitting. There’s now a lot of variety with hitting making each at-bat feel unique. That might sound like a bullet from a press release but as someone who’s played every iteration of this franchise, I can say that it’s a big improvement over past years.
The rest of the on-field action feels less refined. Pitching hasn’t changed all that much. Fielding has had some minor tweaks, especially in the outfield. If you don’t get a good jump on a fly ball or attack the ball at the right trajectory you can miss the big catch. It’s not difficult but it feels more realistic then it has in years past. These might sound like small changes they go a long way in adding to the authenticity of the game. And as for the hitting went a long way in my enjoyment of this year’s outing.
The biggest downside to MLB The Show 18 is the lack of change that has come to the Road to the Show and Franchise modes. I for one have put in more hours then I care to admit over the years in Road to the Show and was sad to see that it only had minimal changes this year. Road to the Show keeps the documentary style approach which as continues to need a ton of work. The only change to this year’s Road to the Show is the change in progression. Instead of earning XP and slowly leveling up your player it instead happens organically. As you perform your stats improve. Simple right? And it makes sense in the context of a 162-game season that with each game you might see improvements in the areas that you perform well in. You will have some bigger decisions throughout Road to the Show that will determine your overall archetype (big hitter versus contact hitter for example) and discussions with your manager about your performance and potential changes coming. I still really enjoy Road to the Show but its also a mode that I wouldn’t mind seeing them go back to the drawing board on.
One of my favorite sports games of all time was NBA 2K11 which had a mode specifically made for the most memorable moments of Michael Jordan’s career. When Sony San Diego announced that they’d be bringing some more baseball’s biggest legends to MLB The Show 18 I was hoping we might get a mode that looked back on some of the biggest moments in baseball history. How great would it be to have a mode specifically developed around Babe Ruth? Instead, the legends are additions to the very popular Diamond Dynasty mode, this franchises version of the collectible card game found in most sports titles. This is a mode that’s never appealed to me so my review won’t cover this mode.
There are other small tweaks that have come to MLB The Show 18 including the addition of Mark DeRosa to the trio of commentators. DeRosa is a nice addition although there’s a small percentage of his commentary that doesn’t flow all that well with the other two announcers. Otherwise his insights into the games are usually accurate and freshen up the booth. Commentary continues to be a huge strength for The Show and DeRosa only improves that.
MLB The Show 18 continues to be one of the best sports games released each year. The action on the field is an incredible recreation of the real-life sport. I do wish that Sony San Diego would take bigger risks each year with its Road to the Show and Franchise modes. But what is offered up in this year’s game makes for a great game of baseball and one that I’ll be coming back to all year long.
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 bring you the best possible video game coverage. Oh and I really like sports games.