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MLB 13 The Show review

Great
AT A GLANCE
  • Significantly improved batting
  • Gorgeous visuals
  • Welcoming to newcomers
  • Road to the Show mode getting stale
  • No compelling new modes
  • Showing its age

MLB The Show has been a vile temptress to thousands of sports fans for an entire console generation. Beautiful and alluring yet blisteringly difficult, it’s single-handedly sold more than a few PlayStations while simultaneously causing the destruction of expensive controllers. Finally, after years of tightening the screws on a solid baseball experience, the development team at Sony San Diego has heard the outcry and solved its biggest problem. MLB 13 The Show is the most accessible version of the franchise yet.

Playing a game of MLB 13 on the standard difficulty settings offers a challenging yet well-balanced experience. Like real baseball, hits are still hard to come by. Unlike past versions, though, an adjusted speed of the game and an increase in positive results for well-timed swings has transformed hitting from a painful act into a joyful one. While none of the control mechanics are fundamentally different than last year’s, batting, pitching, and fielding all feel a bit better and come together beautifully.

What’s more, beginners--typically the least-considered constituent of a console sports simulation--are welcomed to The Show with open arms. A true entry-level setting lets newbies enjoy its beautiful presentation while learning the basics, which serves several purposes. For starters, a wider variety of people will be able to pick up and play successfully. Even better, The Show tracks your success, provides feedback, then ups the ante little by little to keep pace as you learn. While there’s still room for more strategic teaching and tutorial segments, it’s a significant improvement that invites everyone interested in baseball to step up to the plate. Conversely, hardcore fans shouldn’t fear that they’ve been left behind, as The Show still offers the high-skill difficulty settings and deep configuration options its predecessors are known for.

"MLB 13 The Show is the most accessible version of the franchise yet."

Another calling card of The Show has been its lush sound and visuals, and this season does nothing to tarnish that reputation. From the nuanced player models featuring hundreds of individual mannerisms to the intricate stadium details and name- and situation-specific crowd noise, The Show envelopes you in the game of baseball. An upgraded TV-style presentation puts it all together in a lovely package, tailored to whether you’re playing a game in the minors or on the big stage. While there are signs that the series has hit a wall of sorts with the hardware--occasional framerate dips and players gliding through each other in the field--these are minor quibbles in an otherwise well-rounded experience.

The oft-acclaimed Road to the Show single-player career mode returns for the seventh straight year, streamlined to negate the agonizing load times of years past and featuring adjustments to presentation and advancement objectives. However, while many consider RTTS the trademark of the franchise, it remains essentially the same core experience since its introduction in 2007. Devoid of any emotional connection between you and your player, major career milestones and interactions with your managers are simply met with on-screen text. The Show seems happy to tinker with the same formula year after year, even as other sports sims significantly expand similar modes to add personality and variety. It’s a missed opportunity.

"The Show has refined its core gameplay and career modes to tremendous levels of realism, but it's failed to introduce a new, compelling way to play the game."

In fact, The Show as a whole feels like a modular evolution of the franchise. There are tons of microscopic improvements all around, yet the untrained eye will be hard-pressed to spot many of them. Over the past few years, the competition has improved; NBA 2K lit the sports game world afire with the Jordan Challenge, Madden rebuilt its foundation with Connected Careers and an all-new physics engine, and FIFA’s Online Clubs revolutionized multiplayer soccer forever. During that same time, The Show has refined its core gameplay and career modes to tremendous levels of realism, but it's failed to introduce a new, compelling way to play the game.

Its only truly unique feature is special, though. Using cross-save capabilities with the Vita’s version increases the value of both games immeasurably. Like last year, being able to play your franchise, season, or Road to the Show on either platform and move them back and forth is a delight--and one no other sports game offers.

The Show has the well-deserved reputation as the gold standard of current sports games, and thanks to its improved accessibility this season, more people should be able to enjoy it. It offers depth of gameplay and customization in a gorgeous, immersive baseball experience. As other sports games have taken risks and made dramatic changes to their foundation, however, The Show has kept their formula mostly unchanged while doubling down on the core experience. It’s a safe choice that pays dividends to dedicated fans and hopefully opens the door to new ones.

This game was reviewed on the PS3.

Editor's Note: Review has been updated to reflect online play post-launch.

More Info

Release date: Mar 05 2013 - PS Vita, PS3 (US)
Available Platforms: PS Vita, PS3
Genre: Sports
Published by: SCEA
ESRB Rating:
Everyone

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4 comments

  • TheFreekish1 - April 28, 2013 11:55 p.m.

    You that have nothing good yo say bought this game must not be Talking about the same game!! You have no clue...you can change settings for however you like hitting Fielding pitching...im leaving this discussion alone
  • ryan-mcgaha - March 6, 2013 9:11 a.m.

    I've been playing MLB 13 The Show for about 17 of the last 24 hours and I couldn't disagree with you anymore. Presentation is terrible. The announce team couldn't sound any more artificial. Nothing about their commentary seems real. Matt Vasgersian just rambles on and on trying to play catch up. Online play so far has been horrible. I've played 4 games online and I'm 3-1. It was difficult to play with connection issues and lag with my opponent. I assure you it's not my 50mbps internet that is lagging. So if I want to play online I have to find someone with a top notch ISP and speeds like myself. No servers to help with the connections. The one place the MLB The Show shines is the in depth features of their game modes Franchise, RTTS and the Diamond Dynasty. All three of these features are amazing. As amazing as those features are I can't let the terrible game play slide by. Pure Analog pitching and hitting are horrible, but I'll assign part of the blame to PS3 and their controllers. The Analog sticks are so loose it's impossible to go straight back and forward with them. If this were on 360 I'd be willing to bet everyone would love the Pure Analog control styles. The other control styles for hitting and pitching : Zone, Classic and Meter,Classic and Pulse all make me feel like I'm doing nothing. Hitting on this game is still ridiculous. It has improved some. Still way too many weak "oops I didn't mean to swing" type hits. Also in any control scheme for hitting I don't feel like I have control of where I want to hit the ball. They say it's based on timing and the hitters spray charts. This is not like real baseball. Watch any good hitter and you can tell where he is trying to hit the ball. Then usually he'll hit the ball there. I don't feel like i have this type of control in this game. Pitching is insane as well. The pitch never goes where I aim for it to go, even if ,no matter which control scheme I'm using, I perfectly execute the pitch. The one positive for pitching in this game is the pitchers seem to fatigue realistically. Fielding in this game is a big area of concern for me. Even with the best infielders I can't get to regular ground balls in the hole. There are not too many balls that gets by Brandon Phillips at 2B for the Reds. I see at least five get by him per game on The Show. Also too many times I've had my fielder lined up perfectly to catch a fly ball, then it mysteriously drops to the ground. Finally on fielding is the throwing. The throw meter is stupid. Just plain stupid. All fielders that I have noticed have the same green spot. Shouldn't that spot be bigger or smaller depending on the fielders throwing ability. Then too many times I've just barely missed the green spot, like it's just barely past it in the yellow and the ball goes way off line usually resulting in an error. Baserunning , maybe I'm dumb but I can't figure it out. I have to aim the Left analog stick at the runner then tell him what to do. I've tried this and usually they just stop running. So I'm left with just advancing all and returning all. You may want to discredit me for the upcoming closing part but here it goes. A lot of the "new" improvements and the "new" game mode "The Show Live" were mostly ripped straight from MLB 2K series. Analog hitting and pitching were perfected by the 2K series. The new throwing meter in the field, was done first by MVP baseball then perfected by the 2K series. The above mentioned new game mode "The Show Live" is a direct ripoff of the MLB Today game mode from 2K. I'm not trying to say 2K is the better game or not. 2K has some serious issues with glitches and poor graphics and just hardly ZERO depth and features in their game modes. However, while the glitches are annoying, they are usually minor and don't effect the outcome of the game too often. I am willing to sacrifice a level or two of graphics in exchange for better gameplay. Sorry MLB2k may not look as good, but the pitching is the best ever of any baseball game. The fielding is par. The baserunning is easy. The hitting I have complete control of where i want to hit the ball. The announce team and audio presentation squashes MLB The Show. They also have servers and better online connections. So I've played both games. I went out and bought a PS3 just so I can play The Show. I feel like I have wasted $370.00 . I could have just bought MLB 2k and would have been happy.
  • Hawkman21 - March 6, 2013 11:46 a.m.

    I'm not trying to knock you at all here, but maybe you're feeling a little buyer's remorse. I've bought The Show soon after release for a long time, and I've always found myself regretful at least a month or two in. I'd wonder why I dropped $60 and end up trading it in for $20 at GameStop. I can only imagine how upset I'd be if I did go out and buy a PS3 just for this game. I guess I'd give you the same advice I always tried to tell myself, just keep at it, keep working and maybe you'll start to love it a bit more. After all, you did say you logged 17 hours already. Can't remember doing that on a game that I wasn't totally thrilled with.
  • avantguardian - March 6, 2013 4:18 p.m.

    you need to tweak some sliders, finding that balance between sim and your own personal skill level is key. i've been playing this series since it debuted on ps3, and while i agree with you about the controller, i would disagree about pretty much everything else. hitting, pitching, defense, and baserunning all have their quirks, but once you figure these out, the game really starts to shine. i used the reds last year, and phillips was a goddamn force of nature up the middle. like hawkman said, keep plugging away, this game is hard. the payoff is well worth it, imo.

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