Spring has just arrived and with that comes the start of the MLB regular season next week, where the Kansas City Royals are looking to defend their World Series title against the 29 other teams in the league. While the RBI Baseball series was revived in budget form, the MLB The Show series still remains the most true to life baseball experience on consoles and that is once again the case this year with the visually stunning MLB The Show 16.
The MLB The Show series has always provided itself on being a truly authentic baseball experience, not only from the gameplay, but also in the presentation as a whole. While there hasn’t been a big graphical leap from last year’s game, the visuals are still absolutely breathtaking and really the shining gem in that area for the sports game genre. The broadcasting team of Matt Vasgersian, Eric Karros, and Steve Lyons are livelier than ever with more dynamic commentary that in tandem with the visuals help to make MLB The Show 16 feel like a player is experiencing an actual live baseball game.
While most of the game modes in the MLB The Show series are going to be single player experiences, the Road to the Show Mode has done the best at truly making you feel like you are part of the game. At its core, RTTS is the same as in the past, but now there have been a few changes that not only include a new gameplay mechanic, but also elements of the pre-game as well.
Due to new partnerships with real life scouting companies, the drafting process is a little more involved now with the addition of Bowman Scout Day and more advanced scouting reports. This gives you a chance to show off your skills in a training type mode, which can help you elevate your draft stock immensely. While this is a nice first step, this definitely still has some room to grow beyond being such a simplistic training mode in the future. After getting drafted and placed on a team, you now have the ability to not just upgrade your stats with training points, but also the ability to unlock consumable gameplay perks that can be equipped on your player, which adds almost an RPG element to the game.
ShowTime is easily the most important addition to the actual gameplay in MLB The Show 16, which essentially adds a bullet time mechanic to a number of facets of the game. Exclusive to Road to the Show, the ShowTime meter is found on the bottom middle of the screen and can be used in a variety of ways. With a button press, the game itself will instantly slow down, regardless of what position you are playing, with it being utilized differently between pitching, hitting, and fielding.
Pitching is definitely the most simplistic of the three, as you can use ShowTime to place a perfect pitch right where you want it without having to use the pitching meter at all. This can be very effective when you need to perfectly place a slide or curveball on a 3-2 count and can’t afford giving up a walk at the time. Fielding instead is a little more intense, as when a ball is hit, you can press the button to slow the play down to allow you to make that clutch stop in the hot corner or a diving grab in the outfield, while hitting allows you to slow down as the ball is approaching the plate to better see if the pitch is worth hitting. This also comes into play automatically without the use of the meter on throws sometimes as well. ShowTime may seem almost like a win button to some, but it is a great addition to the single player only RTTS mode that you can choose to avoid using completely if you wish.
One of the more recent additions to the franchise has been what is known as Diamond Dynasty, which has been the developer’s answer to EA’s Ultimate Team game modes. This has been one of the most entertaining game modes, with collecting cards being central to the experience. That is still the case in MLB The Show 16, but two brand new game modes have been added that are unlike anything offered before in the series.
Diamond Dynasty still has the basics where you build your roster based on the characters cards you collect in the game, which can then be used against the computer, local friends, or as head to head online in regular games. However, Conquest takes the basis for Dynasty Diamond and turns it into a turn based strategy game where you are trying to take over North America by acquiring as many fans as you can while capturing territories. This is one of the more surprising and innovative additions that the series has ever seen, though it can definitely take some time to really figure out.
Along with Conquest is Battle Royale, which is almost its own separate entity within Diamond Dynasty. Rather than using the team of players that you have collected, you will draft 25 players that range across five different quality settings. What is really neat is that this has an incredible amount of cards that you can draft, including not just current players, but also Legends and even peak year cards for when currents players were much better than their present card would be rated. After drafting, you will play a series of three inning long games against random computer opponents until you lose two games, with you winning more rewards the longer you last.
Looks and play as great as ever in MLB The Show 16
Battle Royale really feels inspired by the Draft Champions mode that made its debut in Madden 16 last year, but it also has the same major issue that nearly ruins it. While you get one free play the first time, every subsequent time, you will have to spend the in-game currency, Stubs, just to play again. If you do not have enough, you can purchase more to use here or wait to earn more in-game. Battle Royale really has so much potential to be the standout feature in MLB The Show 16, but being locked behind a paywall unless you’re really grinding for in-game Stubs tarnishes it greatly.
The online features in Diamond Dynasty seem to perform pretty well with the upgraded net code that has been implemented in MLB The Show 16, and that also carries over to the basic online modes as well. This is kept pretty simple with the ability to play a random opponent in a ranked matchup in a typical nine inning game. The connection found in these matchups seemed to also work better than in past iterations, though it still had its share of stuttering after hitting the ball and when the opponent is fielding. Unlike some of those previous entries though, the online play was very smooth and hopefully will hold up as more get on and play.
Road to the Show and Diamond Dynasty definitely got the bulk of the attention overall in MLB The Show 16, but the game still offers the more classic Franchise and Season modes as well. While Season mode just has you playing the games for a chosen team throughout the whole season and received basically no big changes, Franchise mode did get enough to make it feel a little different. Franchise puts you in control as GM of your chosen team, with you not only playing the games themselves, but also having to manage the team itself, all within a certain budget. Even though the Player Morale system and more advanced scouting does make Franchise more involved, it still feels like it could use more attention overall.
One of the most important aspects of any stadium in baseball is atmosphere and music can play a big part in that. Whether it is a home run anthem that a team uses or a signature walk up song by a player, these are very important, but have been incredibly limited in the previous two entries on PS4. Thankfully, due to the ability to play media on the PS4 with a USB drive, a more robust Sounds of the Show has now returned that allows you to edit and then use the songs in-game to customize each game to your own liking.
MLB The Show has always prided itself upon having the most realistic gameplay around, which looks and play as great as ever in MLB The Show 16. RTTS has been beefed up with more advanced scouting and the very fun ShowTime mechanic, adding even more excitement to an already addictive game mode. Diamond Dynasty continues to grow with each year, this time with the addition of the very unexpected Conquest and Battle Royale modes, though the latter is mostly locked behind a paywall. While last year’s game may have been really one of the first outings for the series that felt like little more than a roster update, the series has truly returned to form once again this year with MLB The Show 16.
MLB The Show 16
- Available On: PS4, PS3
- Published By: SCEA
- Developed By: SCE San Diego Studio
- Genre: Sports
- US Release Date: March 29th, 2016
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "While last year’s game may have been really one of the first outings for the series that felt like little more than a roster update, the series has truly returned to form once again this year with MLB The Show 16."
- Outstanding visuals and presentation
- Showtime Mechanic
- Battle Royale & Conquest Modes are good new additions
- Return of full Sounds of the Show
- Requirement on playing more Battle Royale