on March 5, 2013
First off, I've played MLB The Show since the beginning, and before that it was MLB 2K, World Series Baseball, VR Baseball, Batter Up, Bases loaded and yes even Major League Baseball featuring Ken Griffey Jr. Since I can remember sports video games have been just about the only games that have mattered and I grew up during the growth of the video game (29 now).
So to hear people bash MLB 2013 The Show for slight improvements, or similarities to last year's game is beyond me. When I sit back and look at the big picture of where sports games have been and what they are now, it's incredible. Even in the last five years it's a crazy positive difference.
Anyhow, this year's game is very similar to lasts, I haven't gone out and read any reviews so these are just my thoughts upon playing a few games today. I will update as I see fit as I play more. The changes are subtle, just like the game of baseball. The game though is still fantastic.
Also I typically play against the computer, on legend, in franchise mode. I want the most simulation type experience possible. So I turn off the strike zone and most feedback except for pitch speed. I also make everything as manual as possible.
The first thing I noticed with this year's game is the change from a circular batting curser to a more oval two hash marks type shape. Of course you can change this in the options but I think it is more correct to actual baseball. The bats sweet spot is longer than it is tall so it should be like this, not a circle. We still have the same power/regular/contact swing options too, which I like.
The biggest difference in hitting it seems is that the "window" for the batter to hit the ball is far different, and easier I might add. On legend mode there were numerous times against CC Sabathia that I thought I was late and struck out when my batter would either foul the ball off or put it in play. So batting is easier on all levels it seems because of this. Which is fine, as I would almost always lead the league in K's. This also has created some slightly weird placements of the ball off the bat though, as my hitter will pull the ball when sometimes I feel like I've obviously been fooled. Ball mechanics are still excellent though, and it's not like I'm hitting the ball out of the park like in an arcade game etc.
As far as pitcher batter battles these are all very similar to last year's game and excellent. Ichiro sucks to pitch to, gives long at bats, and Johnny Gomes is mr. all or nothing. I can't believe how realistic the pitch counts and batter pitcher match ups are to real life. The box scores at the end of the game look VERY accurate and I love that. Stats are a part of baseball and MLB gets it right most of the time.
Pitching is pretty much the same with the same options and controls. The difference though is that the ball paths seem to be a little smoothed out and more realistic. A sinker is a little less sharp at the end, the curve balls arch a little more and fast balls have a better simulation of "late life." It's great.
Fielding at first seems too similar to lasts years game as a lot of the motions of the fielders are identical. I wish they had updated player movements a little more. I'm fine with a lot of the gameplay stuff but the visuals and motion for the players is what really makes it feel like you are playing something "new." At first I thought it was identical to last years game but after more extensive gameplay there are many small changes that give the fielders a different feel. While it may have felt like more of a new game if they had altered and added more motions, they certainly did pay attention to this area. It can be noticed mostly when players dive or jump after a ball. In the past they used to "lunge" at alien like speed to catch a ball when now the motion is much more human and they really have to "make the play" or get to the ball. There are also other intricate things added to fielding, but don't expect an overhaul.
Batting stances and pitching wind-ups are as good as ever and each player's general motions fit each particular player fairly well. So when CC winds up and throws he feels and looks like the big old lug that he is.
As usual MLB has provided a fairly accurate game that feels like baseball, real sim ballgames. Which is what I want. This year's version may not blow you away with new features and visuals, but it was already a great game and it still is.
More updates to come later on.
After a couple more games it's even more evident how the subtleties of ball mechanics have improved in each aspect of the game. Players react differently to hard hit balls and soft hit balls. Batters can "carve" the ball better based on their swings, the arch of batted balls is more realistic than last years game and balls skid along the ground in a more fluid manner which is more realistic. It takes a while of play to really notice this but it's in how the ball will deflect off a fielder when short hopped or in how the ball caroms on a 55 foot curve-ball. They did some nice work here.
Other than that another nice option is more pitching and hitting views. I usually keep the default view for hitting, but I always pitch from behind the pitcher in some fashion usually with "outfield" view. It looks like baseball on TV and I think gives a better approximation of what it is like to pitch rather then being from the POV of the catcher.
Amazon user "A Phillips" wrote this in the comments section and I believe it's very important to understanding this years game and the improvements over previous versions, so I will quote him and add thoughts:
"...last night 3 things happened, that I can remember. One I hit a ball to the 2B and picked it up dropped it and picked it back up. Another ball I hit to Youklis was lined to 3B very hard defensive play,it bounced off his glove and I was safe at 1B. The day before, Rafael Furcal hit a HR , Morse tried to snag and rob it it hit of his glove and bounced into the Spring Training crowd. I have all of these on video by the way. I have a litany of video I could show you the addressd my correction of the smoothness of defensive gameplay.
By the same token, Morse made a breathtaking diving catch that was not at all video gameish, its what you'd expect to see in a Major League ball game. Addressing defensive gameplay and its smoothness and all around gameplay is something must be done to unlock the capabilities of this game..."
The point here being, that the more you play, the more subtle improvements you'll notice as to realistic events occurring as they would in an actual ballgame. Great baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian is somewhat famous for saying the the most fascinating thing about baseball is that on any given day at the park, you can see something that has never happened before, whether it be a minor statistical occurrence, or a major feat like a perfect game. You truly do get many of the "small" parts of baseball in MLB The Show and it can't be overlooked. I remember in past years being frustrated that fielders would never throw short hops to the first baseman. then they added in short hops but the way the first basemen handled them was unrealistic. Now as mentioned above, in this years game the reaction and plays the fielders make based on what the ball is doing is quite exceptional. And aside from the similar motions that the players do, the actual result and movement of them is definitely refined in this years game.
A Phillips also wrote:
"'out of the box' this game needs alot of adjustment, or a little if you know what youre doing, to unlock the full potential of this game. Maybe google this and it will help. Madman Sliders"
This is also an important note. This game NEEDS adjustment through the gameplay settings and sliders to play optimally and most importantly how YOU want it to play. It indeed as refined a game as actual Major League Baseball. A true simulation. So some research on sliders or experimenting on your own will be necessary with this game.
Thanks MR. Phillips for the great insight!
on March 11, 2013
As a series MLB: The Show has been the most consistent of all the yearly sports representations this generation. Consumers have come to rely on exceptional baseball authenticity, realistic gameplay, fantastic graphics, and deep franchise and career modes to invest time with. What has been missing though is sense of accessibility and an acceptable online experience.
Those aspects however are no longer holding the franchise back. MLB 13: The Show is the iteration that pulled everything together to finally become a complete product and in doing so will absolutely deserve to be in contention for "Best of" awards late this year.
*Gameplay and Authenticity
The unforgiving nature of The Show has finally eased off with the expansion of the hitting timing window. Far more rewarding and satisfying, hitting success has improved dramatically but not to any sort of unrealistic level. Averages were so consistently low in the past, with too many instances of timing and placement feeling "right" but still being punished, that now it just feels far more fair. Ultimately fan factor is being impacted here to a great extent.
All facets of MLB 13 show improvement over MLB 12. No longer unforgiving at the plate the overall balance and variety in games has increased. Scores are more realistic and producing runs through means other than home runs is a more viable strategy. Comebacks can be made and momentum and confidence are factors.
Changes to make "Guess Pitch" less of a crutch have proved worthwhile, and the new throwing meter provides more involvement and control over events in the field. Franchise mode benefits from new budgetary adjustments, scouting overhaul, and numbered player ratings. The Show is also well known for providing as many options as possible in regards to aspects such as controls, difficulty levels, and camera angles.
Outside of the crowd MLB 13 shines in the graphical department. The lighting, player faces, player models, parks, and animations are all top notch. Though the PS4 will be needed to take that next step there is no discounting that MLB 13 is arguably the best looking sports game out today. Understated changes from year-to-year have gotten it to this place and, even though not dramatically different than last year, it has earned such recognition.
*Road to the Show
Largely due to the increased timing window at the plate enjoyment in RTTS has expanded. The shift this year for pitchers is less evident but general gameplay balance regardless of position has been good making the experience challenging but far less frustrating. Changes to fielding cameras don't have much of an impact, and presentation wise the focus being from a player's perspective works in some ways and in others doesn't fully connect. It was fine to lose the commentary but having them jump in for a statement here and there unexpectedly seems odd. The camera cuts and on-screen displays after important events within the career are great touches. Not sure what the point is to the leaderboards but they are there now. The new sim screen which allows for seeing the events take place is a valuable addition. Loading times feel as though they have been reduced. What the mode desperately needs is a form of situational training rather than expecting people to learn things on the fly by trial and error.
Though not perfect online has taken huge strides this year. Connections are more consistent and performance smoother, the opened hitting window makes the games more entertaining to play, and several smart design decisions (pitcher fatigue, Guess Pitch, matchmaking) have made the entire experience one worth seeking out. The result is obvious as scoring and batting averages are up across the board and ERA and strikeout numbers are down.
Interest in the new Postseason mode was not particularly high heading into release but it exceeded expectations. This is a great way for those people who don't want to invest the time, or don't have it, within franchise but want to play games that feel as though they have meaning. There are plenty of options available in setting up the brackets and the special presentation and ratcheted up atmosphere makes the games stand out from all the others.
While the commentary is by no means poor, it has become tired, and is long overdue for an overhaul. That realization wasn't just made this year but has been discussed as an area that needed addressing since MLB 09. MLB 11 switched out Rex Huddler for Eric Karros replacing one poor contributor for another. MLB 13 brings in Steve Lyons with Dave Campbell departing. Lyons presence is not really felt all that much. The feel of the commentary, the pacing (including too much empty space) and manner in which it is threaded together, just hasn't advanced while competition within the genre has taken major steps forward technologically and featured complete booth changes. It is particularly disappointing within playoff games as the commentary just does not match the heightened atmosphere.
*Minor Issues and Omissions
Gameplay wise the frequency that the CPU throws strikes in power zones on the first pitch of each at bat, which has been well documented, is worrisome and affects strategy at the plate. There is also some sort of slowdown affecting players as they round third base. Those few issues and an occasional stutter on pitch releases will hopefully be patched. Elements of baseball like rainouts, doubleheaders, and retractable roofs that close still haven't been implemented.
There is a growing sense that The Show has stalled as far as the PS3 goes and really needs the capabilities of the PS4 to advance any further. That's not to say it is totally deficient in any single way, just that in playing it every year the series is showing reduced returns as far as leaps go. Areas discussed already such as commentary may fall into that category as SCEA isn't going to make big investments in the last year or two of the current generation when they'll be looking to totally differentiate one from the other and help to justify the PS4 next fall.
This is the year that MLB: The Show finally pulled it all together to offer a complete product with exceptional value. Though it may have hit somewhat of a wall on the PS3, the PS4 providing an opportunity to break through in the weaker areas like collision detection and commentary, the changes that were made for MLB 13 still made a significant impact. The Show is a now must-have for any true baseball fan regardless of whether interest lies in Play Now, Postseason, Franchise, Road to the Show, or Online.
on March 19, 2013
I have been playing MLB The Show from the inception of the series, and only use it for one purpose every year: to play through an entire season (Spring Training, Regular Season, and Playoffs)with my hometown Chicago White Sox, playing against the CPU. What I am looking for in a baseball videogame is one that is realistic (for both stats and gameplay), challenging to win (part of the realism thing), visually appealing, and.....fun. The last one has been a seeming point of contention amongst Show reviewers over the years, and I suppose it most depends one what one considers "fun". It probably goes without saying, but I'll say it (again) anyway: if what you consider fun in a baseball videogame is winning most of your games, while piling up tons of hits and homeruns, and striking out most of the cpu hitters, then this game is not (and never has been) for you. If, however, you enjoy a game that fairly closely models real MLB games and outcomes (ie: a baseball simulation), and you are one with some past baseball experience, and appreciate the "game within the game", then this is as good as it gets. But not without a few flaws (still), as I will detail below.
This review will only deal with playing a season against the cpu, on Franchise mode. For a more complete review of the many other game modes offered with this game, see the many other reviews posted on this site. I expect that the following will also be most meaningful to those who are already familiar with The Show series.
To start- the graphics are again amazing, and include many new player animations, as well as individualized player batting stances, pitching motions, and mannerisms. The change is fairly subtle from last year, however, since it is hard to improve on something that is so good to begin with. The graphical presentation adds a great deal to the "fun" factor, though- particularly when you are playing 200+ games each year. Variety counts.
Which is where The Show also remains at it's weakest, however- and that would be in the audio commentary, where variety, in particular, has never been a strong suit in this game. Steve Lyons has replaced Soup Campbell (Matt Vaskurgian and Eric Karros return), and while he has been given a few new lines to say (and his voice IS an improvement, irritation-wise, over Campbell's), they have unfortunately chosen to keep ALL of the previous old lines of dialogue, and they have also chosen to use ALL of them, A LOT. It may not be very noticable if you play a game every now and then, but try playing through an entire season, and you'll see what I mean. Like all previous years, it gets very old, very fast, and IMO, remains the single weakest factor in this otherwise excellent game.
Those who argue that commentary isn't important in a baseball videogame couldn't be more wrong: it adds a ton to the game atmosphere, and in that sense, is just as important as the game graphics. There is so much room for improvement in this, but this year we again get almost nothing new, and it shows.
Perhaps the strongest aspect of The Show has always been it's editability, and this year is no different. You are not forced to use a single mechanism to control gameplay (hitting, pitching, running the bases, and fielding), but can mix-and-match a number of different gamepad controls, to suit your individual preferences. As an example, I prefer to use analog pitching, but zone control hitting, and have chosen to use fielding with analog control, but with the new throw meter set to "off" (in which case, I move the fielder to make each play, and control the throws with the analog stick, but the accuracy of the throws defaults to the player's actual fielding rating skills-supposedly, anyway).But to each his own- if you don't like the default controls, you have a lot of options to choose from.
Editability of individual players is still also very complete: though all come with default ratings for a large variety of individual skills, all can be individually edited, if you think they got your player wrong.And there do seem to be a number of strange default player ratings (IMO), particularly a tendency to have fairly fleet baserunners rated quite low for speed. Some players also seem to be either grossly over or underrated, based on what they accomplished last year in the real MLB season- and I've always suspected that this might just reflect the personal biases of whomever is charged with creating the default settings each year. No big deal, though, since you can change just about any rating to your liking. Creating players from scratch has also gotten a nice facelift, as there are a number of new aspects to use in creating your player- including even many choices for how the guy walks up to the plate, how he finishes his swing, and how he does his home-run trot, etc. I've only noticed a handful of players that don't look much like their real MLB counterparts so far- and some are totally spot-on.
The season schedule comes complete for each team, exactly following this year's real MLB schedule, though there still are no double-headers or rain-outs, which would be a nice touch. And you can again play through a team's AAA and AA schedules too, if you so desire.There are again a lot of fictional players on the Minor league rosters, but if you are a baseball nut like me, you can edit them to recreate the real Minor league players.
The sounds of the game have been improved, though it again is very subtle. This again adds a lot of fun to the gameplay, as far as recreating what it's like to be at a real MLB game. The crack of the ball off the bat, the smack of a 96mph heater hitting the catcher's glove, the background crowd noise (and occaissional individual fan complaints/taunts) are just right.
I'd also offer that, although this was pretty good last year, the physics of ball movement are also subtley improved this year, and there are also more variations in batted balls- more variations of pop-ups, line drives, Texas leaguers, etc, and they have also thankfully gotten rid of the fouls off to the side of the plate, that last year routinely bounced off the ground like a flubber-ball bounced off of concrete. Fly balls will not all travel a straight line, but will hook and fade, just like in real life- and wind effects (also editable with a slider bar) come into play as well. All nicely done.
But the Big One will always be gameplay: how well does the thing play out, when all is said and done?
Here I'd argue that it is good enough, actually quite superior at managing to generate believable individual and team statistics (particularly over a full season), while still managing to give the user a fair sense of control. This has always been a major point of contention amongst users, and there still is a fair amount of "cpu-control" going on from game to game( where one feels like the outcome is pre-determined), but that is a necessary evil, I'd maintain, or you might never lose a game. MOST of the time, if you execute your pitches, swings, and fielding moves well, you will have a good (and realsitic) outcome. But not ALWAYS: sometimes a great pitch will get whacked out of the park, and sometimes a well-timed human swing will result in another lousy pop-up to kill your rally....but hey, that's just BASEBALL. REAL baseball. Even Cy Young LOST over 300 games, folks.
My main persisting beefs about the gameplay continue to involve things that were present last year, including:
1- Ridiculous wild pick-off throws to first base, where no matter what you do with your gamepad, your pitcher will randomly heave one either down the right field line, or even more ridiculously, into the stands. I haven't yet seen that this is affected by the pitcher's ratings, either. Besides the animation being so silly (I don't think I've EVER seen this in a real MLB game, in some 50+ years of watching games), it also happens WAY more often than it should. As an early example, in my first 25 games or so with this year's game, I've seen this wild pickoff throw no less than 10 times. The issue I have with it is three-fold: it never happens that way in the real game ("So real, it's UNreal"-right.), it affects game outcomes, and it doesn't seem to be under the user's control, at all. 3 strikes, and you are out.
2-Baserunners rounding third, trying to score on a hit to the outfield, will fairly frequently suddenly seem to be running in molasses, with a piano on their back: the slow-down is again not under your control, and usually results in your runner being out at home, and by about 5 yards, when in reality it shouldn't have even been a close play. There does not seem to be any slider adjustment that corrects this, either. NO IDEA how this one gets past the game-testors, folks.
3-Late inning rallies by the CPU (particularly the 9th inning), as well as most innings immediately after you have scored more than a few runs, also seem to occur with something more than a believable frequency. I suppose this is the program's attempt to "keep it close", but it does tend to lead to a lot of frustration over the feeling of lack of human control, particularly when you play a lot of games.
4-The famously difficult hitting has been noticeably made more lenient, though at Hall of Fame or Legend levels of difficulty, still challenging enough, and as always, still way more dependent on you being a "smart hitter" than what buttons or sticks you push. You still have to work the count, and pick your spots of what and when to swing, if you want any results. This, IMO, while generating a lot of complaints about how "hard" the game is, remains the single best strength in the game. It's challenging- but so is hitting a real baseball. It SHOULD be hard. And again, there are several levels of difficulty to choose from, and many sliders to adjust many aspects of gameplay, so it SHOULD be possible for just about anyone to find a level of play that works, for you.
As I have done in past year's reviews, I'll also add on to this in the comment section, as I play more games. One of the noteworthy things about last year's version was, just when I thought I had seen it all, some completely new thing during gameplay would pop-up, in Game #126. So for those interested, stay tuned......
Summary: A lot of the same flaws, and subtle improvements in a lot of the game's previous strengths, which equals a pretty great game overall. It remains, by far, the best baseball videogame on the market today, and considering how often you may wind up playing it- for $60, it's money well-spent.