MLB 13: The Show Review (PS3 & PS Vita)
The month of March is upon us and with it comes Spring Training, roster changes, and the latest baseball offering from the talented group at SCE San Diego Studio. MLB 13: The Show for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita looks to improve an already great formula for success through tweaks of existing modes and the addition of some new features. After making my way from AA to the show, it is safe to say that MLB 13: The Show provides just the right amount of pop to knock it out of the park.
One of the first things you should know about MLB 13 is the developers are trying to make the game more accessible for the casual fans. To do this, the game features a beginner mode that allows new players and even those who have played before a good chance to ease into the game. However, this mode is not just a watered down version that will stay simple—it is in fact a learning system that adapts to the players performance automatically. As someone who is a veteran to the series, this was still a nice addition for myself as a way to get my feet wet without feeling overwhelmed by all the different control schemes. It should also help to bring in new players who want to just get in and play without feeling like they need a full month of training to do it right.
Speaking of control schemes, if you wanted an insane amount of options this year to make your experience unique, The Show offers over 29 pages of customization options to fine tune your gameplay to fit your exact preferences. It can be a bit intimidating when you first start sifting through the options, so you might want to stay out unless you know what you’re doing. I found myself spending 30 minutes tweaking fielding, batting, and pitching options to what seemed like no end. The game also feature a new push/pull hitting engine that shows you which hitters are extreme pull hitters, balance, opposite field hitters and so on. This new engine also allows you to pull or push the ball in whatever direction you want with more control, and it works exceptionally well. During games, I was able to pull off well-executed situation hitting, like pushing the ball to the right side of the infield to score the runner from third.
MLB 13: The Show brings back many of the modes and features it had last year but with improvements all around. Franchise and Season Modes are back but this time with the addition of a new team budget system that revolves around a reward-penalty type system which plays off the team’s on-field performance. Picked a low budget team and are worried you won’t ever be a big player? Don’t worry, because this new system allows you to become a big spender after a period of good play—something that you would find in real baseball. An example of this system would be my hometown Texas Rangers, who, with trips to the postseason, have extended their budget.
The biggest mode for the series, Road to the Show, returns with improvements as well. In this mode, you create a player and enter into the draft or select your team. Then you play through seasons and try to get your player to the big leagues through training points and doing well in games. The big focus this year around has been to bring a more simple approach to player control to allow for users to have a better overall experience. It works wonders as I felt in better control of my speedy Center Fielder this year, something I had major issues with in previous years. The mode also puts more focus on your individual position. So if you are a pitcher, the half-inning when you aren’t on the mound is spent looking at a presentation of what is going on in the field or the action can be viewed from the dugout to add immersion to the experience.
The other big mode, Diamond Dynasty returns to the Bigs and is a lot easier to understand and navigate through. Diamond Dynasty allows players to create and manage a team that can play games online and offline. The amount of customization here is amazing, with logos to create and complete control over the style of your uniform. You can even go in and edit every player on your team to fit your desires. Visual tutorials have been added this year to offer insight into the more complex aspects of the system. Just like the Beginner mode, the changes in DD have been made to try and make it accessible to more users. One of the bigger changes this year is the ability to have the DH and choose whether they want to play by NL or AL rules.
The Show doesn’t just rest with improving old modes, it also has a few new modes it introduces this year. The first of these is The Show Live, which allows gamers to play “real-world” games that are determined by MLB.com data, populating the match-ups, line-ups, and even the starting pitchers. The mode offers the ability to play any game from the current day or earlier in the season. If you don’t like the way your team lost the day before, go back and replay the game, trying this time to come out victorious.
Post Season mode is another new addition, allowing players to skip through spring training and the regular season and jump right into the playoffs. Here you just select your one to ten teams and the mode supports single player, head-to-head, co-op, and PlayStation Move support. It’s a nice addition and to be honest, one that I am not sure why it took so long to get here.
Online is a huge part of games these days and MLB 13: The Show is no different. Players can track their offline Road to the Show stats online in a leaderboard and the Online Leagues have seen some great changes, allowing players to play the real MLB schedule with all 30 teams. The Home Run Derby has also been updated this year with the inclusion of cross-platform play. So, whether you’re on a PS3 or Vita, you can slug it out against each other to see who can mash it the best.
On the subject of the Vita, I would normally do a different review for a Vita title but there are not enough differences between the two versions to really warrant it. The main differences I could see was in the character creation, where the amount of options to customize your character were less on the Vita. A few key modes are also missing, like the Diamond Dynasty and Leagues. Other than that, the game runs extremely well on the Vita, except for a little bit of slow down during some of the games I played.
Presentation is one of the keys to making a sports game alive and vibrant. Thankfully, The Show has also been top marks in this category and this year is no different. The way a player flings the bat after a long bomb or the way an outfielder runs down a flyball are fluid and life-like. The only real knocks here are the stiff crowds and some slight repetition of the presentation. It would be nice to see them trying the wave or really getting into the game. I know it’s a minor beef, but it would still be nice to see a bit more life out of ’em—baseball fans should be more rowdy. The in-game menus and overall in-game presentation are extremely well done, with every game feeling so much like its real-life counterparts.
With a 3-2 count and the winning run on third, MLB 13: The Show delivers a clutch single to win the game and the title of most accurate sports franchise. The attention to detail delivered in every aspect of the game is to be commended. The game features smart tweaks to returning features and the addition of solid new modes. The beginner mode is perhaps the smartest move made and should invite plenty of new fans to the game. If you are looking for the closest thing to a pure baseball experience without leaving your home or turning on your cable, then MLB 13: The Show is made for you.