I know nothing when it comes to baseball, so having to review MLB The Show 18 had me stuck at first base, at least that is until I decided to think of it as rounders. Hit the ball as hard as you can and run around in a circle before the other team retrieves it. How hard can it be?
It’s fair to say MLB The Show is the FIFA of the baseball world. It’s incredibly detailed, packed full of features and game modes and it looks absolutely wonderful. Whether you like baseball or not, it’s a highly impressive sports game and most likely one of the best looking you’ll ever play. FIFA is a game I’m pretty much hooked on and is widely regarded as one of the most realistic sports games around, but even as a FIFA fan I’d say MLB has it beaten in this regard. From the commentary, gameplay, to the looks and presentation, MLB The Show is a game which is hard to fault, even if by my own admission I’m not exactly versed on the world of baseball.
Even before the action kicks off there’s just so much to be impressed about. The menus, for instance, look fantastic and are packed with games modes, such as Be A GM, which has you run your favourite franchise, while there are other familiar modes too, like Road to the Show, an RPG mode where you create your player, choose the type of player you want to become and then head out to start your career. This mode is packed with options, many of which obviously went over my head, but either way it’s clear to see a lot of thought and attention has gone into making this an all out immersive experience for the hardcore baseball fan.
There’s so much more choice within the menus even outside of the two feature-packed modes mentioned above, including plenty of challenges, high-quality multiplayer modes and perhaps my favourite of all in the Retro Mode. What’s great about going retro is the old-school music and the 16-bit style graphics, you can even use this option in other modes, so for instance when I was playing Be A GM, I was able to play my game using the latest graphics engine and if I fancied a change, play the next game in Retro mode.
As a beginner to MLB, I was a little worried I would most likely lose every match, but the developer seems to have thought of everyone, from the beginner to the more experienced pros. The game offers up a huge amount of options when it comes to the control options for playing your matches, whether you are pitching or taking the bat. My favoured option when batting was just to be able to swing the bat and hit the ball, with any successful contact resulting in my players autorunning to the base plate. You can still steal base using this option, but as you get more comfortable the controls can be tweaked to make things feel more realistic and give you more control.
Personally, I feel the easy option for controls is fun enough. I love being able just to push one button and pitch the ball to the batsman. There are even different ways to throw the ball, allowing for curveballs, fastballs etc, all of which are assigned to each of the face buttons. I found by using a mix of these I was able to strike out players easily enough and I had a lot of fun doing so. Perhaps the most fun though is when you take the bat and get the perfect hit, seeing your ball fly into the stands for a Home Run, which results in the commentators lighting up with excitement, with the scoreboard throwing out a custom message and the fans cheering, waving their banners in the air to celebrate.
As I’ve admitted, I’m not really a baseball fan so I can’t comment on player models and their likenesses to their real-life counterparts, however, I can tell you that this is one stunning looking game. Everything on the field just feels so realistic. The animations are as smooth as butter, whether you are hitting the ball, running for the points, trying to snatch the ball out of mid-air or sliding to the base plate. Everything about it is incredibly detailed and just so much fun to experience.
The same can be said for the music, sound effects and commentary, which add so much to the atmosphere. I wish other sports games out there could take some inspiration from MLB because it’s in a different league in my opinion. Each member of the crowd seems to spring to life whenever anything dramatic happens on the field, never feeling like they’ve just been painted in for added effect. The commentators meanwhile always seem to have something to say and it’s not repeated all that often, which is not something you can say for the likes of FIFA.
Overall the presentation is just stunning really.
MLB The Show 18 is one of the most impressive sports games to date. It’s packed with features and is friendly to those just starting out and those who are well versed in the world of baseball. It’s a game with so many options that you’ll likely be playing a year from now. While I’m not really versed in American sport, I have found myself getting pretty excited at beating the opposition, especially when I wack the ball out the park, recording a home run. It probably helps there’s a team called Rangers but I can see myself playing MLB The Show for some time to come.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*