MLB The Show 17 is great, even with diminishing returns

MLB The Show 17, from San Diego Studios, is by far the best baseball game for next generation video-game systems. It definitely helps, that it is also the ONLY triple A Baseball title left standing, in the world of virtual baseball.

In most industries a near-monopoly can lead to lowered standards, and less pressure to improve year to year, and unfortunately, the developers of most sports video games, have seemed to adopt an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.

MLB The Show 17

Of all the developers today in the sports video-games sphere, I would put San Diego Studios as second, to only 2K, as far as quality of games, realism, and caring about their customer’s satisfaction.

SD studios actually cares about creating their game every year, and this is reflected in their transparency throughout its development. I really enjoyed seeing exactly what changes they were making – via podcasts and dev diaries, released on YouTube, throughout the year. That being said – since the game is so great – and has been for the last 4 years – it is getting extremely hard to make really amazing “game-changing” alterations to an already great-playing baseball game.

Sadly this is reflected in diminishing returns on new features year-to-year.

That being said, I have a hard time getting extremely excited, about finally being able to see every individual blade of grass on the field… Or that the stars and constellations are correct for the current location/time of year. I doubt 1% of the players actually pause the game, go into replay mode, and look for signs of life in the vast reaches of space, or study the retrograde motion/phase shift of the visible planets between the 1st and 9th innings… I think SD would do better to focus more on baseball features, and expanding what they have baseball-wise… rather than working on simulating a model of the entire solar system.

Road to The Show
Skydome – Rogers Centre

The grass does look terrific though, and the new player faces are a welcome addition, however these changes are far from ground-breaking. The game mechanics and controls have not changed at all for a few years now, and I honestly didn’t notice too drastic of a difference from last year, gameplay-wise. If you were good at last years game, you are good at this one, there is no new learning curve – which can be good or bad depending on who you are.

The physics are much better, the devs boast millions of new hit types, although this is another barely identifiable sub-surface change that SD seems to love so much. My major complaint about the physics is that there are STILL no collisions at all. I understand collision is one of the most hated problems in developing video games, but studios have been perfecting it over the past 20 years, and its omission once again in this series is inexcusable. There is no excuse that in 2017, my outfielders can’t collide if they get too close, or even acknowledge that there is another human being close by, I have yet to see a player stumble either… Many times while playing I saw players run directly through other players/objects etc. even at second base when sliding, they have removed the ability to collide. I understand that the MLB has recently been trying to get rid of collisions at 2nd, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen anymore, and that the majority of reviews and suspensions are devoted to this play in today’s game. (see Bautista vs Odor)

Retro Mode

The addition of retro mode is kinda of cool – and a nice little Easter egg throwback to an era of old school baseball video games (back when players in video games could collide! ;-). This is basically a port of baseball for Sega Gamegear – and is quite fun, but after a few games there is not much replay-ability here. It is, however, a good 2 player couch-competition mode, as it is very easy to pick up and play, for your casual friends who don’t know all the controls to The Show, and haven’t played a baseball video game in 10+ years…

MLB The Show 17
Retro Mode

Franchise mode has all the things you could want. If this is what you are the most interested in, I can assure you that this is an extremely in-depth mode, with all the bells, whistles, and options, you could think of. This is where the true baseball simulation shines in The Show – stats are very realistic when simming games or playing – and pitchers have much more accurate repertoires than previous years. Chemistry, training, and morale are included, as well as finances. The latter comes with all the most intricate baseball rules associated with contracts, TV sponsorship, prices, hot-dogs, parking lots, etc. Developing players is well done and based on performance – so every season is different – some franchises will see certain players succeed, but play again with the exact same rosters, and another player will possibly develop faster. On the whole this is one of the most complete franchise modes in any sports game today.

Online Franchise mode however is a huge disappointment. As a person who has played in a strict, 30-player online league, for the last 3 years – I can tell you that the majority of us in the league are extremely disappointed with the lack of changes to Online Franchise Mode. This is the 4th year in a row that San Diego Studios has just copy & pasted last years “Online Franchise” mode into the next years game. This mode literally hasn’t changed in four years. I’m calling you out San Diego Studios!! And when I say hasn’t changed; I really mean it has had ZERO changes. I know this because there are STILL bugs present, held over from four years ago (which I won’t even tell San Diego about – in hopes they actually re-design it, or pay attention, and play their game?!). One major problem that still hasn’t been fixed (in four years), and I will address, is this: you can play multiple seasons back2back, however the schedule does not change from year to year. After 2 seasons you want to play some different opponents, see some new stadiums, etc. Basically none of our franchises lasted longer than 2 seasons before people got bored and quit… Also when you get to the playoffs the National league teams get put into the American League side of the bracket and vice-versa – little bugs like this have been copied over and over from year to year. This shows laziness on the side of the devs – no excuses!

MLB The Show 17
Road to The Show
MLB The Show 17
Road to The Show

Road to the Show was the one mode that I was incredibly interested in, after seeing that SD studios had added RPG, story, and decision-making elements into the game. I really enjoyed NBA 2K’s MyCareer mode – so this was extremely exciting. My imagination had me thinking NBA2K story mode with baseball, or at the very worst FIFA’s story mode! Sadly this is not the case at all. I really respect the effort, but RTTS this year is basically just a copy & paste job from last year – with the addition of a few re- occurring (aka repetitive) cut-scenes, some un-interesting decisions, and a really annoying narrator that sounds like the dude from Unsolved Mysteries. In fact to my knowledge there are only 3 cut-scenes in road to the show: Coach walking over to talk to you in front of your locker (good or bad), Coach calls you into office for meeting (trade/roster move), or your Agent calls you on the phone in front of your locker. That is it. 3 lame repetitive cut-scenes, I haven’t even been interviewed by the media… I do really love the fact that they removed the “reading requirement” – and that most of the important things that happen in your career have sound now – or one of the 3 cut-scenes. However, there is literally no story, and nothing to do or see outside of playing the next game. They didn’t render anything outside of the locker-room or field. I don’t want a long drawn out “Spike Lee Game-Destroyer” but this definitely needs something.

I was also very hopeful we would see some sort of multiplayer online team play with our created characters – akin to NBA 2K’s myPark – but no such luck. I understand that a 9v9 baseball game might not work so well online (who wants to stand in LF all day?) but I was hoping that maybe they would implement a 3v3 type game (with pitcher, catcher, fielders roles).

MLB The Show 17
Diamond Dynasty

Diamond Dynasty is a mode I don’t really play that much in baseball. I enjoy the mode in other sports games, namely football and hockey, but the baseball re-iteration has yet to capture my interest. It is much better than previous years, with a few new additions, new collections, and various modes. Battle Royale is back – a mini-draft mode designed to give everyone similarly rated fantasy teams – to keep competition fair. There is a lot to do and collect in this mode – but again – if you aren’t really big on playing online there is not that much to do here on your own. One-off games vs an MLB team with selectable difficulty and a really weak version of “Baseball Risk” which is literally the board game “Risk” with every “battle” being a baseball game. This is extraordinarily weak for offline fun. I was hoping for offline leagues and tournaments. Risk is great, but it takes forever even when each battle is just dice rolls… imagine it with baseball games instead? It just doesn’t make any sense at all, why am I trying to take over the world with baseball? Conquest mode is a huge fail in other words.

Diamond Dynasty needs much more structure offline – the collections are nice, and kind of guide you through what to do, but its very confusing and not easy to accomplish. For instance, one of the first goals for the Toronto Blue Jays is “tally a quality start with Dave Stieb”. First of all, to even know to do this, you have to navigate through 3 menus… Then you have to back out (3 menus), go to the marketplace menu, buy a Dave Stieb card, navigate back, to another menu, to play games with him. But wait! He is just one of FIVE pitchers in your rotation, and until he randomly gets selected as a starter, he cannot pitch a “quality start”… ugh! This is WAY TOO much research, planning, and memorization required of the average video-gamer. If the mission is a quality start with Stieb, give me a Stieb card to use, and also let me just push X on the mission and have it load up all “ready2go”. I like having goals, but right now it is way to hard and confusing to navigate through them to complete. Between this fundamental problem, and the MLB online servers having tons of connectivity issues, I probably won’t be playing much DD.

Road to The Show

To summarize, MLB The Show 17 is the best baseball video game money can buy for a home entertainment system. If you like baseball, have never played The Show (or have not played it in the last 3 years), than this will be a mind-blowingly good baseball video game. It is a ridiculously accurate portrayal of the real sport – and the controls are done really well.

If you are an avid MLB The Show player, and bought the game last year, you will notice a difference – but only slightly.

If you are a casual player, not a huge baseball fan, and are familiar with the series, than this is just a less complete roster update with player faces, that are a little bit better, than the Operation Sports Full Minors custom rosters, available for last years game.

 

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Joel Levy
About Joel Levy 799 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography