Monday, March 28, 2016

The Details Delight As The Show 16 Rounds The Bases


Year after year, MLB The Show remains the gold standard in baseball video games. Developed by Sony San Diego, the first party Playstation title continues to improve upon a formula that has worked on an annual basis. This season however, the leaps and bounds of improvement are felt much more greatly than they were likely anticipated. Regardless of the expectations, The Show 16 is ready to blow you out of the water.

From the into to the title screen, much of what has made The Show familiar remains the same. Your options are all present, whether it be Road to the Show, Exhibition, Franchise, or Diamond Dynasty. Where things begin to develop is by diving keeping into each of the games' offerings.
Regardless of the expectations, The Show 16 is ready to blow you out of the water.
Having never been a huge fan of Road to the Show, I decided to buck my trend and dive into the game's most popular mode from the get go. Much of what has made the climb through the minors to the big leagues remains, but the tweaks are what take the experience to a whole new level.


Road to the Show has now incorporated a true 20-80 player rating scale. Scouts evaluate big league talent on the same scale, and it is now present across MLB The Show. Starting out in a scout spotlight, my Road to the Show player was given a baseline evaluation, with the familiar Prospect Showcase looming. Upon being drafted however, Road to the Show really begins to shine.

One of my biggest gripes with the game mode in previous iterations has been the overall grind of rising through the minor leagues. While it's indicative of the true to life feeling, the experience is at it's core, part of a video game. Sony San Diego has helped to tackle this by allowing gamers to play through an entire series without needing to return to the team menu. In playing a handful of games at a time, getting into the action is much more smooth, and accumulating the previous training points is more rewarding.

In Road to the Show, the streamlined process can be felt within game action as well. Gone is the monotony of simply pressing buttons to throw fielded balls to bases. Now incorporating showtime, a slowdown effect, a mini-game-like-button-press is initiated, requiring you to remain on top of the action. On the base paths, quick counts are utilized allowing your prospect to advance and stay active rather than drawing out long counts.

With the increased brand presence in The Show 16, the offerings of equipment and unlockables that can be attached to your prospect grows even greater as well. Each new product is brought to life in a gorgeous video game representation, while also allowing your player a slight ratings boost. There's the introduction of consumables on a game by game basis as well, leaving your Road to the Show experience feeling fresh each time you make your way towards Cooperstown. For the first time in MLB The Show, I felt rewarded through the entire mode.

Taking a step back and looking at the gameplay itself, The Show 16 truly shines. It is here that the little things make all of the difference. This season, PBR (physically based rendering) was introduced to the experience. In allowing light to react as it truly would to a surface, stadiums and players come to life more than they ever have before. Despite the stunning visuals the new technology has created, the details go even further.

I couldn't help but feel true satisfaction the first time I cracked a bat at the plate. The new sound mechanics sound more lifelike than ever. The introduction of open and closed roofs is a welcomed addition, and more jerseys (as well as the new matte helmets some teams will don) just go to show the team pulled out all of the stops. Bringing back a handful of classic stadiums, although my beloved Metrodome is not present, is more than satisfying as well.

Then there's the mode in which will spend the bulk of my time going forward, Franchise. This season, it's once again the details that take franchise mode to new heights. While I have never been a big fan of the player morale aspect added into sports games, it works well in The Show 16 and is far from invasive. The new introduction of real-time reaction to player contracts is one that helps to make free agency feel much more lifelike, and truly advances the satisfaction of building your team into a contender.

Furthering the small details in franchise, I couldn't help but to appreciate the expanded stats. Baseball at its core is a game of numbers, and The Show 16 gets that. Now including every player's career stats, production is never a mystery. The calculation of both WAR (wins above replacement) and FIP (fielding independent pitching) are additives that make their video game debut at what seems like the perfect moment.


For MLB The Show as a whole, franchise mode has long been a deep and satisfying endeavor. The minor tweaks and additions made to The Show 16 experience take that to a whole new level.

I was able to continue along with my Show 15 franchise as well, and things flowed very smoothly. I did notice a hiccup in what seemed to be a slight lag after pitches for batters getting readjusted into the box. I attributed that to them being pulled from a previous version of the game. It's bothersome in its annoyance, but far from hampering to the experience as a whole.

Finally, I was able to dive into the new Diamond Dynasty structure. Although the servers didn't go live much before the launch of The Show 16, conquest is already something I can see investing significant time into. While Diamond Dynasty has been The Show's attempt at replicating EA"s Ultimate Team, I've generally left unsatisfied with the experience. This time around however, The Show 16 takes a structure that works and puts its own spin on things.

Conquest allows you to look towards taking over the country by earning fans based upon performance and taking down opposing teams. The growth of your fanbase and the draw that follows is one that will no doubt have me coming back for more.

Playing a brief bit of Battle Royale, I found myself enjoying the fantasy draft structure of the new mode. Designed to take on foes in a double elimination tournament, there's both strategy in game, as well as in how you construct your roster. I have felt that The Show has made significant strides online as a whole in recent years, and unveiling Battle Royale at this point in time seems like a very welcomed addition.

At it's core, baseball is played between the lines, and there's next to nothing that The Show 16 doesn't get right.
At the end of the day, you should come into MLB The Show 16 with expectations already set relatively high. After all, the game has continued to evolve while remaining fresh and relevant for years. What you won't expect however, is that the smallest things may end up providing you the most significant joy. At it's core, baseball is played between the lines, and there's next to nothing that The Show 16 doesn't get right.

Positives:

  • The Show 16 hits nearly every detail on the head
  • Road to the Show plays better than it ever has
  • Diamond Dynasty is given new modes, and they are great
Negatives:
  • Minor glitches and hiccups with The Show 15 franchise saves

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