Tuesday, March 28, 2017

MLB The Show 17: A No Hitter That Just Misses A Perfect Game

This season, Sony San Diego is once again back with the widely popular MLB The Show franchise. In MLB The Show 17, the development team had a very strong game from a year ago to build off of, and while that didn't stop them from adding, they had the advantage of a really great starting point. What were dealt is bells and whistles that just miss the final coat of polish.

In 2016, the big addition to MLB The Show was the introduction of PBR, or physically based rendering. Stadiums, players, and all things graphics were brought to a much more heightened level of realism. PBR returns this year, and it expands to further highlight players and equipment shading in a way that takes graphical realism to new heights. It can't be stated any other way, MLB The Show 17 looks amazing.

Gameplay wise, the biggest addition for The Show 17 is the enhancement in the way the ball reacts off of the bat. Now with the game programmed to understand a bat has a rounded barrel, contact doesn't deliver straight results. Balls curve, liners tall, bloopers bloop, and well, duck farts happen. Despite never really feeling like there was a repetitive level of hit variety a season ago, there's absolutely no way you'll ever question it going forward. A liner in the gap that slices away from a speedy centerfielder is oh, so satisfying.

Now that we've covered the biggest difference in how the game plays, there's two big differences in ways in which you can play the game. First, Road to the Show has been beefed up to include a narrator, dialogue, and somewhat of a story. It's been noted multiple times that this lays the foundation for what Sony San Diego would like to do going forward. Personally, I could take or leave Road to the Show, and the dialogue seems like a somewhat unnecessary overall to the experience that was already there. If it's the beginning of something more though, it's a nice enough first step.

The other big addition game modes wise is Retro Mode. With Ken Griffey Jr. on the cover of The Show 17, the dev team threw it back to the roots of baseball video games. Playing with a simplified "X button only" experience, while also allowing an 8-bit overlay, the mode turns up the retro flare while staying true to what The Show 17 is. You'll probably have had enough with the mode after a few games, it's more of a gimmick to target some of the R.B.I. Baseball types, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do.

When it comes to both Diamond Dynasty and Franchise mode, enhancements are the best way to describe the changes. While nothing full scale has been redone, the realization is that when something isn't broke, there's no need to fix it. There's different ways to manage through franchise and complete more seasons in less time now, while Diamond Dynasty has a ton of new missions and ways to collect cards and build your best team.

Nothing you've read thus far should have you feeling like MLB The Show 17 is anything but a grand slam. Where this year's offering falls short, again, is with the execution on the server side. While its understandable that a developer can never truly load test servers until their product goes live, The Show has been around long enough that this isn't Sony San Diego's first rodeo. Since launch, online servers have been poor at best. Diamond Dynasty is inaccessible, and no online components of the game (rewards or otherwise) are tracking. It's an unfortunate situation given the poor foot that The Show 16 got off on.

At the end of the day, Sony San Diego has again raised the ball with the yearly installment of The Show. Far more than just a simple roster update, MLB The Show 17 is a must own for any baseball fan. Competition or not, it remains the gold standard in baseball, and maybe sporting games as a whole. If the team can get the servers back right in short order, and nail them in years going forward, they'll have as flawless of a product as they can hope for.

Positives:

  • The new ball physics are incredible
  • Graphical enhancements again take the realism to another level
  • Added tweaks to popular game modes make Franchise, Diamond Dynasty, and RTTS even deeper
Negatives:
  • The server issues again plague the launch

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