Sony San Diego returns with a new MLB game that sets some new standards and wonders when everybody else will catch up.
What Is It?
MLB The Show 17 continues the successful pro baseball series as they honor recent Hall of Fame inductee, and all around legend, Ken Griffey, Jr. on the cover with a new retro mode and many other new features to change up various parts of the game.
They do a great job of showing off some of the new control changes with a brief batting practice mode you see when first playing the game that lets you try out all options before setting your default choice. It’s a really smart way of getting people to try that out without obtuse settings menus or playing games to try to figure out which you like best.
Retro Mode is the main new addition that is just an exhibition mode where you have simpler controls for batting and pitching and a general feel like the NES and SNES classics. It isn’t a new way to experience the franchise or career modes, so I wouldn’t blame you for expecting that from the way it was marketed. They do include a few classic players on each team to give it a more retro vibe, though it needs to expand those classic players while not skimping on my current players. Andrew Miller’s not on the Cleveland team? Who is the knucklehead that messed that up?
Road to the Show features the biggest change with its new Pave Your Path feature that rethinks how various important decisions are presented to the player and does that in the style of a documentary that is following your player on his path from the draft to the major leagues, which still allows the player to come up with their own story while not having it dictated like the NBA 2K series has been doing for the past few years. The quick pace of playing games in Road to the Show is even quicker this year with the ability to move directly to the next game without loading back to the menus, which is a big time saver. The other big addition is in the Franchise mode where there easier ways to get through games without having to play 162 full, hour-long games over the course of the season. They take cues from Madden by offering a few ways of playing each game based on your interests, which ranges from full games to simulating the game and throwing you into critical situations to just quick managing the game to have some feeling of affecting the outcome without actually playing it.
Why Should I Care?
Road to the Show is an addictive and easy to lose hours of time slowly working your way up from your AA league to hopefully make it to the big league with the team that drafted you or traded for you later on. The story is mostly hands-off after the intro with the only annoying bit being when my starting pitcher had yet another high strikeout game and got the same simple conversation with the manager telling me how I’ve been striking out a lot of guys lately that needs to stop already. The game does have a problem with my pitcher’s glasses in that any stat screen in the menus where it shows my player removes the glasses, which has yet to be addressed after a few updates and gives me dread over past times trying to find misplaced glasses without them.
I was also not a fan of having no option of talking to the manager when issues arose, which occurred when my closer-turned-starter was displaced when the injured starter was healthy again. Instead of moving back into the closer role, I just became an Andrew Miller-style drifter that came in early for bad starts and late to setup the closer, which was frustrating to see the manager AI lose the plot of why I was moved to the starter role and what I was before that. My pitcher led the league in strikeouts, so why demote that level of talent over the rest of the starters that were average at best? Luckily, I was traded to another team near the end of the season, which let me stay as a starter and it’s been good ever since then.
If there’s one negative experience I’ve detested in Road to the Show, it’s the terrible way that being an outfielder is handled. The camera routinely interfered with my ability to understand where I needed to go when the ball is in the air, which is hard to do when it points in the wrong direction. You get dinged on XP if you make poor fielding decisions, whether that is your fault or not, so that’s kind of a big deal. This was probably more of an issue with poor pitching on my AA team, but the amount of times I had to watch obvious home runs sale over the wall at least one or two per game on my side of the field got old after the first few games. I suppose the solution is to change the settings to lower fielding situations or stop that completely with an outfielder.
Franchise mode offers some great ways to play in a more realistic manner, and being able to play in a more hands-off manner while using the position lock to play as one player gave me enough of a taste without having to do a full 50+ outs of baseball when I didn’t feel like it. The critical situations option that simulates the game and throws you into important moments to take care of business is cool, but when I miss an entire game because apparently nothing it deemed interesting happened is kind of a bummer. I’ve really gotten into the notion of taking control of the pitching with my Cleveland Indians and letting the offense do its thing with that position lock mode in place, so I get to enjoy the strategic MVP 06 NCAA Baseball-style analog pitching mode that lets my skill, or lack thereof, be a more important factor in the result.
Diamond Dynasty is a weird online mode full of craziness and EA Ultimate Team-style grinding for cards and stats to complete missions. Missions is the new feature where there are groups of tasks you need to complete ranging from “Get X Hits” to “Get 3 hits in one game with a Rookie Paul Konerko” to “Trade in Y Bronze cards to get a Silver card” and many others in between. Many are tied to specific modes and others are more universal with most rewarding you with profile XP, the in-game Stubs currency, or the special Tickets. Those Tickets are tied to a timed sale for special cards that otherwise would be hard or rare to obtain in regular packs. There is also a cool marketplace so you can dump off duplicates for decent prices and undercut the jerks asking for high prices that probably wonder why they never sell.
The actual part of Diamond Dynasty where you play the game and not collect jpegs of baseball cards is a bit less interesting since they’re mostly normal modes. There is a crazy strategy mode where you take control of parts of a hex grid-covered US to steal fans from territories owned by the other teams, as decided in quick three inning games of baseball. Madden’s Draft Champions mode is also in here as it lets you draft players from the handful it offers per round to fill out a team and then play others hoping to win enough to earn more rewards before you reach two losses to end your run. The rest of the offerings are not that interesting with a general ranked multiplayer mode and an actual Play vs CPU mode for those that want as little to do with online multiplayer as possible. The actual servers have been mostly fine for me, though having most of my online matches be three inning games probably minimized potential issues. The worst thing I saw, besides players with custom uniforms and logos displaying their love of weed, were 1st or 3rd base umpires that did nothing when check swing situation called for their attention.
Why Is It Worth My Time And Money?
Despite the lack of significant competition outside of the mediocre RBI Baseball revival and the arcadey Super Mega Baseball, Sony San Diego has managed to keep the quality bar on MLB The Show over the last few years quite high. It’s a shame that the innovative features they’ve added like year-to-year saves letting you continue from MLB The Show 16 saves to not have to start over with another $60 spent, but Madden, NBA 2K, NHL, and FIFA ignoring this new standard is as frustrating as it gets. The MLB team has been doing this for a few years now, so it’s not like they haven’t had the time to work on it. The dynamic difficulty is the other big innovative feature that has been around for a few years, but EA and 2K continue to balk on that great feature to let the game adjust its difficulty as you play it so I don’t have to mess with sliders to fine tune what the game should do automatically. Get off your asses and keep up with these innovations, EA and 2K.
MLB The Show 17 has some flaws and parts of the game that are less interesting for what I want to do, but there’s plenty here that should be able to appeal to most types of baseball fans out there. The only group that will probably be disappointed are those that want the Retro Mode to be bigger than it really is this year, but I hope that can be fit onto Franchise mode next year to let that mode make RBI Baseball obsolete even more than it currently is at this point. Outfield controls in Road to the Show need a big overhaul and the way that story is handled needs some more work, but it’s a good start. Diamond Dynasty is a weird bit of madness that mostly appeals to my baseball card-collecting self that has thousands of cards in binders that really likes collecting those jpegs more than the multiplayer or CPU parts of that mode. Now it’s time to get back to my Wild Thing-styled pitcher that is rocking the AA league for Oakland while waiting for the dummies up top to recognize my greatness and promote me to AAA.