Sony’s The Show has been the premier baseball game for years, but that seems to have only driven the developers to strive even harder to improve it every year. With that in mind, this year’s release has more upgrades and new content than we’ve seen in a few years.
One of the most important aspects of The Show is the plethora of control schemes on offer, and this year is no exception. No new schemes were added this year, but the ability to customize and combine the various controls across every aspect of the game has been enhanced drastically. Want to use just button presses to hit, analog sticks to field, the direction pad to run and a timing meter to pitch? Go right ahead! There are over a dozen menus full of control and difficulty options that can be set, so you are virtually guaranteed to be able to play exactly the way you want to.
It seems one of the driving forces in MLB 13 was accessibility and improvement. To that end, one of the more important additions was a beginner mode. This mode is meant to teach new players how to play, while also allowing veterans to improve all aspects of their game.
Unlike most tutorials, beginner mode doesn’t take place in a sandbox. It actually puts you through the paces of a full baseball game, while introducing you to the various control schemes at a reduced difficulty and slowly ramps it up, enabling players to learn and improve through real-game activities. It does eventually reach a maximum difficulty, but at that point you can simply move on to the standard difficulties.
Just about every mode received a few tweaks, some of them more presentation-oriented, but a lot of them were tweaked in fairly significant ways. Franchise mode adds a new budgeting system that can alter a team’s fortunes heavily through rewards and penalties based on long-term play. Want to pick the Rays, but you aren’t looking forward to butting heads with the Yankees’ payroll every year? Keep playing well and making the playoffs, and eventually you might be able to stare them down.
The Vita version is basically the exact same game as the PS3 one this time, with the notable lack of Diamond Dynasty and Online Leagues. Some player creation options were also removed, but otherwise it is as responsive and enjoyable as its console brother.
Road to the Show returns largely unchanged, though it did receive some presentation changes. Rather than simply skip everything your player isn’t involved in, now you can view the rest of the game in a fast simulation between your events. This doesn’t increase the amount of time a game takes appreciably, but it does enhance the feeling of being part of a team instead of simply an individual, so I’m a big fan of it.
Diamond Dynasty, the last major offline mode, has been updated in a big way. An added tutorial to help wade through the large amount of information you’ll need to understand to do well. Sony noted the popularity of the similar Ultimate Team modes in Madden and FIFA and set about making Diamond Dynasty the best of the bunch. You can customize almost everything about your team, from the name and logo to the players themselves and whether to use AL or NL rules.
A few new modes have been added as well, such as The Show Live, which lets you play any real-life game the day of or after the fact, using the actual settings and players so you can try to replicate or improve on the real results. Also new is Postseason mode, whose absence all this time has always left me confused. In it, you can pick and choose any ten teams, control as many of them as you want and simply play through the excitement of the playoffs without having to go through a season first.
Last, but certainly not least, the Home Run Derby has added an online, cross-platform mode that is strangely addictive. In it, you will face off against seven other players on the PS3 or Vita in an actual home run derby, with everyone getting a pitch at the same time. After it is hit, you will see not just your ball’s arc, but the path of everyone else’s hits. Seeing eight home runs at the same time, or watching your name move up or down in the ranks after each pitch is so satisfying I almost couldn’t pull myself away in order to write this.
The graphics look about the same as last year. The fields and players are very detailed and movement is fluid and realistic looking, though the crowds still could use a lot of work. More minor league stadiums have been added, which is great news for Road to the Show fans who were tired of seeing the same few stadiums every game for the past few years.
The commentary is a little better than before, largely because another person has been added to the booth, thus necessitating more recordings and updates to the old standbys. Even here, though, the focus on customization is seen, as you can actually go in and set markers in the music tracks to signify what parts of songs should be played when for players, and if you have a microphone, you can even record your own stadium noise or yells an set them to play during games.
Last year, it seemed like Sony was sitting back, iterating on a great product to keep it feeling new. With MLB 13, it decided to renew its quest for perfection in a baseball game, and came out with a game that anyone can play and everyone should enjoy.
Pros: Tweaks to all modes work well, online home run derby is addictive, cross-platform play extended
Cons: online is improved, but still lags at times