Review: MLB 13 The Show (PS3/PSV)
Title: MLB 13 The Show
Format: PlayStation Network Download (PS3/PSV) / Blu-ray Disc (21.7 GB) / Game Card (3.2 GB Download)
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Sony San Diego Studios
Price: $59.99 (PS3) / $39.99 (PSV) *This is NOT a Cross-Buy title
ESRB Rating: E
MLB 13 The Show is available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.
The retail version for both platforms were used for this review.
The beginning of March can signify many things. Winter starts winding-down, commercials for the summer movies fall into heavy rotation on TV, and Spring Training is in full swing. In tandem with Spring Training is also the release of the digital recreations of our nation’s pastime, and every year, I spend countless and sleepless days with a controller in my hand while cursing that last, nasty slider.
I’ve been working on this game for over a week now, and while cosmetically it hasn’t changed much this year, essentially everything else has been improved. The online components aren’t available yet, so any of those observations will be added in a day or two (and could affect the score possibly.)
One thing that’s pretty obvious this year is that the Vita version has definitely matured. I know that some have expressed their desire for it to have all of the presentation aspects of the PS3 version, and those people will be disappointed once again. This is a conscious decision by the dev team though since the Vita is a portable platform. If they left everything in the Vita version, one game could take 3 hours, eating half of the battery. To me it makes sense, but as usual, you can’t please everyone.
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 309 of the podcast.
This year, the team has included a brand new mode to enjoy, and even though you might not think so, you will definitely like it. Post Season Mode allows you to experience October Baseball at its finest, which can be pretty awesome if you’re a fan of a team that rarely makes it that far (like me and my beloved Brewers.) The options allowed are pretty beefy, with the ability to set every team in the post season manually, or you can choose to randomize them all. You can also choose how many games comprise each level of the playoffs and the World Series. The mode is really well done, and it can be a lot of fun to play “what if” in a bunch of different scenarios. We did catch the commentators talking about some things that probably wouldn’t come up in the playoffs, but it only happened a couple of times. The biggest disappointment though, was after the Brewers won the World Series (I know, total fantasy) there wasn’t much fanfare after the game. They didn’t even announce/present the Series MVP. It’s a great mode, but there are definitely a couple of things they could do to make it even better next year.
As usual, most of my time has been focused on Road to the Show (RttS), which gets a huge makeover this year. The push to bring you, the player, deeper into the game is palpable, with changes to the entire presentation, all with the goal of making it seem more like you’re actually on the field. Before I get into all of the changes, understand that most everything is optional, so if you don’t like any of the new options, they can be changed back in the options menus.
First-up, the presentation has been changed in almost every way. The commentators are now only heard between innings, since you wouldn’t hear them while you’re actually on the field. Visually, they’ve gone the minimalist route this year, with only the score bug in the corner when you’re batting. Any other info you’ll get from the stadium announcer, a scoreboard, or from someone on the field. As a fielder, instead of hearing the commentators, you’ll hear communication from your teammates and opponents. The first time you hear a fielder call you off a fly ball is weird, but it definitely improves the experience. Also, your default fielding view is now switched to an almost first person look, as you track the ball as a real fielder would. It takes some time to get used to, but I actually prefer this method now. Another change though, is the ‘catch button’. It’s definitely a cool idea, and it does work, but you’ll need pinpoint timing to make it work consistently. Basically, as the ball gets close to you, the ball halo will turn green if it’s catchable, and that’s when you’ll need to hold L2 to catch the ball, either in the air or on the ground. The function ties directly into your player’s field ability rating, so even if you think you’re right on the ball, you WILL drop or bobble it at times. It can get frustrating, but hey, this is meant to be a simulation. Honestly though, I turned the catch button off after a few hours. I love that they added it, but it’s just not for me.
One thing that many people have asked for in the past was to know why your team seemed to be losing game after game, so now they given you the opportunity to know. Between the times that you’re up to bat or in a fielding situation, the game will now give you a visual representation of what’s happening in the game in the form of a simple play-by-play text window, and by showing player positions on the bases. This can be skipped at any time by hitting Circle, but if you choose to view it, it’s a great but simple way to show you what’s actually happening. You can also change the speed of the feed to slow, medium, or fast.
Probably my favorite change in RttS though, is how your coaches will talk to you when you’re on the bases. It’s obviously the overlying audio design for the entire mode, but when you’re running the bases, it’s just great to hear your coach tell you what to do instead of you trying to keep your eye on his hand motions. They’ve revamped the grading system too, and no more will you be judged on your hit-and-run abilities or lack thereof. There are still times when you’ll feel like you’ve earned more training points for a hit then you’re given, but it definitely feels more accurate this year.
As I said, I’ve been playing the game quite a lot already, thanks to Sony getting the game in our hands earlier than usual, and it’s really paid-off. After messing with the other modes, I dug-in to what I play the most, Road to the Show. The character creation is a bit deeper then last year, allowing you to even choose things like your follow-through (1 or 2 hands) and an expanded roster of stances (you can finally wear a batting glove with your number, and your player’s index finger can stick out of he fielding glove now.) There are a ton of additions and changes, and it would be lunacy to attempt to list them all here, so I won’t even try.
When I created my player, I essentially just randomized everything, and I suspect that either they really did make it easier to work your way up the ranks from AA to the majors, or there are some key dice-rolls behind the scenes when character creation happens. The reason I say this is because my player is a MONSTER! In both Double and Triple A, I’ve batted over .400 with a slugging percentage of over .600. In my first season, I was called-up to the Mariners, but was knocked back down to AAA when the injured player I subbed for was healthy again. In my second season, starting in AAA, again I was putting monster numbers up until a leg fracture that put me out for 60 days. When I was finally on the mend, another new addition helped me recover even faster, since now you’re awarded a decent amount of additional training points after an injury, to help speed your recovery fully.
The fact of the matter with RttS is that you’ll definitely need some time to adjust to the essentially complete makeover, but when you do, it’s incredibly rewarding.
The Franchise and Season modes have also seen some tweaks over last year, including a brand new team budget system, primarily based on a reward-penalty based system that’s affected directly by the team’s on-field performance. Also, as you heard from Ramone Russell when he joined us on the podcast, the arbitration system has been completely overhauled, and is light years ahead of where it’s been in the past.
There are other modes and options available, such as Diamond Dynasty “2.0″ (I still don’t understand the mode, but early feedback from the community that played it recently is very favorable,) and the new “The Show Live” which allows you to play the games actually happening in the MLB that day, round the package out nicely. There’s even more, but I only have so many days to write these reviews.
Visually, the game still looks fantastic on both platforms, but there isn’t much of a change this year. On the Vita, I will say that the games looks cleaner this time though. Stadiums have definitely been tweaked, including the dimensions change at Safeco Field (Seattle) and their new scoreboard as well. Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City) is another that definitely looks cleaned-up, especially the Hall of Fame and scoreboard. No matter what Major League stadium you hit, you’ll definitely notice the updates, no matter where you are.
Speaking of stadiums, they’ve added even more to the roster of Spring Training and Minor League venues, and above that, any of the existing stadiums in these classes have been tweaked as well. I love the new stadiums by the way, with standouts being one that’s right on a lake, and another that has huge monster trucks where the bleachers would be.
One last improvement visually, is the new ball trajectory system, which combined with the even more improved ball physics, finally brings the action very close to the real game of Baseball. The addition of push-pull tendencies, including the accuracy of the ball popping off of the bat really makes it feel like you’re watching a real game. Tailing line drives, little dunks into a shallow outfield, and even spin affecting a ground ball will amaze you in every contest. Plus, in the over 40 hours that have been put into the game so far, I’ve only seen two ground-rule doubles, which is a huge improvement over last year.
This is where things can be deceiving though, but when you realize how much has been improved in the back end, you’ll know that even though it’s not a new graphics engine, nor have they replaced the player models, a lot has been changed for the better this year, with an emphasis on “the little things.”
As usual, this is the best audio representation of the game of Baseball on any console (or PC for that matter.) Joining the commentating crew this year is Steve Lyons, who brings a lot to the table, including even more variety. Also, I’m a fan of Matt Vasgersian (he used to call games for the Brewers before he moved to San Diego), so I’m happy that they’ve retained him once again. The other biggest improvement, as I noted earlier, is the on-the-field environmental audio. You’ll hear the base coaches and other players talking about different things, and you’ll even hear more from the crowd. The difference can initially feel subtle, but the more you play, the more you’ll notice the improvement.
Once again, the development team has stated that they’ve improved online play, but until the game is released, we can’t know for sure. Added this year as well is the ability to play the Home Run Derby across the platforms, but again, the servers won’t be active until release day. Additionally, you’ll now have a Universal Profile, displaying all of your stats from both platforms, which brings things together even more than simply using cloud saves. They’ve also added an online leaderboard system for RttS that covers both the PS3 and Vita as well.
The Online League system has also been completely revamped, but since the servers aren’t live yet, and since I probably wouldn’t have had anyone to try it with anyway, I can’t really report in it.
On the surface, MLB 13 The Show will probably “look” the same as it did last year, but this is one of the deepest updates they’ve ever done to the actual core of the game. The updated presentation in RttS will require some getting used-to, but once that’s done, you’ll really love what they’ve done. Not being able to test any of the online components, there’s only so much that I can grade the game on. As soon as the servers go live, I’ll obviously test as much as I can, and will adjust the review appropriately. I love what they’ve done this year though, and now that the team has figured out how to get the Vita and PS3 version working together, buying both versions makes a lot more sense. I’ve only had a couple of days with the Vita version so far, but it definitely looks and plays much better than it did last year, which is saying a lot because I really liked it on the Vita last year.
As someone who plays Road to the Show for a majority of the time, this is definitely worth the upgrade. Luckily for everyone else though, they’ve made ample upgrades to the rest of the modes as well. While it may not “look” like a very big upgrade, looks can be deceiving, and in this case, that’s definitely the reality.
We identified an issue where no matter what swing follow-through that you choose for your player in Road to the Show or Franchise, it reverts back to the default version. This was also verified by a forums member at Operation Sports that somehow got the game early. This issue has been reported to the dev team and they have acknowledged it.