The magic behind annually-released titles is the fact that a relatively similar experience can be had each and every year with changes that enhance each title along the way. San Diego Studios more than likely knows more about baseball than most baseball players do, considering the amount of dedicated yearly work that the team puts together in each release of MLB The Show. MLB 13 The Show takes everything that fans loved from last year’s release and makes them better, and, like every new release, the development crew adds fresh ways to play the game so even veterans have something new to try.
The most welcoming feature to MLB 13, especially for new investors in the best-selling baseball franchise, is the Beginner Mode. Since so many different control schemes have been added over the years, it becomes incredibly hard to determine what type of play styles work best or feel most comfortable—hell, this can be challenging for people who have played the last few installments. The Show 13 allows beginners to jump into an easier mode of play, but it’s not simply a lowered delivery. It’s a mode which responds to the player to determine ability and rate of progress, and the difficulty adapts itself to player performance automatically.
Customizable controls have been a prominent theme in The Show, and each one has introduced a new way to play the game in some form or another. Last year, players were graced with Pulse Hitting and Pulse Pitching, and this year has some gems of its own. With 29 different pages of controls detailed in the Game Controls option in the main menu, it almost goes without saying that you’ll find a play style that fits you perfectly.
One aspect of the game that veterans will notice right away—and newcomers will be surprised by—is that the HUD overlay looks like it should be part of an actual TV broadcast. Last year, the display and the field looked connected in one image, but this year yields an appearance that feels as authentic as watching a baseball game on cable; a couple of times, I caught myself watching a preview game that loaded up from being on the main menu for too long, because the games themselves caught me off guard.
Many of the typical game modes make a return, such as Franchise and Road to the Show. This year, Franchise Mode isn’t only about playing through seasons. On top of the normal game schedule, you manage your team’s performance by playing the games and are rewarded with more financial support. So, even smaller teams who do well can raise themselves in the overall league ranks and become a financial and able contender with some of the more able-bodied teams.
Road to the Show (RttS), which is one of my favorite gameplay modes in The Show, has received a very intriguing change to how it’s delivered. The mode has its normal experience point system for leveling player abilities, but RttS now enriches the experience of each game rather than simply delivering the parts of the game where only the player participates. Take a pitcher for example: the other half of the inning that’s not pitched is simulated in a digital diamond on the pop-up menu screen in order of play occurrence. This allows the player to keep track of what happens when he’s not on the field instead of coming back to a 10-point deficit and wondering why. For those who love baseball more than anything in the world, you also have the option to watch from the dugout like you were on the field yourself. So, instead of watching the digital simulation of what happened in your off-time, you can watch it happen from the sidelines. At the same time, you can use the right joystick to look around the stadium; The Show will force you to look at each pitch automatically, but it lets you go back to your scenery gazing after the play is over - the same goes for batters in RttS who are up to bat.
This is one addition that digs up the sole issue with MLB 13 The Show, and this issue isn’t even that big: the crowd. Like every crowd in every sports game, the spectators look like paper puppets that move in rhythm to what’s going on in the game. Sure, people wave, cheer, and stand when someone knocks one out of the park—and there are even some people walking up and down the stairs between the stands sections—but the crowd is lacking substantiality in terms of what’s in the foreground. Ultimately, the paper spectators are highlighted in this new feature, and, even though the game looks wonderful, it’s a sign that the game can only go so far on the PlayStation 3. Sound also becomes an issue here. When commentators begin talking, the sounds of the field shift into a muffled form to allow the commentators to talk about what’s going on. This would be all well and good if it didn’t sound so unnatural. Granted, this only happens while watching the game in this way, but it’s startling to find something so out of place in The Show.
In the light of the aforementioned disparity, I’d like to clarify that this year’s The Show couldn’t look better—at least on the PS3. New subtle animations were added to every aspect of this game, which creates an even more authentic depiction of America’s Greatest Pastime, and it’s hard to believe that this game could visually improve on Sony’s current console.
Diamond Dynasty is available again, which allows players to create and manage their own teams. Since San Diego Studios has a reputation to consider, this mode wouldn’t be in The Show if it didn’t have a plethora of ways to customize the experience. Entire logos can be created, uniforms can be detailed down to the shoes, and each player can be edited to look exactly how you want them—your only limitation is the time you want to invest in generating your own baseball team.
You don’t want to play through an entire season to get to the postseason? You don’t even have to simulate the season now. The Postseason mode allows you to pick any team you want to enter the postseason, and the rest of the teams can be chosen at your leisure; even though adding the Chicago Cubs as an opponent may be laughable, it’ll make your life much easier.
Home Run Derby features legitimate Cross-Platform Play for the first time in The Show. Anyone playing on a PlayStation Vita can play online against another person who’s playing on a PS3. It’s unfortunate that this is the only way to play across the platforms, but it’d be terribly uneven to play normal games against each other, considering the PS3 version has more customizable options and is, in my opinion much easier to use.
This brings me to the PS Vita portion of this review: to sum up the experience in a sentence, the PS Vita version of MLB 13 The Show has almost as much in it as its PS3 counterpart without the high-definition detail in all forms. The control schemes are present and work well, but anything dealing with precise joystick use (like Pure Analog pitching and hitting) requires some patience and acclimation to how the joysticks react to thumb movement; the PS3 joysticks, by their size alone, compensate movement where the PS Vita joysticks require much more accuracy.
This version is missing some key components from the PS3 version, including Diamond Dynasty, Leagues, Challenge of the Week, and Rivalry, which are all returning game modes from last year’s PS3 version of The Show. Since the PS Vita version is $20 cheaper, it numerically makes sense that some modes and features would be excluded, but this could be a deal breaker for some. What makes this a baseball fan’s dream is that save files can still be transferred between both version of The Show, so you can play your Season, RttS player, and Franchise save files wherever you are.
Outside of the obvious visual differences between the two, the PS Vita version of The Show captures what the PS3 version can essentially do and puts it in a portable form that doesn’t cut any gameplay corners. Graphically, it looks a bit less detailed from last year’s portable version, but menus, loading, and gameplay are much smoother. San Diego Studios is still learning how to properly utilize Sony’s handheld, but it’s well on its way.
To consider the very, very few limitations left in this game is to look forward to the PlayStation 4 and think about exactly how great that game will look. Growth is incredibly limited in present hardware, and the only direction left is up. This time next year, we’ll have the first version of The Show on the PlayStation 4 (assumably, of course), and thinking of a better-looking game than what we have now is hard to consider. The only limitations left are in the crowd rendering and sound issues in RttS new features, but the PS Vita version still has room to grow. Graphics aside, the portable game has things well in hand, and the growth of the mobile version of The Show can only improve—it’s handled by San Diego Studios, after all.
-The Final Word-
San Diego Studios seeks perfection beyond past PS3 installments by continuously generating new and better ways to play America's Pastime. The PS Vita version has limitations, but its performance more than justifies the comparative gripes to its console counterpart.
|Platforms reviewed : PlayStation 3|