MLB The Show has been around for a long time, beating out the competition and cornering the market for baseball video games across the entire industry. When thinking back on my previous reviews for MLB The Show, I always seem to mention that there never seemed to be any room for improvement, but after MLBThe Show 16, there was much more wiggle room than I could have imagined.
With all the great modes throughout The Show 16, Diamond Dynasty is once again the place to go. The execution and earning of cards is still incredibly addictive, and it’s hard to put down; it helps that studs and cards are being earned for practically everything you do. Apart from the standard online play within Diamond Dynasty, new modes Battle Royale and Conquest Mode have entered the mix. Much like Quick Draft in Madden 16, Battle Royale follows a similar scheme: draft your team through 25 rounds and then compete against other players for rewards; however, unlike Madden, this isn’t a one-loss-and-done scenario. On top of that, only so many platinum, gold, silver, and bronze rated players can be picked for each draft, which means that all online players will have the same sort of opportunity and have to play to his or her team’s strengths in order to come out victorious in the shortened three-inning games. You’re given two losses before you’re done, and the rewards keep going up for however many wins you chalk up. Even better still is, even with two losses right away, you’re still rewarded with a free standard card pack on top of whatever studs or cards you earned.
Then there’s Conquest Mode, which turns a map of the Continental United States into a game of team territories. The key resource in this mode is fans, and the objective is to fill as many, if not all, of the States with your fans. More fans means more influence and more influence allows for more ground to be covered, so playing and beating other teams is paramount to earning more and more fans. To compliment this menu-based mode, gameplay is shortened into three-inning games and events so more games can be played with more opportunities for fan growth.
Both of these new Diamond Dynasty Modes have a ton of replay value in mind for baseball lovers, but their shorter games and more interactive styles should be much easier to get into for players on the fence about baseball, because these are modes meant to contribute to a whole rather than to a stat-based season. On that note, veterans will want to come back and explore some of the new cards, because current and former superstars will also have flashback versions of themselves with altered stats based on their performances in whichever year is on that card. Extending from that is the option to gain favor with Captains, six MLB players chosen to represent gameplay styles, in order to earn specific rewards and better your team based on how you like to play. Really, Diamond Dynasty is where it’s at, and I see many of these fresh, new ideas showing up in other sports games in the near future.
Servers in general hold up well, even in the cusp of the online side of the game powering on. There’s the occasional delay in pitches and hit responses, but the only consequence would come to those like me who pitch with Pulse Pitch or Analog Pitch, since the delay occurs before the pitch initiates; just remember to hold your positions on the ball until the pitcher begins the windup.
The people on the team who determine which songs will make up the soundtracks need an award of their own. While this year’s soundtrack isn’t the best, it still brings to The Show a wide array of sounds and style that stand well on their own as well as mesh perfectly with the flow of the game; while there are two or three songs of which I’m not fond, they fit well in the grand scheme of things.
Thanks to the addition of Physically-Based Rendering (PBR), the visual presentation is filled to the brim with detail, and the biggest beneficiary to this new addition is games played at night. PBR in a nutshell is a rendering module intended to more accurately simulate lighting effects on all surfaces, which includes both natural and artificial lighting. Night games are gorgeous and no longer cloudy or shadowed in weird and unsightly ways, and while previous years have had improvements in this matter, this is an ironing-out many have been waiting for.
Whether it’s a rail shooter or a sports game, you’re always susceptible to the programming behind how the camera functions, and more than ever this year the camera has some frustrations. I began my review time with Road to The Show (RTTS), and the camera qualm hit me the minute I took to the outfield with my left fielder. With the crack of the bat, the ball went soaring behind my head, and the camera compensated by changing directions toward the camera. Naturally, I moved my joystick before the camera change, so I ended up looking like a fool way out in left field, but I got used to reacting to the camera change rather than responding to the ball. After trial and error, I learned that the camera will follow the ball when it will land in the front 180 degrees of my player and the camera will change when it will land in the back 180 degrees. This becomes a reaction to which way the camera shifts rather than where the ball goes; and while it’s simple to get used to, it’s somewhat of an ideological faux pas to the game of baseball.
The four buttons have always represented the bases, but particular game modes like RTTS flipped them, making Triangle Home Plate instead of X, opting for a more relative experience from the field. Now, X is always Home Plate, Triangle is always Second, and Square and Circle represent their proper plates as well. It’s a good change, because now more than ever there are more reasons to jump between modes and having to change your mindset for different control schemes is cumbersome. This is one adjustment that’s been a long time coming.
The new Showtime feature has potential to make things much more cinematic and interactive than they already are, but it has its fair share of growing pains. The premise behind Showtime is slowing down the game in order to make better decisions; most athletes mention in interviews and the like that the game slows down the more comfortable he or she becomes within their sport, so SDS’s inspiration for this new Showtime feature may partially stem from that. You hold R2 and the game moves at a turtle’s pace, highlighting exactly what you need. A target appears on either the ball or the ball’s destination, depending on the situation, and you must move your cursor over that target before the short timer expires. This works very well when fielding a pop fly and trying to pick off a runner at Home, but the other uses of Showtime may be more of a relative preference for you. When a homer is falling just over the wall, you can press R2 on prompt to watch the ball fall as your player automatically runs to the wall to try and jump for it.
Here, you still move your cursor to your glove so you can make the catch, which is a nice touch, but it replaces your own timing on the ball with responding to a Quick Time Event. Then, batters can slow down time to follow pitches, but this for me ends up screwing up my timing on the ball more than anything else. Certainly, more time with some of these more relative features will probably bring them back into my favor, but it seems like quite a bit of time and effort to justify something that attempts to make the game more accessible. Like I said before, Showtime may work better for some at certain points, but it won’t work for everyone. For the sake of latency, I’m sure, Showtime is not a feature in any online modes, since natural lag messes with timing already—I cannot imagine the algorithm for compensating online lag on a slow-motion feature like Showtime.
Though the new Showtime feature requires some acclimation time, MLBThe Show 16 has its bases juiced and set up for a Grand Slam. Dynasty Mode continues to excel on all counts with even more reasons to collect cards in its highly-addictive featurette, and the game as a whole takes its decadent visuals and up them with nothing but photorealistic lighting. MLBThe Show 16 is a must for anyone even remotely interested in baseball: It’s got something for everyone.