Note: The online servers for MLB 13:The Show were not available during our review period so this review focuses on the single player portion of the game online.
While spring isn’t exactly in the air here in the Great Lakes, at least turning on the television during the day yields America’s Pastime, baseball. Yes, spring training is here and that means that the inevitable release of MLB 13: The Show is upon us. Over the past couple of releases from Sony’s flagship sports franchise, we have seen the game progress from a major work-in progress to a finely tuned game that offers just about anything for the baseball fan to enjoy. However, this year’s title faces the daunting challenge of avoiding being a stagnant title that gets slapped with the dreaded “roster update” moniker that all sports titles must avoid. Is that the case this year? Let’s find out.
On The Diamond
MLB 13: The Show
prides itself on superior gameplay, and for the last couple of years, there has been little to no issue for gamers to complain about. After last year’s title, one of the chief issues that players had, especially newcomers, was that The Show
had a bit of a steep learning curve. I have to agree with this assessment as getting into some of the more advanced controls could get confusing. To answer these requests, The Show
now comes with a Beginner’s Mode. Simply put, controls are very simplified. Pitching is far easier than on the standard and advanced modes, basically becoming a point and click with the pitcher’s attributes dictating how close it gets to where the pitch is aimed. Hitting becomes simplified in that it is just about timing. There is no need to try and aim a shot, select power or contact, etc. It could not be easier to enjoy a baseball game between yourself and a friend.
While Beginner’s Mode is a nice addition, The Show
veterans are going to want to know what the regular modes bring to the table. Truth be told, not much has changed with the gameplay. Fielding/throwing has changed up the button element when throwing to a base in an attempt to throw a runner out. Instead of it being just timing at the end of the meter, there is now Red/Yellow/Green on the meter itself that will be dictated on the fielder’s attributes for throwing and accuracy. The better the player, the bigger the green and yellow sections are. Throws in the red will result in wildly inaccurate throws that will take players off of bases or, worse yet, cause errors. There isn’t much of a learning curve with this element, as it only takes a few throws to get used to the meter system.
Pitching has always been a favorite for me with baseball games. The challenge of keeping runners off base and trying to throw a no-hitter or a perfect game is one of the things I enjoy in a baseball title. The Show
has always given me a challenge with the pitching system, and it has changed slightly this year. The current mechanic is all about picking the proper location and timing yet again, but those who prefer the old meter system like I do can always go back to the old system. That’s one element of The Show
that I’ve always liked: If a player doesn’t enjoy a change, they can always revert back to a classic mode. There are still plenty of pitches to choose from in the create a player mode, including the Four-Seam, Two-Seam, or Running Fastballs, 12/6, Knuckle, or Regular Curveball, the Knuckleball, and a few others. I feel that players who prefer to pitch got the short end of the stick this year with changes as the gameplay seems to favor hitting this time around, even with the changes to the timing and pull/push system. I found that it was a lot easier to get pegged, especially against the CPU.
Hitting in MLB 13: The Show has been significantly revamped this year. Aside from created players getting a full customization of swing types (we’ll get to that later), the system put in place now has hitters labeled as one of five types of hitters: Extreme pull, Pull hitter, Balanced, Opposite field hitter, or Extreme opposite hitter. Hitting select during the game will tell you what the current hitter at the plate is labeled as. This will affect the battle between a pitcher and hitter greatly, considering that in past games, pitching a dead pull hitter outside made sense, but that hitter could still slap it into the opposite field. Now, it becomes much harder for a hitter to do just that. Timing is still a very critical element, as well as having the option to select the pitch that the pitcher is throwing. Pairing up the timing, pitch guessing, and contact vs. power can be a deadly combination that results in big hits at the right time.
The presentation in-game, once again, is a fantastic experience. This year, Steve Lyons joins the broadcast booth to offer even further breakdown of the game currently going on, adding to an already stellar broadcast that truly makes a player feel that they’re watching their favorite teams on television. The stadiums around the league are almost flawless, so one will see the ivy growing in thicker over the course of the season at Wrigley Field or take shots off of the Green Monster in Fenway Park. The presentation overall of The Show
is what truly separates it from just about every other sports franchise in the industry today.
Overall, the gameplay is solid, as expected. The downside to this year’s version, though, is that I don’t feel there’s enough improvement in every aspect of the game itself. I noted earlier that I felt that pitchers really took it on the chin this year. The Show
has always had a bit of a random element to pitching that has rubbed me the wrong way over the years. Even with a perfect pitch, the pitch is still not going to be perfect. I put in multiple games prior to this publication, and I found my pitchers getting lit up almost every game, no matter if I was throwing a fifth starter out there, or if I was using Justin Verlander. Hitters were teeing off on my pitchers far too often, even with sliders lowered. Perhaps pitching just has a very stiff learning curve this year, but it seems that the game is truly favored for hitting. I want to see balance in a game, so it’s a bit disappointing that the offense seems to have an advantage.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
is really the pioneering franchise of the incredibly popular “Be-A-Pro” modes that have appeared in practically every franchise now. While other franchises have tried it, The Show
was truly the first game to make it a truly enjoyable. This year is no different, as the Road to the Show (RTTS) mode has stayed relatively unchanged from a gameplay aspect. Gamer requests to have certain options added or removed have been addressed, such as taking out the “green light” system that seemed to really annoy players in the past couple of versions. However, one of the biggest complaints was the somewhat stagnant commentary during the RTTS mode.
This has been addressed with thousands of new commentary lines added to ensure that the focus is on the player in RTTS mode, especially in the minor leagues before getting called up. If your player is in a slump at the plate, you’re going to hear about it, and that’s the way it should be. Outside of these changes, RTTS remains the way it has been the last couple of years. It’s still a long haul to improve a player from game to game, month to month, and year to year. It requires time and patience before the player will receive that call up to the majors, especially in specific positions. Seasons go faster with players that are in the field, of course, as plays can be skipped to only when your player is involved, making games sometimes as quick as a few minutes. Starting pitchers, of course, are going to have a much longer season in the rotation, so it’s up to the gamer to decide what route to go.
Franchise mode has received the most attention with a noticeable boost in presentation. As expected, Franchise mode is a 12 month affair, not just the 162 games that your team will play in the regular season. Gamers had made mentions over the last couple of years that some of the offseason situations just weren’t as realistic as they were hoping for, so it was back to the drawing board this year. To improve upon these requests, items such as player valuations that affect drafting, trading, and free agency are now in place. Projections on team budgets and free agents are also be viewable, along with each team’s award winners and Hall of Fame inductees. The depth chart for every level of the franchise has been revamped, along with a new CBA “Qualifying Offer” system that gives a truly realistic view of the offseason. Several new spring training and minor league stadiums have been added, though the new minor league stadiums are simply creations and not official parks, which I feel is truly missing from the final product. I would love to see a stadium such as Huntington Park, which is the Columbus Clippers’ home park, the AAA Affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Even with that minor disappointment, the new minor league parks are very cool and offer a different feel when going through the minors.
As of this publication, I did not have the opportunity to try any of the online modes offered, such as Diamond Dynasty 2.0, Online Head-to-Head, or Cross Platform Home Run Derby, so those modes will have to be evaluated once the game is officially launched on March 5th
Customization everyone can enjoy
Let’s face it: Everyone wants to insert themselves into a game. It doesn’t matter what type of game it is, everyone wants to hear their name called out while playing. The Show
has made sure that their presentation for this is great, and now the customization level of an individual player has gone up to another level. Every created player can be changed right down to the length of their nose or the shape of their chin. While these are nice feature, in a baseball game, the important things are pitching and hitting motions and, now, a home run celebration. Instead of picking a standard swing or taking one from a current player, the level of customization is now at the point where the beginning, middle, and finish of a swing can be changed. If one wishes to have a one handed follow through and the flip of the bat on a home run swing, that can be done now. While the home run celebrations are only a few in number, this is just another step that is being taken to make sure that The Show
is as realistic as it gets.
I really enjoy this game year to year, but I was quite worried going through the list of changes and hoping that it didn't feel like the dreaded roster update that I eluded to in the beginning. I feel that enough changes have been made to the game to warrant picking it up this year, but there could have been more done to improve the title. With this year being a World Baseball Classic year, why not try to include that in the game? That is an option that I don't believe was even considered, and it's truly a disappointment as the first WBC was excellent, and I'm looking forward to watching it against this year. That disappointment aside, The Show
has given me plenty to enjoy over the course of my time with it, but it isn't anything mind-blowing or incredibly innovative. That isn't a bad thing, as the franchise is enjoying a healthy run as being a top sports franchise in an industry that is very fickle with releases every year.