It’s been a while since we checked in with Playstation’s flagship baseball franchise, MLB The Show. The last time we wrote a review here was 2014, and with sports games being saddled with annual releases, that’s essentially forever ago. I’ve played a couple games since then, but 19 grabbed my attention for the first time in a while.
Some people may enjoy franchise mode or collecting cards in Diamond Dynasty, but I’m all about Road to the Show. Taking a creating player through a career has always been my jam with sports games, and MLB The Show has been one of the leading pioneers in that department. Since the last game I played (17), some things have been tweaked — there are new interactions that can be affected by player archetypes, and stat growth is based on performance in specific categories now rather than a pool of points you would earn while playing. Overall, these changes are for the better. Sure, it gets a little silly doing yoga with Jake Lamb 27 times in the same season to work on my plate discipline, but whatever — at least it feels like you’re part of the team.
Road to the Show continues its familiar start, taking a AA player and grinding him all the way to the big leagues, then to superstardom if you put in the time. This is one area where The Show shines compared to its competitors; I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be stuck with a 65 overall player trying to guard Steph Curry in the NBA 2K series. Thanks to the minor league system, you get to face appropriate level opposition while building your stats in the early going. Once you show that you can hang at that level, a promotion to AAA or the majors isn’t too far behind. It never feels like you’re stuck in the minors for too long, and most players should get their taste of the bigs by the end of their second season.
One improvement I appreciated was in the overall look of the game. While seeing repeated animations and hearing the same dialogue is somewhat unavoidable in these type of games, 19 has some fluid looking new fielding movements and plenty of pitching and batting stances to keep things fresh. While Matt Vasgersian continues to be solid overall (as he has been since the series started more than a decade ago), but Dan Plesac and Mark DeRosa don’t do much for me. It doesn’t help that they sound similar. Let’s put it this way: making me wish that Harold Reynolds was still around is not a compliment. I miss Dave Campbell.
One area that is still a downside: player authenticity. Sure, somebody like Archie Bradley has a recognizable full beard, but there are some players that barely look like their real-life counterparts. Considering the development of facial recognition technology, The Show putting out models like this is unacceptable in 2019. This is one aspect where the NBA 2K games have blown the competition out of the water. NFL and NHL games are still behind the curve too, but it’s less noticeable in sports where the players wear helmets. I can tolerate limited hairstyles because of the hats in baseball, but having Clayton Kershaw look like some kind of malformed monster just doesn’t fly.
I’ve enjoyed my time with MLB The Show 19 so far, and will probably explore some of the other modes (like March to October) once I’ve finished putting time into RTTS. It’s another solid entry in a series whose pedigree speaks for itself, but it’s by no means mandatory if you’ve purchased a title in the last year or two. Unless you’re a diehard fan of the sport, annual upgrades just aren’t necessary.