With the first month of the MLB The Show 17’s Twitch streams in the books, one thing is abundantly clear: Sony San Diego has gone to great lengths to dramatically improve the lone perennial baseball game on the market. Previous iterations, especially as the game got its footing on the PlayStation 4, felt more incremental than material in terms of innovation. However, the 2016 version saw huge leaps in animations, innovative ideas like Conquest Mode, and improved visuals and overall gameplay. The Show carries a well-deserved pedigree of innovation that speaks volumes about how in-depth sports video games can be and how vital it is for developers to absorb fan feedback. They are a living, breathing reminder that console/license exclusivity is not such a bad thing.
As it stands right now, MLB The Show 17 looks like it could be something special. For those who have not caught up with the streams (check them out) that have been condensed and archived, here are a host of improvements big and small that could actually make MLB The Show 17 stand out.
Animations And Physics
The streams have demonstrated a focus on removing the nagging gameplay issues from last year’s iteration. Once a game, I was plagued by a routine double play ball wherein the shortstop or second baseman took his time throwing out a runner. The same with a grounder that splits the pitcher and first baseman. Not as frequently, base runners would make obscenely poor decisions and run past third base with the shortstop holding the ball, resulting in them being out by a mile at home.
Not only did Sony San Diego address these concerns head-on in the streams, but they ran repeated double-play scenarios live on the stream to showcase the improvements. Additionally, Ramone Russell’s Twitter (Show developer/community manager) featured Texas League hits and balls that die down the line. Streams showcased beautiful hooking line drives that have been very rare in baseball video gaming. Hits look great and varied, which is a vital component of keeping gameplay fresh.
The New Catcher Throwing Meter
My catchers would very rarely throw out would-be base stealers. Their indifference to the runners and inability to make on-target throws were disappointing and removed an overlooked component of the game. This year, catchers get their own throwing camera and meter-based throwing system that rewards accuracy and shows close plays in slow motion. This emphasis brings new life to an otherwise dormant part of the game.
The face scans this year truly make last year’s game look bad by comparison. Just look at the difference in Jose Altuve.
This is an impressive uptick in visuals. The graphical leap extends to created players as well, providing a new level of realism and eliminating the clones that permeated the Road to the Show minors.
Showcasing Kenta Maeda’s slow delivery in the initial live stream gave this mode a momentary bad rap. Retro Mode, as many are aware, is an arcade mode with elements of the SNES Ken Griffey series. A delightful fan service and reinforcement of Sony San Diego’s outside-of-the-box innovation, Retro Mode looks to be a quick nostalgic trip that will be much more fluid and fast-paced than the first stream suggested.
Hopefully, players will be able to play full seasons in the mode, rekindling our childhood summers of knocking out five full games in Ken Griffey in under an hour. Sony San Diego has proven its propensity to make significant changes to modes midseason, as evidenced with last year’s Diamond Dynasty Missions expansion, and the developers have yet to reveal everything about the mode, so here’s hoping that a season feature is included.
The entire presentation has been given a facelift. Stats are easier to access and menus are sleeker. Diamond Dynasty teams are displayed in baseball card formats instead of text-only lineups. There is even a DD card value tracker, showcasing how a certain card has trended in the marketplace. These shortcuts and cleaner displays will combat load times and provide direct routes into features that were a bit ignored last year.
The Universal Profile
Player profiles (the user, not the MLB players) were tweaked last year, but arguably perfected this year. Those who play The Show 17 are constantly earning experience points and leveling up in every mode, and no longer have to tailor their play style to meet certain captain requirements. Stats are kept for every mode and get considerably in-depth. Achievements for meeting certain in-game milestones yield rewards as well. The interface will be an easy way to examine your own tendencies, compare them to others and earn rewards for your Diamond Dynasty team (or, for those not interested in DD, the most coveted Franchise sponsorships).
Many did not care about about card-collecting modes until last year’s Show, when the option to play shorter games and the variety of the missions breathed new life into a well-executed concept. As such, many fans are salivating over the mode’s expansion, including evolving layers of varying missions. Circumstantial missions kept MLB The Show 16 engaging long after the conclusion of the real-life MLB season. The simplified DD navigation, the additional ways to play, the earning of rewards in every mode, and the host of new legend cards mix with all of the above improvements to hopefully create a monster of an experience.
March boasts even more reveals, including coveted Road to the Show and Franchise Mode reveals. The Twitch steam teases an entire “Create-A-Player Revamp” to be revealed on March 16, perhaps coinciding with the bounty of new sponsorship brands and dramatic improvements in face scans. We are not exactly holding our breath for a create-a-stadium mode, but Sony San Diego has surprised us before.
Additionally, the March 9 Twitch stream promises a franchise mode deep dive that highlights a “Franchise Launch Pad,” “Player Quirks” and the “Franchise Front Office.” Go ahead and speculate on the mysterious Franchise Launch Pad, which one could surmise is a cleaner and more structured way to begin the mode. Improvements in player chemistry and demands were interesting concepts in ’16, but ultimately fell flat due to frustrating free agency. Hopefully these new player quirks will make the experience more interesting. As for Franchise Front Office, are there some MVP Baseball 2005 Owner Mode tricks up MLB the Show 17‘s sleeve? Only time will tell…