The last time I played MLB The Show was two years ago. So while changes year to year can sometimes be hard to see if you never take time off from a series, I feel like my perspective might add a little something different for that reason. My favorite mode is Road to the Show, so that’s what I dove into when I picked up the game.
So here are my impressions of Road to the Show after returning to it following a long hiatus.
What I Like
Options, Options, And More Options
What continues to separate The Show is the options you have when creating a character. For me, a game can be much more exciting to play if you’re able to create a real-life representation of yourself. Some games let you scan your face while others do not. The Show falls into the latter category, but that still doesn’t stop you from having the opportunity to bring a representation of yourself to the virtual diamond.
Your eyes, ears, mouth and nose, pretty much everything can be customized accurately and definitively. Want to look like Gru from Despicable Me, you can do that too. Want to have big eyes like the MOMO or ears like Dumbo? You can do that as well. The point is, almost any sort of abomination can be created here.
I mentioned facial features, but the rest of the options are just as diverse. Hair and facial hair are unlike anything I’ve seen in sports gaming. And then there are uniform options. Who doesn’t want to be covered from head to toe in the latest sleeves, pine tar and Oakleys? There’s a lot to do in The Show, and that’s before you start RttS.
To give a general overview, there are four different personality traits, and each will impact your customized character.
Lightning Rod – This trait is exactly what it sounds like, and that means that you are the source of energy for your MLB team. It also means that your teammates rely on you to spark things, whether that be while hitting or on defense. To start, you will be given a jump start, which improves your ability to hit early in the counts. And then there’s Eye of the Storm, which allows you to take a pitch using the slow-motion feature. These improve and become more intricate as the game progresses.
Maverick – This is the lone wolf of the group and can be deemed as an outcast by the league and his teammates. This trait allows you to perform better against rivals but not necessarily win over the respect of your teammates. Combined with another characteristic, however, it could work out in the long run.
Captain – Growing up, we all wanted to be the captains of our team, regardless of the sport. The same holds in MLB The Show. The perks you can have with this trait include homefield advantage when hitting and clear for takeoff, which increases swing power when down in counts.
Heart And Soul – The last personality option is heart and soul, which is more of a long-term bond that you can develop with your teammates. To start, users are given the inner peace and defibrillator perks. The first of these allows for easier hit time for pitches right over the plate. The other improves hitting in counts where you are ahead. If you’re a patient hitter like me — almost too patient — this is one of the personalities/perks I’ve found to be most beneficial.
I’m a hopeless romantic. So, I choose to perfect the heart and soul relationship. Combining this with captain allowed me to groom my player into the superstar I had hoped he’d become. Sure, it’s still a work in progress, but I can see a noticeable difference in my player not only on the field, but in the locker room and around his teammates as well.
For a guy who hasn’t played MLB The Show in several years, the gameplay is refreshing when you compare it to some of the other sports simulations on the market. Admittedly, I’m a Madden guy, but most of us accept that EA has struggled to truly capture the art of football. SDS does not have that same issue. It remains the best representation of any sports game on the market. And with new fielding mechanics added, it adds even more control to your hopeful Ken Griffey Jr. minor leaguer. The extreme catch indicator, enhanced button accuracy and new library of animations keep things fresher than I ever remember.
The new challenges added to RttS that show up in real-time are a welcomed breath of fresh air and are a game-changer. Dynamic problems seem to give the user more opportunities to make plays in critical situations than we may have seen in the past. Overall, all the new gameplay additions to this year’s installment work and add a new approach to this year’s game.
What I Don’t Like
Maybe I’m just not as good at baseball games as others out there, but like the RttS I’ve started in the past, it seems to be a never-ending struggle to get called up to the big leagues. And once you finally are in the show, it seems to be even harder to sustain that success. If I’m sincere, I always lean towards creating a pitcher. So, I’ve tried this with both a pitcher and skill position player, and I feel it’s a bit harder to get to the big leagues as an MLB pitcher. Maybe this will change in due time, but for now, I’m just a small fish in a big pond.
For as beautifully crafted as Road to the Show is in this form, one thing that has always been the issue for me is replay value. Perhaps I expect too much from video games nowadays because, again, this mode is nearly flawless when it comes to a representation of the game of baseball. But for me, I often find myself getting lost in the same old, same old. I’m not sure there’s anything that SDS can do to hold my attention or make this a game mode that doesn’t eventually feel like more of a chore than a passion.
In the end, it still seems like there is no better solo-driven game mode in all of sports than Road to the Show. Madden seemed to be onto something with QB1, but that fizzled out in a hurry. There might be minor gameplay flaws here and there, and after a while it might become second nature or almost seem like yard work, but RttS is still the cream of the crop.
If you own a PS4, like baseball and have not bought this year’s installment of MLB The Show, I think you should scope it out. Road to the Show is a game mode worth playing if you have taken some time off and are starting to get that urge to play it once more.