If there were only one Major League Baseball game, we’d wish it was MLB The Show 16. Coincidentally, there is only one MLB game so maybe all of us baseball fans should consider ourselves lucky that the one we get is as robust, deep and realistic as Sony’s annual baseball outing.
By and large, MLB The Show 16 remains very much the game you’ve come to know over the past several years. As 2K’s MLB series faded into non-existence, Sony was left to hold up the video game mantle of our national pastime, and they’ve put forth valiant editions every year, honing in on excellent graphics and gameplay while pushing the boundaries of control styles and game modes.
Nearly every aspect of this year’s The Show is laudable; Sony hasn’t left the series without room for improvement. Minor as it may be, we feel obligated to pick the nits of player models since big name players like cover athlete Josh Donaldson look impressively like themselves, many players get a generic recreation, like they were given a half-assed pass through the create-a-player mode. Oh, and commentary somehow comes off as a weak retread for longtime fans of The Show as Matt Vasgersian, Eric Karros, and Steve Lyons regurgitate canned lines that’ll give you deja vu in the worst kind of way.
That’s where the downside ends for us, though, and that’s a feat in itself because the game has a huge breadth and depth and Sony’s nailed it on all of those other fronts. The Show puts forth more game modes than ever before with all new Home Run Derby and Online Franchise modes returning to accompany the now-traditional 'Franchise' and 'Road To The Show' modes. Taking a cue from Madden 16, there’s also a fantasy-inspired 'Battle Royale' mode where you can compete online with dream teams in three-inning spurts. Most of our playing happened before Sony’s servers were up and running but we’ve been playing online since earlier this week and have found MLB The Show 16 to be stable and lag-free.
Core gameplay sees some tinkering with a new 'Showtime' mode; think of it as a baseball version of Max Payne’s bullet-time slo-mo where you can make clutch diving catches or turn double plays. Showtime is specific to the 'RTTS' mode and can be turned off if you prefer really earn your spectacular plays. And there’s no question that those plays will actually look spectacular because, like years past, a huge amount of effort has gone into player animations that are varied, realistic and appropriate given the innumerable situations that game offers up.
Sony is the reigning king of MLB, and that’s not just because there’s no competition, it’s because there appears to be a genuine love of the game from the devs behind The Show and it shows in every aspect, new and improved or tried and true. With 2K out of the game and RBI Baseball set to make a nostalgic return later this year, it’ll take a monumental effort for any competitor to unseat the current king of diamonds.