In a side of gaming where innovation is fairly limited, every few years comes a game that stands above the rest. This year, gaming and baseball fans were treated to one of those games.
Since the inception of The Show franchise, they have been the best baseball games on the market. With their Road to the Show mode, where the player can create a player and then control them on their quest to be a major league star, the game offered a more complete experience then any other on the market. This year they upped the ante.
To start, the in game game play has gone up a notch. They addressed an issue they had in last year’s game where it was nearly impossible to score runs since the hitting controls were nearly impossible to master. That has been fixed this year. Although hitting is still not easy, the way the player guesses a pitch and the margin for error in where a pitch is thrown and timing is much larger. The player guesses the pitch and its location and the ball flashes as it approaches to the plate if the guess was correct, the player then controls an area where they can guess where the ball will be. The closer to the ball, the better the contact.
The pitching interface is the challenging but realistic pulse pitching interface. The player chooses the pitch and then location and must time their release with a pulse around the ball. The better the pitcher the slower the pulse which makes it easier to throw an accurate pitch.
The in game play is only a small part of the game though. The Show gives the user to option to control one or all the mlbs teams as a manager and general manager. The player is given complete control over line-ups, coaches, roster moves and scouting. You can even select which players will train what skills. The result is an incredibly in depth and intuitive franchise managing interface. The player controls everything from what pitches to throw to how much to sign draft picks for. Additionally, the game’s interface for improving players is incredible. Within the season players’ ratings fluctuate based on performance and what training you have them doing. This makes the game less about signing the biggest names and more about dishing out money to the right players and developing your other players – just like in real life.
Also new this year is a game mode which allows the player to download real life situations from recent games to play in. This allows the player to participate in games featuring their favorite players and real life situations and see how they fare.
But all of these features are merely an appetizer for the main attraction, the road to the show game mode. Long the feature presentation of this game, this year its even better then before. Where as in the past, the game gave the user a set number of points to spend as they pleased on their player, this year there are three sliders, asking the player if they want to be fast or strong, hit for average or power and have a strong arm or good glove. The game then automatically populates the players stats for them and gives 500 training points to train whichever stats you want.
At that point the games gameplay mode takes over. In addition to normal game play, the player receives +/- points for every play they are involved in. The system is incredibly intricate, assigning different values to different acts, and understands many of the nuances of baseball. For example, if a batter fails to reach base, but sees a lot of pitches, they will receive positive points. The better you do in your at bat the more points you will receive. The interface works the same way for pitching, giving you more credit for working efficiently and retiring batters with as few pitches as possible.
The game does not measure your success solely on stats, but instead has two week advancement periods where you are assigned three or four goals to achieve in a two week period. Generally, two of the goals are training based, and asks the player to improve to traits by a certain number of points. The remaining one or two are performance based and can range from limiting strikeouts to batting in runs. Depending on the type of player you have created these goals will vary. For a pitcher, these goals can range from limiting runs to limiting walks.
Each training trait correlates directly with a certain skill on the field and also applies not so directly to another field. This means that when a user trains one field, it has an effect on other parts of their game as well.
The RTTS mode is addicting. Players will find themselves playing game after game in a quest to bounce back after a bad performance or continue to string together good ones. The interface allows the user to see exactly how their player stacks up with other players at the same position in your organization. It sets clear goals for the player to follow and also gives you the ability to compare yourself to other players so you can see how their players are doing in comparison to yours.
Additionally you are given a list of interactions you can make with your organization, which allows you to request a position change, a trade or more money. You can also retire.
What makes RTTS so interesting is it allows the player to play against or with their favorite players in their favorite venues. The interface allows for quick advancement, which holds the players attention and makes the game experience more fun. While it is easy to make your player better, it is not as easy to perform well every outing, which balances the game from being too easy or too hard.
Because it is a baseball game, these games do not take as long as a usual nine inning game would because you only need to control your player while they are involved in the plays on the field. This means as a batter nine inning games go much faster, and as a pitcher you only need to throw every few games or so, depending on your role as a starter or reliever.
MLB 13: The Show is a worthy addition to the show franchise and does as good a job as any sports game in balancing difficulty and innovation to keep the player involved and engaged.