MLB The Show 16 continues to showcase San Diego Studios’ attention to detail and passion to make a great baseball game, and The Show 16 is one of the very best they’ve ever released. There’s the incredible gameplay and stunning visuals that have always been there, but this year shows off new features and game modes that make old modes feel brand new, as well as switching up the status quo with minor adjustments and additions that don’t spoil the excellent core.
As someone who is obsessed with Road to the Show, it’s great to see that San Diego Studios has listened to feedback and has made jumping in and out of games easy and with minor load times. You can play an entire series without having to load back to the main menu, and you can even train your player in between games, too. If you’re unfamiliar with Road to the Show, essentially you create your own player, whether that be a slugging third baseman, a flamethrower starting pitcher or whatever kind of player you’d like to be, and then you play as them while earning XP in order to increase their various stats and move from AA and AAA minor league teams all the way up to the majors.
Instead of just playing the showcase games to evaluate your Road to the Show player like in The Show 15, you now have to attend a scouting day, where the game’s scouts will rate your player in line with the real life 20 to 80 rating scale for your tools based on how you play in front of them. Seeing how the scouts rate you is a rewarding addition that will either inflate your ego or give you a driving force to prove them wrong.
Also new to Road to the Show (but can also be used when you lock yourself to one real-life player in other modes) is Showtime. Showtime is a new feature that allows you to perform in the heat of the moment or to give yourself an advantage when necessary. For instance, when batting, you can hold down R2 to activate Showtime, which will slow down time and widen the window for you to hit pitches in clutch moments. On defense, Showtime can be used to make diving catches easier to make perfectly placed throws. Pitchers can also use Showtime in order to pinpoint pitches to specific locations. Showtime is, of course, finite, so don’t think you can keep spamming it to make the game easier; in fact, even when you activate Showtime, you might pop up when batting, or that pitch you thought you placed perfectly might be murdered out of the park by someone like Big Papi. But that’s what makes Showtime so exciting, because you can lay everything down on the table, yet it may not be enough. It adds some great drama when you’re playing in do or die moments, and being able to influence a higher chance of hitting a walk off homerun or striking out the final batter for a no hitter adds excitement that The Show hadn’t captured fully before – and I love it.
Showtime isn’t limited to just slowing down time or for precise aiming, because you can unlock passive and active perks for your player that use part of the Showtime meter. One of my favorite perks that I can activate in-game makes the opposing batter start his count 0-1, but that means you have less Showtime meter to use. It’s a strategic choice that must be made, and it’s fun to see how choices with Showtime perks can benefit you at first, but when you’re staring down Miguel Cabrera with no Showtime meter and the bases loaded, you might wish you saved your meter instead of wasting it.
Diamond Dynasty, the mode where you buy and collect baseball cards of players to make a new team, makes its return with a few interesting additions. While you’ll still try and collect the best players from every team to make your own, you can earn them from two new ways instead of just buying card packs with real or virtual currency. Missions, where you can perform different tasks to unlock certain items. Then there’s the new captains feature, where you can choose from six captains: Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays, Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets, Houston Astro Jose Altuve, Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs, Eric Hosmer from the world champ Kansas City Royals, or finally David Ortiz from the Red Sox. Think of these captains as stores where you exchange tickets earned from completing missions to buy captain-only cards.
There’s even a new RISK-like mode called Conquest where you take your Diamond Dynasty team and try to conquer the 30 MLB teams and their respective regions with fans servicing as your “army,” and baseball games as battles. Fans allow you to attack other regions or defend against attacks, and the amount of fans you use to attack or defend with will affect the difficulty of the battle for the players on your Diamond Dynasty team.
Franchise mode has a surprisingly cool feature that tracks player happiness when they’re on your team and player interest in signing with a team. When a player it on your team, the menu will show what that player expects or wants on a team. A pitcher like Clayton Kershaw expects to be a the ace of a pitching staff, so if you designate that to another pitcher, Kershaw might be less interested in being on your team and may leave in free agency. This also affects the likelihood of a player signing with your team as a free agent. Factors like being close to their birthplace, playing with countrymen, wanting a specific role and of course money can change a players interest with signing. Joe Bautista may want to play on a team close to home, but you can counter that by offering more money; or the flip side of that could be a player accepting more money in order to play closer to home. It’s a cool dynamic that puts some personality in the virtual players, and it makes being a general manager more strategic and engaging.
If you’ve played any of the previous The Show versions, you’ve likely become accustomed to the voice of Matt Vasgersian with the play-by-play commentary, but Vasgersian and the series’ rotating wheel of color commentators desperately needs an update. Hearing the exact same dialogue on various plays that have been the same reactions on previous The Show games has resulted in my ability to recite the lines when I see a play developing. Their voices lack any excitement when playing, and it can really drain out the excitement of an amazing play when there’s a half enthusiastic reaction or poorly acted-out line. There’s of course new lines added throughout the game – and probably a lot of them – but there’s still too many recycled lines sewn between the new ones. While many of the pieces in The Show have been upgraded in this year’s edition, the commentary remains a hollow recreation from people who are great commentators in real life (seriously, go listen to some of Vasgersian’s real-life calls – they’re great).
The Show 16 now tracks sabermetric stats like Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and fielding independent pitching (FIP). To the casual baseball fan this may seem unimportant, but these are two of the most advanced stats that can track a player’s true value to a team, and their inclusion can be incredibly useful in modes like franchise, where these newer stats can be used to look beyond the sometimes misleading stats like average and runs batted in or wins to find diamonds in the, well, diamonds.
MLB The Show 16 may not differ drastically from last year’s installment, but it comes into camp stronger, faster and smarter than ever before. Whether you want to live out your fantasy of becoming an all-star in the majors or you just want to play as your favorite teams, The Show 16 is perfect for any baseball fan.
This review is based on a review copy of the PlayStation 4 version of MLB The Show 16 by San Diego Studios. Review copy provided by Sony Computer Entertainment.
- The new Showtime feature
- Road to the Show improvements
- Player morale and contract negotiations
- Play-by-play and color commentary is getting stale