While last year’s MLB 12 was quite easily one of the best baseball games I’ve ever played, MLB 13: The Show just might take the cake, as the latest entry into the series not only improves on the game’s accessibility, but also offers plenty of depth and a beautiful-looking rendition of the great American pastime.
For starters, the game’s biggest new function is Beginner Mode, which we discussed with the development team a few months ago at a media event at AT&T Park in San Francisco. As it sounds, Beginner Mode aims to bring casual fans in, by hand-holding them into the process of getting started, before gradually letting them experience a bit more of a challenge. Having played in this mode for a few days, I actually found it helpful to polish up not only on my skills but to slowly remember what the control scheme is like.
One thing that beginners will really like is the tweak to the hitting system which makes the timing for hitting the ball across all difficulty settings a little greater. Essentially, making contact with the ball just got a little easier, which is music to the ears of even veterans like myself who still have issues once in a while getting the timing just right. Now keep in mind, this doesn’t mean that slapping the ball around the yard suddenly became really easy, in fact, I’d say it’s a bit more realistic now, as it’s still challenging, but not over the top like in last year’s game.
Then there’s the game’s new Posteason Mode, which lets players jump straight into the postseason, without the grind of the regular season. In this mode, you can setup your own bracket of teams and I was happy to see the atmosphere, commentary and overall presentation changed to reflect the mood of the postseason. The commentary, I think, shines in this mode, especially with Steve Lyons, Eric Karros and Matt Vasgersian, who really complement each other. I will say that in the regular season, some of the commentary does get a tad repetitive, but not so much in Postseason Mode, where they work off each other and provide some nice stats.
I can’t forget to mention Road to the Show, which of course, is the game’s RPG mode, which lets gamers take on the role as a pitcher or position player, as they work their way up from the minors to the majors. Pitching has always been my favorite endeavor, but position players now seem more enjoyable this time around, especially since the hitting mechanic was opened up to be a little more accessible. I’m also happy to report that online play is much improved this year, thanks in part to its improved offensive experience (due to the hitting engine), and most importantly, online games, from the ones I played, are pretty smooth, without much lag like I’ve seen in the past. Sure it’s still not on par with playing it offline, but it’s at least consistent this time around, as it pertains to lag (a lack thereof).
Finally there’s the awesome Franchise mode, which takes your favorite team from Spring Training, to Opening Day and through the postseason, if you’re good enough to earn a spot. Aside from being on the field and trying to make plays, you’re able to take full control of your club, by managing your budget, among the on-the-field play and off-season moves. You’ll see the money flow in if you’re team is doing well, so there’s an added incentive to win, which also raises the team’s budget for the following season. It’s like a circle really, play well, make more money, improve your team, have the tools in place to play well again the following season with a bigger budget.
Regardless of what mode you play in, MLB 13: The Show has a little bit of everything, and when you add an improved control scheme, with a living, breathing atmosphere on the field, you simply get a winning combination that makes this year’s iteration a homerun.