Baseball is in kind of a weird place right now. The hot stove has barely flickered, the biggest transaction being Giancarlo Stanton's (admittedly massive) move to the New York Yankees. Otherwise marquee free agents like Yu Darvish remain on the sidelines. But we can happily continue to count on the excellence of Sony San Diego's MLB The Show, which will once again be trotting out to the mound this March.
MLB The Show 18's first gameplay trailer debuted yesterday, depicting Babe Ruth, Aaron Judge, and lots of new animations. You can watch it below.
As information continues to trickle out in the run-up to MLB The Show's release, here are five observations on what Sony San Diego is working on for this year.
The new presentation elements are great and will also make me hate everything forever
I am a fan of the Minnesota Twins, a midsized baseball club that is mostly known for getting its throat stepped on by the New York Yankees—a much bigger ball club. Last year the Twins miraculously made the playoffs only to get unceremoniously annihilated by those same Yankees. My lasting memory of that game is the repeated shots to the so-called "Judge's Chambers," where fans dressed in robes waved "All Rise!" signs. It got... a little old after a while.
This year the very Yankees-centric MLB The Show 18 will be incorporating all of this into the presentation, which means I get to see it in my video games now, too. And all I can say is, "Yay for me." But in all seriousness, MLB The Show has always been pretty great about conveying the atmosphere of the ballpark—from the taunts in the crowd to the way the Minnie & Paul sign lights up at Target Field—but more is always better. Even... sigh... if it means hearing "All Rise!" 20 times a game.
It's good to see that Road to the Show is getting more love this year
It's become customary for sports sims to make a big push on a certain mode for one year, then declare their work finished and move on to something else on their bucket list. Last year MLB The Show introduced some fun—if kind of ugly—cutscenes that served to liven up Road to the Show, their flagship "Be a Player" mode. Following that, it wouldn't have been surprising had they decided to move on, but it sounds like Road to the Show is getting additional love this year.
I'm glad that it's getting the attention it deserves. Road to the Show remains one of MLB The Show's highlights, cirumventing the plodding pace of franchise mode and allowing you to play a dozen or more games in one sitting. Like the rest of the modes, it's a tad sterile, but it's a far sight better than what's on offer in Madden and FIFA, which have seemingly abandoned player mode entirely in favor of storytelling. And it's nowhere near the microtransaction disaster that NBA 2K18 has become.
Road to the Show has needed an overhaul for a while now, so it's good to see that this is seemingly a multi-year effort on Sony San Diego's part. We don't know much now—aside from the fact that there will seemingly be a plane ride—but they should reveal more soon.
Last year's server debacle might have been the wake-up call Sony San Diego needed
This isn't strictly from the trailer, but it needs to be addressed nevertheless: MLB The Show 18's servers are going to be a key element to watch.
Online has always been touch and go with MLB The Show. Every entry going back to the PS3 has been plagued by some sort of issue with lag or server connectivity, but last year was particularly bad. Game results took forever to sync, disconnects were rampant, and it was often impossible to even login. In a game leaning more heavily than ever on online elements, it was totally unacceptable.
Every year Sony San Diego says it's going to improve the online play, but last year really seemed to be the breaking point. Let's hope so.
MLB The Show 18 seems intent on fixing many of the issues that have plagued online play
On the surface, MLB The Show is a fun, balanced baseball sim. But, of course, if you play a game long enough, the cracks will inevitably begin to show. MLB The Show 18 will seek to address some of those cracks while doing its best to avoid opening new ones.
"It's more accurate, and I'm talking the stationary tags, the setup tags at the bases, and running tags from every angle," senior gameplay producer Chris Gill told Game Informer. "Tags out of catching a ball, so if I'm fielding a ball and a guy's running by me we can facilitate all the angles."
It might seem minute, but this is the kind of stuff hardcore players notice. On top of that, MLB The Show is addressing the hitting physics, and catchers will apparently be much better about reacting better to dropped balls. That's great because catchers have quietly been an eyesore in the series for some time now.
It's kind of amazing it took this long for Babe Ruth to be in MLB The Show
When I saw the promo images revealing that Babe Ruth would be in MLB the Show 18, my first thought was, "Wait, it's taken this long to get the greatest baseball player ever in MLB The Show?"
MLB The Show is no stranger to hosting iconic players—Ken Griffey Jr. was on the cover just last year—but Babe Ruth has eluded the series up until now. His omission is a bit like NBA 2K forgetting to include Michael Jordan. So what gives?
The seeds of the Sultan of Swat's exclusion might be found in a conversation I had with a member of the development team way back in 2011, shortly after Jordan's iconic appearance on the cover of NBA 2K11. I asked why they couldn't do a historic mode with Babe Ruth or Joe DiMaggio, and they observed that younger players wouldn't be able to connect with baseball players who played nearly 100 years ago.
Whatever the reason, Ruth is here now, and the series is richer for his inclusion. MLB The Show 18 will be out on PlayStation 4 on March 27.