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MLB The Show 19

Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre: Sports
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCEA San Diego Studio
Release Date: March 26, 2019


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PS4 Review - 'MLB The Show 19'

by Redmond Carolipio on April 8, 2019 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

MLB The Show 19 brings you the best of baseball, experience the ultimate duel: the 1v1 battle between hitter and pitcher to see who reigns supreme.

Buy MLB The Show 19

For years, I've approached Sony's MLB The Show series with an outsider's curiosity, a viewpoint relatively untethered to the poetic and romantic notions that have been wrapped around the game of baseball for more than a century. I've treated MLB The Show 19 the same way. It speaks to the sport's ever-present quest for more eyes in an era dominated by the NBA, NFL and even mixed martial arts. My question had been: In the sports gaming space, what would baseball have for someone like me?

The answer comes in the series' continued enrichment of its "Road to the Show" mode, which encourages you to create a player of your own and essentially forge his path into the major leagues and beyond. When I started playing the series a few years ago, the appeal of RTTS was in the ownership I could take of my character, who started out as an overly aggressive flamethrower who got picked in the lower rounds and blossomed into a dominant legend. To this day, RTTS remains the best way for me to see where an edition of MLB The Show wants to go, even in light of whatever shiny new features or game modes make themselves present.

Most of the wrinkles from previous RTTS editions, such as its attribute-building system and training games, are here, along with having to select what kind of player archetype you're going to be. As you might remember, each archetype comes with different boostable attribute limitations —– for example, you can choose to be a power-hitting slugger, but things like contact and plate vision might have lower caps. This season, you can train your player to raise any cap level to 99, but depending on your player archetype, some attributes will rise faster than others.

Also this season, MLB The Show 19 got a little personal in RTTS — or rather, interpersonal.

You now have the ability to choose a personality type for your player, and interactions with your teammates during the season can boost your chosen personality types to higher levels, which can then lead to gaining in-game boosts and abilities through use of a skill tree you'd see in something like Assassin's Creed or Spider-Man. There are four personality types: Captain (the ideal team-first leader); Heart & Soul (the encouraging, beloved teammate); Lighting Rod (singularly competitive badass); and Maverick (lone wolf who likes to prod opponents and build rivalries for best results).

Building relationships with your teammates (or opponents) is done via discussions during your downtime if you choose not to do something else, like train or hit the practice field. The game presents you with a choice of which people you wish to chat up as well as some context for the talk. For example, you could be talking to someone about his recent hitting slump. After that, you can offer a response that adheres to a certain personality type. My player is a Captain, so he told our slumping first baseman some variation of, "You're a good ballplayer, you'll get out of this." By contrast, the Lightning Rod personality answer would say something like, "We need to step up."

None of the responses ever cross into extremes, which I can appreciate for the purpose of accessibility. It makes it fun to try different types of responses. I enjoyed this aspect of RTTS because it helps you appreciate some of the work it takes to truly build your player, and it's a good move toward a feeling of balance, instead of trying to build a unicorn player and mash through the mode. The downside of this is that it seems to add some length to the whole process, which can already feel like a slog if you're binge-playing the mode for hours at a time.

It's no secret that baseball enjoys a very, very long season, and a sense of tediousness creeps in from time to time. I always roll through RTTS as a starting pitcher, since they don't play every day, and you can always jump ahead to your next appearance every five days. There are also a few items that can break the occasional in-game monotony, notably "dynamic challenges" that pop up and offer significant attribute boosts if you manage to, for example, strike out the side or end the inning without giving up a run.

Even greater boosts are available when "boss challenges" show up. For a pitcher like me, those challenges came in the form of a formidable batter, like Houston's Jose Altuve, a six-time All-Star and former American League MVP. The game adds a little drama to the challenge by focusing the camera on the player as he goes through his routine and settles into the batter's box. Among the challenges was trying to strike out Altuve with an inside pitch; doing so would lead to a 200 percent attribute boost. I like how some of the challenges amped up the stakes and therefore led to me yelling at my digital teammates if they flubbed a ground ball and led to the death of a certain challenge. As a pitcher, it also meant I had to think more about what kind of stuff I'd want to throw to, say, induce a groundball en route to meeting another challenge. It kept me engaged the whole time I was out there.

I'm still wading through my pitcher's career, but that didn't stop me from examining The Show 19's two newest modes, respectively called "March to October" and "Moments." March to October is basically an entire 162-game season smooshed into playthroughs of key games and high-drama scenarios. Teams are broken down in range from favorites to contenders to longshots, and each victory actually builds up a team's momentum that can carry over into positive results in games you don't actually play as you fly through the season. This means you can conceivably take a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates or the Baltimore Orioles, gain enough momentum, and it carries through to a run in the postseason. I found it to be a cool way to experience a season, but the downside is that you can't simulate to the ends of games like in other modes, so if you're stuck in one of those extra-inning marathons, you're stuck to the end.

The Moments mode felt like the beginning of something rather than a fully complete mode. Here, you can digitally relive some of baseball's most iconic moments, like Babe Ruth calling his shot and then hitting a homer, or Nolan Ryan setting a record number of strikeouts. There are some nice touches to add to the atmosphere of the moment, but I feel like with more time, they could have gone further. With the Ruth challenges, you'll get games in black and white, but the stadiums still carry that modern feel (they didn't have batter pictures and stats on big screens in those days), and nobody else on the field had actual names. It might have been cool if the commentary team's audio carried the old-timey, scratchy quality of days past. Instead, it still carries that modern feel. Right now, it's a nostalgic distraction that'll lead to some cool Diamond Dynasty rewards but not much else yet. Speaking of Diamond Dynasty, I typically don't spend that much time in it, as collecting cards and the allure of fantasy baseball never really hooked me. However, the array of options when it comes to building your fantasy team from scratch, including the chance to acquire timeless legends like Willie Mays and then taking them online to play with and against them felt perfect for greater baseball fans than I, and even then, I felt myself getting pulled in more than before.

To cap things off, it was nice to see that San Diego Studio is still putting time in the cage when it comes to improving animation and visuals. The player models and mannerisms in The Show 19 are close to my favorite in sports games in terms of looking as "real" as possible while carrying the same energy and movement of in-game action. This is most evident in terms of fielding, whether it's trying to turn a double play or gauging a ball about to bounce off the wall. Batting has a crisper feel to it as well, no matter the difficulty level or hitting system you pick. It's almost as if the game reminded me that beyond RTTS, it's perfectly fine to get out of your own career and simply enjoy playing.

Each incarnation of The Show I've played has been better than the last, and MLB The Show 19 keeps pace. I do wonder, however, if there is a "next level" coming for the series or if we're content to accept a layer or two of steady improvements for the next few editions. I'll take it. After all, it's a long season.

Score: 8.8/10

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