MLB The Show fans can breathe — despite rumors to the contrary, the game is okay. Featuring enhanced presentation, simpler fielding controls, an easier-to-follow Diamond Dynasty mode, and Babe freaking Ruth, MLB The Show 18 is not perfect, but it gets enough right to be a fine upgrade from your copy of The Show 17.
This is the smoothest playing experience they have ever given us. Hitting feels slowed down a bit, though not to say that it's too easy. But they made an effort to make fielding a little bit more streamlined. Players move like actual humans this year — last year they were a little wonky, and taking a bad beat on a ball meant disaster. It feels seamless turning double plays and throwing runners out at the plate. Also worth noting: the ball moves in ways not seen in a baseball game before. The crowd feels alive and not just like window decoration — they get more animated when they should. I also like the crowd AI; after Opening Day the stands were less full and then a little fuller on a weekend game. Nice touches like that are always appreciated.
Sure, there is no online franchise mode this year (that needs to come back in 19, by the way). The offline franchise mode suits players just fine. The game introduces a new way to play Franchise Mode called "Phases" that lets you track certain points throughout the season like the Postseason and All-Star Race and such. Throw in the ability to play games in Retro Mode and that about sums up the Franchise experience. As much as I enjoy it, this is one mode that needs some sprucing up in future to make it a bit more exciting.
Diamond Dynasty continues the thrill of building a card collection and putting it to use on the field. The ability to unlock legends like Ruth, Ken Griffey Jr., etc. is fun, but ultimately not something I am all that interested in. I get why people enjoy this aspect of the game (hell, I collect real baseball cards still), it just does not do anything for me. Ditto for Road to the Show — my first time trying that was last year, and while it was interesting, it's just not something I find myself wanting to spend time on. I do like that you can no longer max out your abilities at 99 and just make super-players, and that there is some strategy involved. I have just always been more of a Franchise/Season player. One mode I am addicted to, however, is the Challenge mode where you are placed into a situation and attempt to hit goals. I lost three hours without even noticing how much time had passed.
Overall, MLB The Show 18 is just as good as its predecessors. As always, it brings authentic-feeling gameplay with enhanced presentation. Maybe not all of the bells and whistles are here, but the gameplay is more than worth the money.