I have not played a baseball game in like ten years, but after the playoffs and World Series last year, I fell in love with baseball all over again. So after years of hearing about how great each iteration of MLB The Show is better than the last, I decided that to celebrate Opening Day this year I would get the game. And boy let me tell you: I am so glad I did.
Right from the start, the opening cinematic tugs at your heart strings by reliving some of the games biggest moments in chalk on a giant classic scoreboard. Baseball is a game of history, more so than other sports and this is such a clever and classy way to honor that tradition.
Right off the bat I will say this: online play is just OK. It is pretty spotty, and the servers seem to be slow. I personally am not much of an online gamer though, so while this may bug some users while they work through these server issues, I will be blissfully unaware of them as I dive deep into the rest of the game.
And what a plethora of choices to choose from! Franchise mode is where it is at for myself. All of the standard fare is here: managing the team, signing and trading players, completing tasks for unlockables. Apparently you can even continue your season form the Show 16 here by importing the file, so that is pretty neat. The new RPG element in Career mode is interesting as well, having the manager talk down to you and ask you to move to right field from short stop is a pretty humbling experience. Again, if you have a character from last year you can import them and keep your career going. My favorite thing inside any of the modes is the new Critical Situations option they added for when you sim games. I always go into sports games promising myself I will play every game myself, but with 162 games I may not. I accidentally hit sim game after only three, and what Critical Situations does is stop the sim and allow you to play only the moments that will decide the game, which blew my mind. I also blew it and lost the game, but it was still neat to just jump in like that.
And one thing I really appreciate about this game is the controls. I was very afraid that I would be terrible at a modern baseball game with all of the advanced stick movements and button combos. I am a "push this button to swing!" kinda guy, and thankfully: that was an option! Including classic controls sent me over the moon. To be fair I also tried the regular modern controls as well, and while they were not hard to get used to, I switched back.
The Show 17 features some of the best visuals ever seen in a sports game. Seriously: this game could be the worst playing game in history and I would still play it just to stare at it. The use of shadows and showing the passage of time gradually throughout the game is amazing. Players act like their real-life counterparts, and the stadiums are real from the look of the scoreboards to the sounds coming from the stands. At one point while playing the game however, after striking out the side, they showed my pitcher coming off the mound and Josh Tomlin's face all of a sudden looked smashed in and the crowd behind him glitched out hard. But it went away after the animation was over and it was the only time this has happened to me.
One thing I was afraid of after talking to people about previous years was that I should not expect much variation in ball mechanics and where it goes once it leaves your bat, and fielders somehow always being under the ball. I am happy to report they must have fixed these issues, because the ball is spraying all over the ballpark and bouncing every which way. I have been robbed of a home run, but the AI made such a crazy awesome play on it that I didn't even care. Ground-rule doubles, foul pole ricochets, and home runs being caught/bouncing off empty seats; i have seen it all and every game so far has something different.
Presentation-wise, smooth transitions between batters and pitches is seamless, no issues there. My only concern is that sometimes the commentary repeats itself, and if you skip any animations it can carry over through a few more scenes and the play on the field gets ignored. But, that is a problem in real life that bothers me. Matt Vasgersian has been there since 2006, and he is my personal favorite baseball announcer, so having him here is perfection. Harold Reynolds and Dan Plesac add the color commentary, and that is where most of the oddball comments come from, as they discuss the complexities of the game and often run over the action.
One of the cooler editions this year is Classic Mode. Since the cover star is Ken Griffey Jr. this is the perfect time to do it. Griffey Baseball for the Super Nintendo is one of my all-time favorite video games, so a mode modeled after that was a major selling point. While not the same as playing the old Super Nintendo game, having the current game use the old control systems and sound effects and such was a genius blending of the old and the new. I played 4 games without even looking once to see how long it had been since I started, and I gotta say: hearing that old fly ball whistle from back in the day made me fist pump when I hit that first home run.
MLB The Show 17 is a must buy. Flat out: just go buy it. If you enjoy baseball at all, sports, anything really, there is something here for anybody. From deep franchise and career modes, to in depth training, even Home Run Derbys and Classic Mode, this is the baseball game all others should be measured by. Hell, this is the only sports game you need to buy. Play ball.