‘MLB The Show 17’ Review: Baseball Sim Fulfills — Even Exceeds — Hype

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Some people believe baseball is a boring sport. Those people clearly haven’t played “MLB The Show 17.”

In virtually every way, “The Show 17” is a superior baseball sim to all of its predecessors. Given how great last year’s game was, it’s a bit surprising this PlayStation 4 exclusive finds ways to both improve the series and keep it fresh.

Right out of the gate, SIE San Diego Studio makes it clear gamers are in for something special. “The Show” begins with a thrilling intro video, featuring chalk illustrations of some of baseball’s greatest moments as well as the broadcast calls from those games. It’s a small thing, but the sports video game genre has been missing this type of video in recent years.

From there, players are given the option to go through tutorials of the game’s complex controls, something we highly recommend for beginners. Once the training wheels come off, players have a wealth of both new and updated game modes to choose from.

Diamond Dynasty, Road to the Show and Franchise all are back, and have been tweaked in subtle, effective ways. Road to the Show is particularly impressive, as players’ paths to the big leagues now are framed as documentaries. The mode also introduces a role-playing dynamic, enabling players to dispute such things as positional switches. And no, created players don’t look like wicker statues.

Franchise mode largely is the same as what most sports games offer, with the exception of the new Critical Situations feature. If you don’t feel like enduring every pitch throughout the season, this enables you to simulate games and hop in to play at important moments, such as protecting a one-run lead with the bases loaded.

Retro Mode, one of the new additions to the series, is a bit of a dud. While being able to play as current players in an old-school setting is intriguing, the blending of modern gameplay and lifelike players with a retro backdrop doesn’t quite work for us.

But where “The Show” really shines is with its gameplay and presentation. The game’s developers made a big deal about improved hitting and fielding dynamics, and they weren’t bluffing. Nearly every variation of bloopers, line drives and choppers are here, as are the different kinds of throws and catches you see in a real game.

“The Show” does a great job of finding a delicate balance between speeding the game up, and letting the sights and sounds of baseball have their moments. The game’s graphics, despite occasional frame-rate slippage, are as impressive as ever, particularly in the rendering and mannerisms of signature players. On the downside, the new MLB Network broadcast doesn’t bring much to the table, as many calls are either repeated too often or made during moments that don’t make sense.

One big gripe we have about “The Show” is its online performance. Regardless of network strength, the game routinely suffers issues with lag. This is especially problematic when playing a game like baseball where situations often are decided by inches and seconds.

Ultimately, “MLB The Show 17” lives up to the hype, and arguably exceeds it. Whether you’re a baseball fan or not, conquering the game’s challenges is a rewarding experience, one that routinely finds ways to surprise you with the type of realism rarely seen in sports video games.

VERDICT: 9/10

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