March 27 is the date MLB The Show 18 lands in stores and begins its innovative quest to capture the minds of baseball fans everywhere yet again.
Innovative, because developer Sony San Diego has turned the focus for this year’s edition into fresh-feeling revamps of both “Road to The Show” and franchise modes.
Gameplay and graphical improvements are here, of course, but the headline act is the new events and experiences players will undertake as the modes take a cue from other great sports games alongside a dash of unique developments.
It’s only fitting, then, New York Yankees star Aaron Judge is on the cover:
He also had a recent look at player ratings:
Besides ratings themselves, the biggest thing fans will look for right out of the gates is the changes to Road to The Show.
Of which there are plenty. How a player’s character performs in games will now dictate rating changes as opposed to the slider system of old. And those created characters now fit into an archetypes system, which has skill-rating caps based on which one a player selects.
Call it a breath of fresh air for a mode previously allowing sliders to fly right up to 100, sometimes trivializing the minors-to-majors journey. Tracking performance and the points gain pouring into stats should add a rewarding element to the mode on top of what was already there, not to mention replayability given the different archetypes.
Over in franchise mode, a deeper sense of control over a team seems to be the name of the game here. General manager duties from drafting to lineups and more are laid out in front of the players in a way games like the NBA 2K series have done lately.
One major point of emphasis, though, is ease of use. Aptly named front-office phases check in at 19 variations, helping players break down key points into lists as they move through the calendar.
Sony San Diego designer Matt Schaeffer hit on the main point: “Phases also allow for navigation that is quicker and more intuitive than ever. Even if you decide to never leave the home page in Franchise mode, you can still make all the decisions necessary to manage your team to the World Series.”
Having everything at a player’s fingertips from the home screen of franchise mode and extending a helping hand if necessary throughout different phases is a big deal here. While other games have offered deep innovation and control in their franchise modes, getting bogged down in menus and understanding the intricacies of running a pro team has always offered an intimidating barrier of entry.
Baseball is a particularly in-depth beast to tackle, so the more simplified the better. Same story for the games themselves, which players can choose to tackle in various ways, from playing the full game to a critical-situations-only mode that takes about 10 minutes. Also in that time frame is a player-lock mode, meaning experiencing a game only from Judge’s perspective, for example.
Another example is the new retro mode, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a throwback to past great baseball games meant to punch the nostalgia button, complete with retro visuals and presentation, not to mention simplified gameplay.
Also included outside of franchise mode are three-inning games and Diamond Dynasty, the legend-filled offering sure to be a hit.
The overall theme here seems to be a streamlined experience cutting down the barrier to entry, which is fitting alongside a sport that has tried to cut down game time over the course of a lengthy season.
Gameplay and graphics have received work as always, with new animations and improved physics a priority for the developers. Gameplay has never been an issue for the series, though upgrades in a quality-of-life slant are always welcomed.
As a whole, it’s not hard to see why there is a steady hype train rolling down the tracks for this latest release. Much-needed tweaks to favorite modes should scratch the itch of those hardcore fans and bring in new ones ready to tackle the depths of MLB baseball in an accessible manner.
The journey in these revamped modes starts March 27.
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