Championship-Winning Team Returns in “MLB The Show 16”

MLB The Show 16
Sony. Sony

It sounds cheesy but the MLB season doesn’t really get started for me until I play the latest iteration of Sony’s “MLB The Show,” the award-winning, trend-setting sports franchise that really sits alone in the world of baseball simulators. But isn’t all true growth a product of competition? By standing alone on the peak of sports gaming for baseball fans for over a decade, has “The Show” grown complacent?

Yes, there are a few new bells and whistles in this year’s team, but it’s mostly the same game as last year, and the game’s age is starting to show a bit. Even in areas in which Sony was once a pioneer, it feels like “MLB The Show 16” is falling a bit behind. It’s still an amazing game, but when one considers some of the graphics, the audio presentation, and the lack of breakthrough modes, it becomes a difficult game to review. If you want a baseball simulation for the PS4, you don’t have a choice. And you will be undeniably entertained. However, Sony could (and likely will) do better by the fans of this landmark series with future installments.


One of the first things that most people notice about “MLB The Show” is the visual strength of the franchise. An amazing amount of detail has gone into this game, more than any other sports title, especially in terms of replicating some of the most famous ballparks in the world.

Look at the attention to detail in Comerica Park in Detroit; watch the overhead shots of Wrigley Field. And then look at the shadowing on the players at the plate or on the mound. These are the kind of details that people start to take for granted, especially in a series like “The Show,” which has looked great for so long that most people don’t even talk about it anymore.

Part of the reason for that could be the one arena in which the game falters—facial modeling. Perhaps because there are a lot fewer players to model, the “NBA 2K” series does an amazingly better job of making its players look not only more human but like their real-life counterparts. The player’s faces in “The Show” often look like zombies, and often don’t look anything like the real people.


What’s most important in a sports game? It’s not actually the graphics or even depth of modes. It’s physics. No one wants to play a sports game in 2016 that doesn’t feel real. The most frustrating part of a game like “Madden” is when it feels like an animation has clicked in that couldn’t be replicated in real life. For years, people complained about receivers with magnetic hands, and I’ve complained about NBA games in which certain icons (coughLEBRONcough) are impossible to guard against. For 99% of the game, “The Show” works beautiful in comparison to real-life physics. The way a cut fastball dives over the plate. The way an early swing sends a ball into the stands. The pitching and batting mechanics in the game, which are really the engine that drives this car, are fantastic.

I think baserunning is still sketchy. I know my Detroit Tigers aren’t exactly fast, but I still should be able to luck into a stolen base every once in a while. So far, I’m batting .000 in that department after six games and multiple attempts (5-1 on Veteran, if you care).


The most disappointing element of “MLB The Show 16” is the audio presentation. Not only does it sound almost identical to last year, but the repetition quotient is gigantic. I played the first six games of the Tigers season and the announcers told the same anecdote about Justin Upton’s youthful debut every single game. For those of us crazy enough to play multiple games, we need fresh audio, and other sports titles have done an amazing job of mixing it up. We need new announcers next year.


If you’re wondering, most of the actual gameplay and modes are the same. Road to the Show is still a pretty deep mode, designed for gamers willing to plug in many hours just to be a Shortstop for the Oakland Athletics’ Triple-A team. You also get the standard Season, Franchise, etc. modes, this time with an enhanced Diamond Dynasty mode, which plays like a fantasy baseball team, this time with Captains that allow for more collectibles and customization. There’s also “Battle Royale,” which is a lot like “Draft Champions” in “Madden”—build a roster through draft and take it online for bragging rights and prizes over a three-inning game. There’s also a “Conquest” mode, which is similar but focuses more on building a fan base. This one feels like they’re going too far to offer something new, when they really should have focused on audio and facial modeling instead. The only major gameplay introduced this year is ShowTime, which allows you to slow time a la “Max Payne” in Road to the Show. It’s kinda silly and can only be used about once a game. I never got more than a single with it as slowing down time when it comes to a mechanic based on timing is kind of illogical.


Again, how you feel about “MLB The Show 16” comes down to expectations. It’s the best baseball game on the market and one of the best games, period. It has been for a decade. But I worry that success has gone to its head a bit. Don’t worry about new bells like “Conquest,” go back and refine video and audio. And let Jose Iglesias steal a base this year, for God’s sake.

Disclaimer: The Publisher provided a review copy of this game.

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