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Lifewire / Eric Watson
One of the best-looking sports games
Constant, rewarding progression of leveling up, earning money, and unlocking goodies
Moments are a fun way to go back in time or replay current events to earn rewards
Battle Royale is a solid draft mode for quick online matches
Road to The Show remains a weak career mode
Fielding still feels floaty and frustrating
Moments could do much more to celebrate baseball’s storied past
MLB The Show 19 is a good-looking sports game that boasts a surprising amount of RPG elements, from unlocking goodies for Diamond Dynasty to Moments providing an interesting series of challenges. That said, Road to the Show still lags far behind other career modes.
While its popularity and influence has waned in later years, MLB The Show has remained a top tier sports game. MLB The Show 19 smartly tips the cap to baseball’s history and current events through the use of the excellent new Moments gameplay mode, while the new March to October attempts to offer an entire season’s worth of games in only a few hours. The Show 19 could use a bit more love in its Road to The Show career mode, but the overall gameplay and presentation are as exciting as any pitcher’s duel.
Setting up MLB The Show 19 is a simple matter of putting in a disc or downloading it digitally. After that, you might need to let it update, but that’s about it.
MLB The Show 19 offers several control schemes for both pitching and batting, including full analog stick controls to relatively simple button presses. Pitching involves selecting from up to five different pitches your pitcher may possess, such as a 4-seam fastball, slider, and curveball, aiming the pitch, then nailing the accuracy via a timed meter (or simply pressing the button with an easier control scheme). Batters have hot and cold zones that pitchers can pitch around. At the other end of the plate, batters can employ normal, contact, and power swings, aiming their target zone to get the best possible contact with the ball.
MLB The Show 19 is easily the best-looking baseball game on the market, and one of the best looking modern sports games.
Pitching and batting both feel great, and we were impressed by the helpful pop-up stats and zone charts which explained if our bat speed was too early or late, and how confident the pitcher was in each of their pitches. All the hitting and throwing action felt realistic and satisfying, making it all the more rewarding (or devastating) when a batter gets full contact on the ball to go yard.
Fielding the ball doesn’t feel quite as good, however, the player looks great and animates well but controlling them in the field often feels a bit floaty and unsatisfying. It’s all too easy to run past a quick grounder or miss a fast flyball, resulting in chaos in the outfield.
MLB The Show features the typical selection of career, franchise, and online competitive modes. The signature mode is Diamond Dynasty, where you build your fantasy baseball team using earned (or purchased) card packs. Everything you do in MLB The Show 19 across all game modes earns experience, raising our level, and provides gold, stubs, and card packs, making Diamond Dynasty a much easier and more rewarding fantasy mode to jump in and utilize those glitzy player cards. The biggest advantage to Diamond Dynasty may also be the most depressing: it’s one of the least wallet-grabby card pack fantasy modes of all the major contenders. By leveling up and earning rewards through various game modes we always felt like we were earning enough in-game currency and card packs to get where we wanted at a reasonable rate.
Battle Royale is an interesting though terribly misnamed mode nestled within Diamond Dynasty. No, it doesn’t drop a bunch of baseball players onto a free-for-all deathmatch island (maybe next year). It’s a draft mode that works almost exactly like Hearthstone’s arena. We spend 25 rounds drafting players and building a team from card packs of various rarities, then battle other players’ teams online in quick three-inning matches. The goal is to rack up as many wins as possible before losing two games, in order to win bonus card packs. Playing Battle Royale costs 1,500 gold, but you do get a card pack just for playing, making it worth the venture.
Moments is a new game mode that jumps into specific eras and games of the past and present. These moments can focus on specific legendary players like Willie Mays, or show off a particularly strong start for a current rookie pitcher. Moments are tied to goals and challenges designed to replicate that player’s memorable outing, such as pitching seven innings without allowing a single run. Successfully completing them earns rewards that can be used in Diamond Dynasty, providing a fun and often challenging break from the main action. That said, we wished the Moments of the past put a little effort into actually recreating past stadiums and players rather than using a simple black and white filter.
The March to October is MLB The Show’s take on a seasonal journey. Distilling a season that lasts 162 games, and some of those games taking over four hours long, is crucial to creating a playable video game experience. March to October is a haphazard attempt to jump into crucial moments (similar to the Moments game mode) throughout the season, resulting in a noble but awkward attempt at best.
Like most career modes in sports games, MLB The Show 19 had us building our own custom ballplayer to win the approval of scouts, enter the minors, and work our way up to the major leagues. You can choose an overall archetype for your player, which determines starting stats in areas like Power, Speed, and Fielding, and how easily you can raise them. A Small Ballplayer won’t hit many homers but is great at getting on base and turning double plays. Pitchers have their own categories that can emphasize speed, location, or movement.
You can define our player’s personality with four different categories, including Maverick and Captain. Answering in that style will raise its level and unlock perks, but it’s less about role-playing choices and more about simply going after the perks you want. This means it’s more helpful to embody a very specific personality in every situation, rather than pay any attention to the actual dialogue.
With much better graphics, tighter gameplay, and a multitude of game modes, MLB The Show 19 is the obvious winner.
Overall presentation and story are a massive step down from the star-studded cast of NBA 2K19 or the captivating Journey from FIFA. The only voice work is a droll voice-over narrator, there are no real cutscenes, and dialogue is presented as a series of text-heavy choices with incredibly stilted, awkward chatter that doesn’t at all reflect how people actually speak to one another.
The other major problem with career mode is that playing anything other than a pitcher is borderline boring. The game smartly skims ahead to at-bats and fielding opportunities, but skipping ahead to when we’re on the field knowing a ball is heading our way in a few seconds completely breaks the immersion. We would’ve appreciated the option to play as the team or pitcher to help break up the action. Fortunately, the occasional challenge opportunity, such as driving in a clutch RBI at our next at-bat, helps gives it a much-needed jolt in the arm.
MLB The Show 19 is easily the best-looking baseball game on the market, and one of the best looking modern sports games. The stadiums look strikingly like their real-world counterparts, complete with detailed screens. Player models all look sharp and lifelike, and there’s a huge amount of animations for fielding, catching, running, sliding and swinging, most of which come off naturally. We were particularly pleased with the lighting when adjusting for games at different times. MLB The Show 19 is simply gorgeous on the field, though we were slightly less enthused with the much messier, occasionally chaotic menu system, particularly in the many side avenues of Diamond Dynasty.
When it comes to baseball we picture country music, classic rock, and a few cheesy sound and music clips. But MLB The Show 19’s playlist may be one of the best sports soundtracks in years. The soundtrack features a rich variety of hip-hop, rock, pop, and alternative, including Cage the Elephant, Marshmello, Migos, Classified, Young the Giant, and the always welcome Led Zeppelin-like Greta Van Fleet.
We enjoyed the commentary enough to leave it on, though a few times we heard repeat lines, such as pitchers having a “Jekyll and Hyde” season.
The commentary comes in several different packages, including one that mimics a real-world MLB Network broadcast. New sideline reporter Hedi Watney offers fun new commentary on players. We enjoyed the commentary enough to leave it on, though a few times we heard repeat lines, such as pitchers having a “Jekyll and Hyde” season.
One of our favorite and most immersive elements of MLB The Show 19 is thanks to its exclusivity on the PlayStation 4 console. While running the bases, base coaches will yell helpful commands through the controller’s speaker, such as “Get dirty!” to slide into the next base, adding a fun and thrilling element to base running, while fellow players will shout out base numbers while we’re fielding the ball, directing us to where throw. Utilizing the controller speaker is a small part of a large game, but an immensely satisfying one.
MLB The Show 19 launched at a typical $60 MSRP. Halfway through the 2019 season, it has dropped to around $40. The game includes all the modes you’d expect to find in a modern sports game, including franchise, seasonal, career, and a card-pack based fantasy team. New modes like Moments and March to October help provide smart ways to play bite-size matchups. Diamond Dynasty could likely be the first sports mode to draw you into earning card packs and managing your team, thanks to the constant unlocks and relatively quick earnings that minimize the need to spend extra money on card packs and players.
MLB The Show 19’s biggest problem with competition is that it’s solely on the PlayStation 4. Xbox One and Switch owners have to contend with the vastly inferior RBI Baseball series, whose sole claim to fame at this point is that it’s on other consoles, and the strange fact that it’s developed and published by Major League Baseball itself. With much better graphics, tighter gameplay, and a multitude of game modes, MLB The Show 19 is the obvious winner.
Career mode lacking, but excellent gameplay more than makes up for it.
MLB The Show 19’s deeper RPG mechanics in the Road to the Show mode are admirable, but the story and dialogue can’t keep up with other modern sport’s games career paths, and March to October feels like the early stages of something interesting rather than an exciting new way to play seasonal baseball. MLB The Show 19’s real strength lies in its excellent gameplay, fun new Moments, and well-integrated fantasy squad in Diamond Dynasty with plenty of opportunities to level up and unlock new goodies.