GAME NAME: MLB 13: The Show
PLATFORM(S): PlayStation 3
RELEASE DATE(S): March 5th, 2013
Baseball is a sport driven by stats. It is a stats keeper’s dream, or nightmare depending on your perspective. Heralded as “America’s past-time,” its records are hallowed unlike any other sport in American culture. While the NFL lays claim to being the most popular sport in the United States, Major League Baseball still holds our hearts. Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak of 56 games, Hank Aaron’s 755 home runs, and Cy Young’s 511 career wins are glorious milestones embedded into the minds of baseball fans and the fabric of American sports culture. So it should be fitting that a baseball video game, built upon numbers, that they should be equally important.
MLB 13 The Show catalogs and compiles every statistic, from performance to player potential and abilities. Speed and base running ability greatly impact whether or not you’ll be able to steal second from your opponent as well as the catcher’s arm and accuracy. In Road to the Show, MLB 13’s RPG, where you play the career of your own created positional player, all of your stats are compiled. If you’re a pitcher, your career ERA (earned run average) is right there. Your career strike outs, walks, hits, etc are tallied. Even your stint in the minor leagues is recorded, which is where you’ll start.
The road to super stardom can be rocky and rough just like in real sports. Get drafted by a crappy team and you may have to play 6 years before you become a free agent and move to a winner. Performance on the field and hitting goals set by your manager can mean the difference between moving up to AAA or spending another season as a lowly AA player. The statistical backbone of MLB 13 is most apparent in Road to the Show where it’s as if San Diego Studios has peeled back the curtain on the skeletal structure of player performance. Positive plays contribute training points which can be cashed in at the end of each game to boost your character’s performance categories, and there a LOT of them, thus increasing your chances of becoming a brilliant superstar.
MLB 13 is one of the deepest RPG games on the market. Whether it’s in Road to the Show, building a dynasty as a general manager or in a quick game. Your players’ abilities, your instincts and twitch reflexes combine in game defining moments that determine the outcome. Every at bat is a battle of wills and strategy between the pitcher and hitter. The recreation of this duel is one of the many strengths of The Show. Not only does it simulate the stressful nature of facing a line up of 9 batters over the course of 9 innings but it superbly illustrates the demanding task of hitting a baseball with a bat. Baseball is a sport where great hitters are successful one out of three times, on average, throughout their career. It’s one thing to try to hit a ball traveling in a straight line, albeit at 96 miles per hour, but another thing entirely when the pitcher you’re facing also carries pitches that move and weave in a variety of directions, at differing speeds, in his arsenal. Add to that, there are 8 other players defending the field to get you out should you ever create contact with the ball.
In order to make batting a bit easier, the Guess Pitch and Guess Location mechanics are available to help players predict where the pitch will end up. If that makes it sounds too easy, guessing the location correctly simply highlights a region where the ball will end up, whether it is in the strike zone is up to you to figure out. Guessing the pitch isn’t exactly simple either as many pitchers may have up to five pitches at their disposal. Guessing incorrectly nets you zero feedback other than the knowledge that you won’t be facing the pitch you guessed in that location. See a pitch you don’t like but intended on swinging? Check swings are possible by releasing the swing button quickly. In the end, your ability to identify pitches and their location in split seconds (just like in real life) will ultimately determine your success as a hitter.
Mechanically, MLB 13 is something to behold. The players transition in and out of motion capture animations smoother than ever. The frame rate never stutters or falters and button inputs are recorded with the utmost precision. While at first glance it appears intensely complex, and to a point it is, the controls make sense and work in harmony with the action on the screen. Multiple base runners can be controlled independently and given individual commands to advance and/or hold quickly and efficiently. Where MLB 13 falls short is in its presentation. The graphics engine is not awe-inspiring and while that doesn’t make or break a game, I admit that I expected a bit more this late into the PS3’s life cycle. More to the point, I find the commentary to be too repetitive and some times inaccurate in certain situations. For instance, in Road to the Show, if you’re brought in to relieve the starter who had a rough previous inning, after retiring the side the announcer will often say something like, “after giving up three runs, he comes back in the bottom of the 6th and hangs a zero.” I definitely feel like I’m splitting hairs here considering the superb quality of the game San Diego Studios has created but considering their pain-staking attention to the tiniest of details, I’m frankly surprised that something like that happens at all.
San Diego Studios has quite rightly earned a sterling reputation as a top notch developer and The Show is their baby. It’s a testament to their abilities that a baseball game exclusive to the Sony PlayStation 3 is considered the only baseball game worth owning. It regularly puts its competition to shame. There are a lot of options available to tailor the gaming experience to your specific preference. While MLB 13 already has a pretty decent soundtrack, songs can be added from the PS3 hard drive to create a completely customized play list. Players can also create their own intro music. Custom crowd chants can also be recorded and created to add to the existing chants in the game. If there is any other way to relay to you how realistic and how true to life MLB 13 is, it’s this: Currently my Road to the Show player is on the Miami (formerly Florida) Marlins. Practically every road game we’re faced with a packed raucous stadium. When we play at home in Miami, it’s pretty much empty. Just like in real life.