Sony, for lack of a better phrase, hit a grand slam with their ongoing major league baseball series, The Show. It's been so wildly successful and popular that struck out the 2K series from releasing further installments. It's been praised and adored for its realism, challenging and deep gameplay for a sports simulator, and its fantastic visuals that continue to set a benchmark with each installment. Being Toronto-born, it's been pretty nice that the Blue Jays have had a cover slot for the last few entries, even if it was just for Canadians. Given their success towards the end of the year, MVP Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays has earned the cover art for all countries for the newest entry to the series: MLB 16.
Since around MLB 12, I have noticed the increase in accessibility for the series, as players were engaged with the game, but wished for mechanics that had less of a learning curve to it. It comes as no sacrifice to veterans, as they still have the mechanics they sweat over in the traditional control setup, but newcomers will be pleased to know that MLB 16 is very accessible, and possibly the most accessible MLB game of its series. Accessibility is certainly a good avenue to expand on, but much with the struggle for yearly sports titles, it's the overall content, and any changes to the gameplay that ultimately separate each new entry from the previous year.
Road To The Show is MLB's prize career simulation mode from past iterations, and makes some clever changes this year to keep things fresh. The Bowman Scout Day is a way to build your scout report by taking part in fielding and hitting drills. Your player will actually level up over time, which opens up the possibility of added consumable perks that can be used once per game, or passive perks that happen automatically depending on the context of the situation. ShowTime is an exclusive mechanic in Road to the Show, that allows you to slow down time to make clutch play happen. Slow down time to ensure that ball is hit at just the right angle, or alternatively, make a dive catch possible; it's all doable via ShowTime. Some may view this more as an arcade-like mechanic, but rest assured it doesn't interfere with the other simulation modes.
One of the best new additions to MLB 16 is that you can actually simulate an entire series in Road to the Show without ever having to go back and load the main menu. That and the general loading times were problematic in MLB 15, and it's terrific to see that they took that into consideration with this installment.
Franchise mode has also received some needed attention. Players are now governed by a morale system, that fluctuates their overall ranking depending on several factors. Simple emotional changes, like a pitcher feeling happy to make a swift strike, to stressed when under pressure ultimately affects their game state and it offers a great managing system to know how to thoughtfully interact with these players. Contracts, overall team performance also affect an individual character's morale. This genuinely offers unique personalities to every player, and monitoring their morale comes in handy when making trade or contract negotiations. Players will even show a preference to want to play close to home if they want to be switched or traded. On top of all that there is an near-absurd amount of statistical information about each player that is tracked and recorded, and now offer Fielding Independent Pitching, and Wins Above Replacement. As if that weren't enough, they have even added every real life statistic for each player up to 2015.
Like other sports games, MLB 16 bought into the card trading minigame, known as Diamond Dynasty and operates exactly as you'd expect; collect your cards to fill out your roster, generating your unique logo and uniform from scratch, and such. However, the mode has received a lot of improvement, with the introduction of a mode that's not unlike what was shown in the latest Madden. Battle Royale lets players draft a team to try and win as many head to head matches as possible. One really interesting improvement is the partnership with Inside Edge, baseball analytics firm. They will over daily matchup ratings every day for the 2016 MLB schedule; this will ultimately affect player attributes on a day-to-day basis. Cards can be purchased via microtransactions, which can be pushed a little too heavily on players at times. Another issue is that the loading times are oddly lengthy for this mode, but thankfully not for the main game modes.
The Show 16 continues to improve on the series' already impressive visuals with a boost in player animations, home run sequences, on-base animations, and even player-team-specific post game animations. There are over 200 unique homerun swings, along with 400 new fielding, catching, dives, relay throws, and even foul ball animations that have been added to the mix, to really give the impression that each game plays differently. They boast a new physically based rendering technique, which essentially is how light reacts to metallic and non-metallic surfaces. It's a wonderful attention to detail that coincides with the other impressive lighting tricks like their seasonal sun and shadows based on real-time satellite data. The stadiums have also received a tremendous amount of attention, including the much needed open-and-closed roof options for stadiums like the Rogers Centre. You can even play in classic stadiums like Griffith Stadium or Polo Grounds.
MLB 16 The Show returns this year triumphantly, with a considerable amount of new gameplay content, beefed up gameplay modes, and a new benchmark in sport games visuals. They took a lot of the criticisms to heart with last year's release, and really made sure this year had a lot of positive change that addressed many of the concerns like the 15's rather lengthy loading times. With its great accessibility, and devotion to the veterans, MLB 16 is recommended for anyone. It's a fantastic sports game through and through.
|Stat Tracker offers everything you could want to track for a player.|
|The visuals and attention to detail are benchmark setting.|
|ShowTime offers a great gimmick to slow down time.|
|While enjoyable, the consumable and passive perks, along with ShowTime may seem less like a simulation for purists.|
|The microtransactions are pushed a little too heavily in some regards.|
|Loading times are weirdly lengthy for Diamond Dynasty, as opposed to the simulation modes.|