‘MLB The Show 18’: A grand slam for baseball fans

Writing a review of MLB The Show 18 is a lot like opening the game for the first time. There is so much anticipation, so many questions: Which players are rated the highest? What does the in-game commentary sound like? Are the Houston Astros still as exciting in virtual form in March as they were in real life in The Fall Classic in October?

Everyone always makes a big deal about the graphics. I thought MLB The Show 18 did a great job, especially coming off what I can only describe as an underwhelming 2017 execution by the game-makers. My favorite year, as far as graphics are concerned, is still 2016. 2018 clearly put a lot of focus into the details of stadiums, throwback uniforms and more realistic player movements; I commend the game on these aspects. I do, however, feel that realistic depictions of certain players were sacrificed during that execution.

It seems that every year the players’ ratings become stricter, and that trend remains the case with 2018. However, there was a slight increase in the number of players rated 99 overall—representing the uppermost echelon of Major League Baseball players. MLB The Show 18 has four of these elite stars: Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve and Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen. Perennial MVP candidate Nolan Arenado, third baseman for the Colorado Rockies, just missed the cut coming in at 98 overall.

From there, the numbers drop off. There are 29 players rated 90 or above overall—consisting of 16 pitchers and 13 position players. The nearly-perfect split is definitely a microcosm of the entire game, where neither pitching nor hitting takes the upper hand. The overall leagues are well-balanced, and various teams’ strength and weaknesses are similar to their on-field performances in 2017.

Another balance is the player archetypes in Road to the Show. Most people remembering playing through RTTS in 2017 until their player had 99 overall speed, power and 0contact. While creating the literally perfect baseball player and hitting .500 in a season or striking out 18 batters every nine innings is fun, 2018 puts a cap on certain abilities based on player profiles. A speedy shortstop that makes good contact is not going to hit 40 home runs a season, and likewise a control pitcher with a good breaking baseball will not compliment it with a 99 mph heater.

My biggest complaint is the in-game color commentary by Mark DeRosa and Dan Plesac. I like Matt Vasgersian as the lead commentator, but I wish there would be a little more variety in what he says compared to past years. There are some new phrases as he calls the game, but the majority of commentary is noticeably recycled. Partnering him with DeRosa and Plesac, to me, was a mistake. The trio works well together in real life (particularly DeRosa and Vasgersian who is affectionately referred to as “Matty V” often in their partnership), but the lines that the pair of color commentators provide are simply too long. They run through the game action, overwhelm moments where gamers want to hear Vasgersian’s voice and are just too liberal with their use of “baseball jargon.”  Most of that blame is on the writers’ shoulders, but in my opinion DeRosa and Plesac do not deliver the information well.

Over and above the annual excitement of new graphics and updated rosters with the arrival of young prospects, MLB The Show 18 had some extra anticipation for a lot of local consumers because of the Houston Astros 2017 World Series run. New faces like Yulieski Gurriel, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole shining alongside the overall team ranking of the defending World Series champions is incredibly appealing to the Houston market. Whether it is beginning a new franchise, continuing a franchise from 2017 with some new names, or taking your Road to the Show player up through the organization’s ranks, MLB The Show 18 gives Astros fans a reason to purchase the game.

For everyone else, there are the legends in the game. MLB The Show 18 brought to “life” some of the greatest men to ever step between the chalk lines, creating the most astonishing matchups imaginable as Nolan Ryan takes the mound at The Polo Grounds against Babe Ruth. There are multiple teams comprised of the most note-worthy former big leaguers of all-time: Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Bob Gibson and Mike Piazza to name a few. Once again, Houston was well represented with some former Astros like Roy Oswalt, Jeff Bagwell and Billy Wagner making the cut.

Long story short, MLB The Show 18 did a great job at making sure the game has something for everyone. Even if you are a Miami Marlins fan and your team has the lowest overall ranking in the game, you can jump into some mini modes or play an exhibition All Star Game—which Marlins fans might enjoy more because Giancarlo Stanton is actually on the National League roster in the game. From Road to the Show to Franchise mode and Diamond Dynasty that allows players to build a team’s brand from the bottom up with customization options and building rosters from scratch, MLB The Show 18 continues to bring fans closer to the game.

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