I know and understand football. I can tell you every time that Chelsea has won a cup or title, their opponents and the score. I also know that the American version of football isn’t quite the same. With this in mind I’m willing to bet that Baseball isn’t quite the same as Rounders.
I’m sure it is abundantly clear but just to make sure. I know next to nothing about Baseball. So before we begin let’s analyse what I do know about Baseball.
I know there is a World Series thingamabob but how you get there or even win it draws a blank. I do vaguely remember a few years ago that a fan caught a ball that was heading in his direction and this caused the very team he was supporting to lose everything and he was vilified for it (Yes, there was nothing else on ESPN that night and I’d paid my £9 a month subscription godammit). I’ve also seen Major League and its two sequels and that’s not something I really want to revisit again anytime soon.
The last baseball game I actually played was Accolades Hardball on the Commodore 64. Somehow I don’t think any of this knowledge is going to help me.
Not normally released in Europe – possibly because there is a lot of people in Europe with equal or even less knowledge of the sport than me – MLB 13: The Show is a full PlayStation 3 release only available on the PlayStation Network. In America though MLB 13 The Show has dominated its nearest competition, the MLB 2K series, for years. This is the FIFA of Baseball.
This is normally where, in a review, we start telling you about the improvements made on last years iteration. Without any prior knowledge of the franchise I can’t honestly tell you what has been changed and what hasn’t.
As is standard in many sports games of this generation we have a career mode, or in this case “The Road to the Show”. This is quite simply amazing and something you can jump right into without any knowledge of what you should or shouldn’t be doing thankfully.
As with all career modes you start off by creating your pro, deciding on which funky hairstyle to give him, whether he is left or right handed, and what song he walks out to the field with – Doom & Gloom by The Rolling Stones in case you were wondering.
As you only control the single player during the career mode I wanted to get the maximum amount of game time so I chose to become a starting pitcher (he who throws the ball) and occasional batter (he who tries to hit the ball). Due to selecting a pitcher role, the creator gives you the option of choosing three of your maximum five throws.
I was then randomly assigned a part time team, the San Antonio Missions. Based on the stats of their players I think the only way to describe them is that they are the Aston Villa of Baseball. They are always in the league but they have an amazing ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory – more on this soon.
I was then thrown into a training assignment which detailed both short term goals (what you need to achieve during the training session), which range from throwing the ball into an exact portion of the strike target with a certain type of throw to doing it with all of your throws, as well as advancement goals which are stretched out over a number of games such as restricting your opponents to 25 hits in total over 5 games.
Once my training was completed successfully I was informed that I was going to be in the starting line-up for the next game. Being a pitcher I had a good involvement in the game but the parts that did not involve me, for example batting, utilised a text based simulation.
Now this is where the frustration comes in. Each game has nine innings and this is where I had got to. On my journey to the “top of the ninth” I had managed to keep my opposition down to zero runs and four hits whilst my rag tag bunch were sitting at five runs and 15 hits. I pitched my first ball only for it to go well wide causing the manager to come out onto the field and replace me with a fresh pitcher. What did he manage to do? Yep give away six runs and 10 hits causing me to lose the game six to four.
The only positive out of these frustrations is that you are given training points based on your performance rather than the teams. These training points are then allocated into unseen training drills such as curveball control or hitting strength which improve your skills and abilities for taking into your next game or training session.
The only thing I felt was missing from this mode was the areas that all sports players have to deal with but many games fail to capture in their titles such as interviews, sponsorships, injuries etc. and how they affect your morale, performance and relationships with your team mates.
All things considered however, there is a huge sense of accomplishment as you progress from the AA league to the AAA teams and then onto the Major leagues. This is coupled with the feeling of dread when you are put back into the minor leagues for failing to perform. MLB 13: The Show managed to capture both the ups and the downs and how you react to both successes and setbacks really defines how much enjoyment you will get out of the mode.
The other mode of interest – I’m not including the standard fare of a quick play mode – is The Franchise. This is more Moneyball than Major League. If I am truly honest I played this mode much much less than I did “Road” but I played enough to know that it looks a fun mode for a true baseball die hard but for someone like me that simply finds the game of basesball one of the most complicated things he has ever looked at then maybe you want to avoid it.
I could have spent a week in “Farm System” alone and I’m still not quite sure what I was achieving by being in there in the first place as my players seem to go down into the farm team never to return. I spent hours tinkering with the team trying to assess which players were the best for positions – I even had a bloody excel sheet to try and help me and I haven’t needed one of them for a game since Tiny Tower.
The actual gameplay looks fantastic. The good lady walked into the room and asked when I started watching baseball such is the realism of actual match graphics and commentary. The limited commentary in the “Road” adds to the realism as commentary is only provided for actions either caused by or effect you. The silence is filled with motivational shouts from team mates and the crowd. I did however hear the same commentary three times in a row for my curveball which was a little disappointing.
All in all, MLB 13 The Show was enjoyable and if you have more than a passing interest in the sport by all means download and have some fun, if you are a die-hard fan of baseball then for the first time in Europe this is a must purchase title. If however you have no interest in the sport or are thinking about making an impulse purchase you may be better off saving the 30gig on your hard drive for something else.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Platform: PlayStation 3 Release Date: 06/03/2013
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of MLB 13: The Show for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a PlayStation 3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.