MLB 13: The Show Review

Loosened-up hitting and subtle refinements make MLB 13: The Show another spectacular baseball game.

by

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Baseball rites of spring are many and varied. From the day that pitchers and catchers report through Opening Day, it seems like not a moment goes by in the springtime without baseball fans noticing how the grand old game is getting warmed up for another season. Now you can add the annual early-March release date of Sony's Cooperstown-caliber MLB: The Show series to the calendar. The game hitting stores has become a big reason for baseball fans to celebrate. And the 2013 edition of this long-running Sony-exclusive series is another masterful re-creation of real baseball, from the pitcher-batter duel at the heart of the game through little moments like getting jammed inside and the satisfaction of turning even a routine 6-4-3 double play. Changes and improvements are subtle for the most part, although some superb tweaks to hitting make the game more approachable than ever. As a result, MLB 13: The Show hits a near-perfect balance between simulation-style realism and the pure arcade thrill of hammering ball with bat.

At first glance, however, MLB 13 doesn't look or sound much different from last year's model. That said, it's one of the best-looking sports games out there, and it would be hard to improve things. Shadow effects are more lifelike than before, especially in day games. Animations include even more running and fielding actions, to the point where you rarely see a player do the same thing twice. Faces are more rounded with realistic features. There doesn't seem to be a player you can't identify upon first glance, whether you're talking about the grizzled, bearded R.A. Dickey or a peach-fuzzed kid like Mike Trout. All that seems to be lacking are some tattoos. So if you're into Jose Reyes' extensive forearm ink, you won't find it here.

Audio is incredible, although much of it has been held over from the past couple of years. Booth jockeys Matt Vasgersian, Steve Lyons, and Eric Karros are dead-on with their observations, which are just about perfectly suited to every play. Some lines have been recycled, of course, although Lyons is a new addition to the team replacing Dave Campbell, so he comes with fresh dialogue. Atmospheric sound effects are even better. Games sound like real baseball on the field, with players talking it up and giving situational advice about the count, the number of outs, and so on. So many sports games resort to canned crowd audio during games, but here, you get background noise that always seems unique to your situation. It's a great way to immerse you in games.

Bigger improvements can be seen in the gameplay. Hitting difficulty has always been one big gripe from fans of past versions of MLB: The Show. The game has never purported to be easy, forcing you to climb the summit of a steep learning curve when stepping into the batter's box. Timing had to be nearly perfect, even with basic push-button swinging on the default difficulty, and it was essential to target the ball with a cursor to make serious contact. This made the game frustrating, especially to newcomers who wanted the instant illusion of being a big-league ballplayer at the dish. Thankfully, hitting has been seriously loosened this year with an opened-up timing window. Now you can get solid wood on the ball even if you don't have your timing absolutely perfect. As a result, you can at least get pieces of tough pitches that you would have just waved at in previous games. Understandably, this does make hitting somewhat easier. But it mostly makes hitting a lot more satisfying, because you can now pound the ball like a major leaguer.

Adjusted batting doesn't kick off offensive explosions, either. You can hit the ball harder more often, sure, but that often means you're clocking a lot of long, loud outs. You're not going to suddenly start slamming the ball over the fences every other at-bat. Going yard might well be a little easier for power hitters, but there is nothing here that would be out of the ordinary in a real Major League contest. Timing remains crucial, as does picking your spots. You can't just go up and flail away at every pitch and expect to do anything but give the opposition easy outs. There is just a little more room for error at the plate, which is very welcome given how tough the game has been in the past, especially for rookies.

The revamped hitting also makes the game more lifelike. As noted above, outs have oomph now. Last year's sad little nubber a few feet down the first-base line is this year's hard ground out right at the sack. You can now more readily fight off tough pitches by fouling away ball after ball to stay alive in fierce duels with pitchers. Before, contact was so tough to come by that you tended to just whiff at stuff on the corners. Now, you can take the likes of Justin Verlander and C.C. Sabathia nine or 10 pitches deep into an at-bat.

New push/pull physics also track how players spray the ball around, labeling them in categories that range from extreme pull to extreme push. This again adds to realism and lets you more accurately tailor at-bats to the skills of individual players, a big help when trying to advance runners. All of these improvements ramp up tension at the plate and give you more of the feeling that anything is possible.

Pitching hasn't changed as much. It might be a little easier to fool opposing batters now, but that's about it. With a control pitcher, you can clock a fair number of Ks now, as long as you throw a smart mix of different pitches and play around with speed and location. Enemy batters aren't as picky as in previous editions of the game. They won't wave at garbage too often, although you can make even the best look foolish with a good mix. Again, this makes for more realistic pitcher-batter duels. The only lingering issue with pitching in need of a fix is the dark circle of the Pulse Pitching mechanics. It remains a little too arcadey, pulsing so fast and making location-setting too gimmicky. The pulsing circle is also too hard to see in front of catchers with dark chest protectors.

Fielding returns pretty much intact, albeit with the addition of a new throwing mechanic called Button Accuracy Throw. A meter governs accuracy, while how hard you press the button governs speed. It's an interesting concept, but it's touchy. It's far too easy to miss your mark on the meter even on routine throws and wind up going into the yellow or red on the meter. This results in firing the ball into the dirt, pulling a player way off a bag, or sailing one into the outfield. How hard you need to push for any given situation is also tough to manage. It's remarkably easy to unload a rocket by mistake when you're trying to underhand toss to first, or half-lob a long throw from behind third.

Most essential features have been almost entirely held over from last year, with only a handful of additions and changes. A new Beginner mode serves as a good introduction to baseball gaming. It starts you off as if you've never seen a bat before, and ramps the difficulty up as your results improve on the rubber and at the plate. All but the most hopeless players might find this mode too simplistic, though at least you can change the settings for different parts of the game. So if you have trouble hitting, but triumph on the mound, you can adjust the difficulty accordingly. Beginner really does simplify things for newcomers, who can be overwhelmed by the huge range of options available, including the usual pile of different control schemes. Move motion controller support returns, but is tiresome and pointless given the superb gamepad control options.

Franchise and season modes are back intact, with the sole big extra being financial modeling that allows small-market teams to up their budgets right away after winning seasons. This makes life a little easier for fans of small fries like the A's and Royals, though it isn't realistic given how quickly the extra budget room kicks in. If this were the case in the real world, the Orioles' surprising run to the playoffs last season would have given them the cash to load up on free agents this past offseason. Stats remain true to life when playing seasons, at least, with offensive, defensive, and pitching numbers staying within realistic parameters. You might well see something like Verlander winning 25 games, although there doesn't seem to be anything improbable here.

Road to the Show remains incredibly addictive, although not much has been added to its simulation of a wannabe pro trying to make his way to the bigs. New camera angles and nifty added options, such as the ability to check what your third-base coach is signaling or check out the ball while running the bases, put you in your player's cleats more effectively than ever before. But the game lacks the sorts of frills seen in the My Player and My Career modes in NBA 2K games. Not that you really need the ability to post on Twitter and design shoes for Nike, but more options here would allow for greater role-playing.

Speedier load and sim times would also be welcome. Loads are sluggish through the entire game, but they really get hard to take when you're playing a position player in Road to the Show and are being forced to constantly wait through long stretches between at-bats and fielding attempts. The new Postseason mode lets you jump right into the race for the World Series without bothering to mess around with those pesky 162 regular season games. Nice touch, but not exactly out of the ordinary in sports gaming; it's a wonder this wasn't added a long time ago.

Online play stays the course. Leagues have been brought forward from last year with minor tweaks to setup options for commissioners, schedules, menus, and that sort of thing. Everything has been organized in a more efficient manner, too, with more options to filter stats, call up historical details to go over previously played league games, and so forth. Nothing here is showstopping, although the changes do address some longstanding gripes from hardcore simmers.

The Show Live has been tossed into the mix to let you follow real developments in the Majors during the 2013 season. It's a nice extra, although it is noticeably similar to the MLB Today mode that was introduced in MLB 2K13 last season. Cross play is available to let PlayStation 3 and PS Vita game owners take on one another, but only in Home Run Derby mode. It's a shame that Sony didn't take this further with full game and career support across the two platforms. You can save games to the cloud and port your seasons of Road to the Show over for use on the Vita, at least.

MLB 13: The Show takes its place in the long line of stellar baseball games that the franchise has produced over the past eight years. It isn't a huge leap over last year's game, which admittedly wasn't a huge leap over its predecessor, but the alterations to the hitting and pitching models make for a much more satisfying game that opens The Show up to a much wider audience. While the game remains challenging, the frustration factor of hitting has been dialed way back, which will draw in new players who want to get good wood on the ball like a real big leaguer. It's too bad that owners of other platforms don't get to enjoy the release of this game every spring at the same time that real major leaguers are taking in some sun en route to Opening Day.

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The Good
Hitting adjustments make it easier and more satisfying to lay wood on the ball
Beginner mode and other tweaks make this version of The Show more approachable than ever
Beautiful visuals and great situational sound effects on the diamond
Road to the Show remains one of the most addictive experiences in sports gaming
The complete package when it comes to re-creating Major League Baseball
The Bad
No significant new modes or features
Lengthy load times, which can be especially aggravating in Road to the Show
8.5
Great
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Discussion

50 comments
tankerLuke
tankerLuke

How is the hitting this year? That has always been my biggest complaint with this game

MaddenBowler10
MaddenBowler10

Load times can be fixed by installing the game to your HDD.

Jyakotu
Jyakotu

MLB: The Show always seemed to be the superior baseball game. Never saw the hype with 2K sports games to begin with. But long story short, MLB 2K13 is trash and MLB: The Show is the only baseball game we need. So wonderful that we get such an awesome franchise exclusive to the PlayStation consoles.

Gxgear
Gxgear

MLB Power Pros needs to get localized.

wantbackin
wantbackin

I wish there was more consistency with GameSpot's reviews. Mc Shea reviews Madden NFL, complains they don't do enough new, it gets a 7.5. This has the exact same complaint, gets an 8.5.

I'm not knocking this game, it's a clear improvement over last year's 7.5 but if the complaints are similar to other games of the genre, there should be some commonality between reviews.

Stevenuccj
Stevenuccj

I don't need comments to tell me MLB is better than 2k; the 8.5 vs. 5.0 kind of gives it away.

supa_badman
supa_badman

>picture of Rogers Centre

> every seat filled up

Lmao, only your dreams

fredyellowone
fredyellowone

MLB 13 the Show now,

Or MLB 14 the Show on PS4.

That's the question i'm asking myself right now.

Pukshd
Pukshd

Why the ps3 version is always better than the xbox 2k?

GamerOuTLaWz
GamerOuTLaWz

This game looks so real...........why cant they do the same with a NHL game.


EA NHL 2013 is so much shit.

jsmoke03
jsmoke03

i want to get paid already so i can buy this game

snowblood1970
snowblood1970

Game is so awesome!! Must buy for any ps3 baseball fan!!

00LiteYear
00LiteYear

Can someone explain why you would buy a game about baseball every year? How different can MLB13 be to 12?

dmblum1799
dmblum1799

Wow, the one thing I didn't like about my version (a couple years ago PS3) was that hitting was a bit hard. Not a game breaker but a little frustrating if you just didn't want to focus on hitting. So I'll be getting this bad boy.

Johacamigames
Johacamigames

Lengthy load times? I have it digitally on my PS3 and it takes no more than 20 seconds to get in a game. And this is the best sports game out there, obviously better than MLB 2K13

tourdefist
tourdefist

No mention of the move controls?

JustPlainLucas
JustPlainLucas

I got this on the Vita.  Sports games were never my forte, but I enjoy playing the occasional baseball game. I tried to play last year's The Show on the Vita, but I just couldn't get the hang of it, even on rookie.  You're not supposed to be getting slaughtered on the easiest difficulty.  Beginner mode has made The Show 13 far more likable for me.  Currently undefeated, and that's the way me likes it.  :)

cjtopspin
cjtopspin

@Jyakotu :  Being an XBOX console owner I have to say that the PS exclusivity is NOT AWESOME.  Try playing those trash 2K sports baseball games as your ONLY baseball gaming option

...I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

csward
csward

@Jyakotu Agreed, in recent years the 2k basketball games have really stagnated.

LilRoss2k3
LilRoss2k3

@wantbackin well..that's because madden is a broken PoS.  it's not on the same level as an authentic, quality sports title.

hosedandhappy
hosedandhappy

@wantbackin They're not reviewing games based solely on the fact of what's new. They can't just say not much improvement automatically 7.5 It's going to factor into their decision but it's pretty commonly accepted that The Show is a much better game than Madden.

hosedandhappy
hosedandhappy

@Stevenuccj It's unfortunate they didn't try and improve on the 2k series because I absolutely love their pitching mechanic. 

smoothyplum26
smoothyplum26

@Pukshd Because 2k is more focused on their NBA franchise than their MLB one. MLB 2k13 wasn't even scheduled to come out this year and about a month before release it got announced out of the blue. So I doubt much work was put into it. 

Generic_Dude
Generic_Dude

@GamerOuTLaWz Hockey requires more speed. During a pitcher-batter duel, the only movement is between the pitcher and the batter. In an NHL game, there's 12 players on the ice at a given time, all making decisions based on your input. You make that too photorealistic and you're going to have framerate problems. Sorta like how Heavy Rain looks better than Dead Rising -- Dead Rising has 100 zombies on screen at once, with a whole bunch of carnage going on at the same time. Heavy Rain has two people on screen and absolutely nothing going on.

I'm no fan of EA -- especially after what they did to SimCity -- but there are different things to consider when making a hockey game vs a baseball game.

mginge51
mginge51

@GamerOuTLaWz 


you telling me nhl 2013 is shit whatever, last nhl game i bought was 12 but i just couldnt get into it, looked a very good game though.

I might buy nhl 14

itchyflop
itchyflop

@00LiteYear i used to say this regarding madden games!!! i have 2012 on the vita, i think youde have to be an obsessive fan of the sport like people who buy fifa every year. however they usually are deeper games than how they appear.

buttslamify
buttslamify

the people who are commenting on this are slightly missing the point of the joke

Sardinar
Sardinar

@buttslamify You act as if your life depends on it. What the hell is your reasoning?

vikieinstein
vikieinstein

@Johacamigames Go out there and get a life. My PS3 has a very good loading time of less than 10 seconds. Stop Whining here.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@tourdefist There was brief mention on the second page--very brief. Brett actually went over the word limit, so there wouldn't have been much room for him to elaborate!

Blabadon
Blabadon

@JustPlainLucas If you ever get a chance to play the PS3 version, tell me how it stacks up to that version please!

SpideR_CentS
SpideR_CentS

NBA 2k is great. IMO its a tie between NBA 2k and MLB the Show as the best sports games..

GamerOuTLaWz
GamerOuTLaWz

@mginge51 @GamerOuTLaWz I mean..Starting a game with a friend is so tricky, if you set your controls to classic or wtv,then decide to change your starting lanes or period lenght,it will reset the controls so you have to make your pick again. Team rosters are all wrong because of the god damn lock-out that happened this year even when playing online with the ''up-to-date'' rosters that arent even up to date.

I hate the fact that you cant make stick moves while skating thats just unrealistic... but anyway..the gameplay is still fun and Ive had a blast playing online games with 2 of myfriends on the same team and 1v1s against friends. But Im glad this is my friends game and I only borrowed it from him cause Ill gladly wait for NHL 14 .

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

@itchyflop @00LiteYear Yeah.. I promised myself that i'm going to skip the next Fifa as a matter of principle (personally I don't see why EA can't just update the game).

That said though I know i'll crumble and buy it anyway.. unlike Call of Duty the games actually become 'out of date' due to teams changing leagues and the players signed.  Plus, to be fair to EA, the new modes introduced and gaming tweaks are actually worthwhile.

(That is the one and only time i'll be positive towards EA!)

ahpuck
ahpuck

@Blabadon @JustPlainLucas  The Vita version is great, but the PS3 version is a whole other beast. The vita lacks a lot of the PS3's animations. If you can only afford one, get the PS3 version.

JustPlainLucas
JustPlainLucas

@Blabadon @JustPlainLucas It's probably something that will never happen.  I got it on the Vita so I could play it at work, and when I need a break from the consoles at home.  Now, I WOULD have picked the PS3 version instead if it came with cross-buy and included a downloadable version for the Vita.  In my opinion, Sony seriously needs to make cross-buy a standard if they want people to care about their cross-play functionality.

Heil68
Heil68

@JustPlainLucas 

I saw somewhere there was a $20 discount for buying both, Cant remember where tho. 

MLB 13: The Show

  • PlayStation 3
  • PlayStation Vita
MLB 13 The Show is a realistic baseball game that allows players to feel the MLB experience with moments such as when you're called up to the majors, a sacrifice fly to left field, or crushing a walk-off homer to win it all.
ESRB
Everyone
All Platforms
Check out even more info at the MLB 13: The Show Wiki on Giantbomb.com