MLB 13: The Show Review

A scrunched-down version of its big-brother PlayStation 3 game, MLB 13: The Show for the PS Vita offers good, not great, handheld baseball.

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Compare the backs of the boxes, and MLB 13: The Show looks pretty much identical on both the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita. Get into the actual games, however, and some substantial differences pop up when it comes to playability. Where the PS3 game is the real deal, another fantastic baseball game that walks the line better than ever between simulation realism and on-the-diamond action, the handheld Vita version falls short in a few key areas. You get a very good game of baseball here, due to the huge number of options and attention to detail in every aspect of hitting, pitching, and fielding. Still, scrunching the big-brother console version down to handheld size causes a few problems that feel like they could have been avoided.

For the most part, however, MLB 13 plays pretty similarly on both systems. Virtually all of the modes of play have been shifted to the Vita mostly intact. So you get all of the core experiences that the game has to offer, including franchise and season play, online options, the role-playing Road to the Show, and the new Postseason playoffs and The Show Live (which lets you follow the real 2013 Major League season as it unfolds). Beginner mode is available as well, providing a good if overly simplistic entry to video game baseball for rookies. Ad hoc mode is available for local multiplayer. Just about everything has been cut back, though. Animations aren't as varied on the field. Broadcast booth commentary is down to the odd line from play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian. Player creation options have been reduced, so you don't have as many little frills to tweak when crafting your wannabe in Road to the Show.

These cuts don't initially seem like huge sacrifices to make for the big plus of portability. But the omissions are notable if you're also playing the PS3 version, and they add up over time to give you the impression that this is something of a cut-rate edition of the game. You might find this perfectly acceptable, especially when you want to link up with the PS3 version of the game and download games from the cloud on the road. (Direct play between the platforms is supported only in Home Run Derby mode.) It is undeniably nifty to catch up on a few games with your Road to the Show guy when away from home or when your main gaming TV in the living room is being occupied by other folks in the household.

In spite of being stripped down in comparison to its big brother, The Show feels as though it still bit off more than it could chew. Load times are quite long, especially when playing Road to the Show with a position player where you're taking only a few at-bats and fielding attempts in each game. Visual details overload performance, as well. The great-looking graphics and countless animations crammed onto the card slow the frame rate down. There are no big hitches, but the consistent frame slowdown is noticeable, especially in the field.

Getting down on the diamond lets you forget about some of these problems. MLB 13 plays a very good, very addictive game of baseball. Pitching and batting are very challenging and realistic. You have to work your pitches on the mound and pay close attention when in the batter's box. The pitcher-batter duel is uncannily realistic. You regularly get into wars, trying to fool batters with pitch type, placement, and speed. And then you get into the same battles on the other side of the equation, fighting off enemy hurlers doing the same thing to you when you're at bat. Ball physics are brilliantly realized. The ball always moves in a realistic fashion, whether coming off the bat, coming out of a shortstop's hand, or ricocheting off the pitcher's skull.

Fielding animations are just as lifelike and extremely varied, even if not to the level of what's on display on the PS3. The same goes with visual quality. Players are readily recognizable, and ballparks are lovingly depicted, giving games a serious big league atmosphere. There is even a touch of glitz provided through the remarkably complete soundtrack, which contains the same big songs as on the PS3 by the likes of The Rolling Stones and ZZ Top. All in all, games feel and look and sound true to life.

For the most part. There are some problems here, which again come down to not fully adjusting the PS3 game for the Vita. Making contact was opened up in the PS3 game this year for the first time with the timing window adjusted so you can be late or early and still have a shot at a hit or fouling the pitch off to stay alive. This allows you to more easily get good wood on the ball at default difficulties. Here, though, it's still tough to lay the lumber on pitches. Hitting is more like what was seen in MLB 12 and its predecessors. Making contact is a little easier, just not as easy as it is on the PS3. That's a bit of a letdown, because the revamped PS3 batting has removed some of the frustration factor from the series and made it more playable than ever before, even to ballgame newbies. Some of this could be due to the small screen. Hitting has always been tougher on the Vita and the PSP because of the size of the ball on the little screens in comparison with the 50-inch-plus HDTVs in living rooms. At any rate, some tweaks are needed to get hitting to the same outstanding ease-of-use level seen in the PS3 edition of the game.

Pitching and fielding can be even more problematic. The pitching challenge has been dialed up, again due to the size of what you're working with on the screen. No significant adjustments have been made to game speed or anything else to make hurling easier to handle. Control mechanics are problematic as well. Pulse Pitching, for instance, is almost impossible to use here because of the size of the rapidly pulsating target and how its dark color blends in with catcher chest protectors. Aiming pitches can be annoying no matter what pitching control you choose, because the amount of play in the Vita thumbsticks makes it hard to lock down locations. If you're looking for something to exacerbate carpal tunnel syndrome, you've found it.

Fielding will also test your patience. The somewhat awkward fielder sliding on the PS3 can be a huge issue on the Vita when scooping grounders in both the infield and the outfield, because it is all too easy to skate past (those very tiny) routine balls. Oddly enough, though, the new Button Accuracy Throw fielding option is better here than on the PS3, where it is ridiculously touchy.

Customizability can be a saving grace. You can adjust just about every aspect of MLB 13 through its comprehensive slider settings. Tailor-making a game just right for the skills that you bring to the table is possible. But it requires more fiddling than it should, solely because the game design hasn't been tweaked enough out of the box to allow for the differences between a handheld like the Vita and the full-size PS3. While you can't be negative over what remains an impressive baseball game, MLB 13: The Show on the Vita feels too much like a port done without enough regard for the smaller-sized platform of the handheld system. The hitting window should have been opened up a little more to compensate for the tiny screen and controls, and mechanics like Pulse Pitching needed some extra work to make them more usable here. It's understandable that Sony wants to link the two versions of the game every year, but more acknowledgement that these are two different games for two different platforms and even two somewhat different audiences would make the Vita version stand on its own much better.

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The Good
Continues to offer a ton of options
Plays a great game of baseball on the diamond, with superb pitcher-batter duels
Addictive Road to the Show mode of play
Cross-platform support to take your PS3 cloud saves on the road
The Bad
Mechanics like Pulse Pitching not properly scaled down for Vita
Long load times and visual slowdown
7.5
Good
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13 comments
NoahRoalson
NoahRoalson

This review does not do the game justice.

guitarpete462
guitarpete462

I think some of the points made here by others are very true about considering what other options are available in the portable space when attaching a review score. 

When you think about what other options people have when playing a baseball game on a portable format, I feel like the score of this game should be elevated at least a whole point value to 8.5 because this is far and away the best game of portable baseball I have ever played even considering its flaws. The size of the screen is a bit problematic at times, and there is slowdown here and there, but the game runs remarkably well overall and I personally had ZERO problems getting Pulse Pitching or batting to work exactly as I expected. I don't know, maybe I just have really good reflexes.

I personally believe that Sony has another winner on their hands with this one and 7.5 just really sells their hard successful work short. I do feel that they could have toned down the visual fidelity a teensy bit to help the game run smoother, but I think that is overall a minor gripe. I really enjoy this game, and even with other gems on the system I've gotten through PS Plus like Gravity Rush, Uncharted and  Zero Escape, this is the game I'm coming back to more and more.

lowerclassbrat7
lowerclassbrat7

I enjoy baseball games, but when I'm at home I'd rather play a story focused game. A baseball game in the car while my wife is driving, or while I'm lying in bed is the way I most enjoy this type of game.  The Vita version the perfect choice for me, and it's cheaper.

bergmann620
bergmann620

I think it's important to mention the other baseball games you could spend your money on if you're looking to buy a baseball game.  

On the Vita, you're looking at The Show 2012.

On the 3DS, you have Nicktoons MLB 3D.


While I think the text of the review is solid, I didn't get '7.5' from what I read.  It sounds more like an 8.5-9.  It is the best game in it's space, the core gameplay is solid and fun, the visuals are top-notch in the handheld sports market, and there are tons of options.  

On the one hand, it's a bit of a cram job on a handheld, but on the other hand, how many developers are actually putting out console-quality AAA games on handhelds?

snova9308
snova9308

judging only from the screenshot given from this review, the game looks ugly, not "the game looks great"

stellos5
stellos5

Is it just me or does the pic above that says "the game looks great, but has a tendency to slow down when a lot is happening at once" actually look like crap.  Looks more like a SNES baseball game to me...perhaps a different graphic would of been better.

Anyway, the warning about slow load times and choppiness is enough to make me pass on this one.  Can't stomach slow load times anymore.  Sony needs to take XBox's lead and start allowing to DL games to hard drives to speed up load times.  

ahpuck
ahpuck

It's far from perfect, but it still is a great game.

RoadStar1602
RoadStar1602

MLB 12 has long load times, too. I just don't get that. There are no moving parts in the Vita. It's all flash memory. Load times should be practically instant.

Generic_Dude
Generic_Dude

So what changed between this edition and last year's edition that warrants the higher score?

hosedandhappy
hosedandhappy

I'm guessing most reviewers are probably just trying a couple games on the vita after reviewing the PS3 version but I still find it odd that I've seen the same specific complaint that is addressed in the game.

Pulse pitching works fine on the Vita version. The review complains that they haven't done anything to make pitching easier on the Vita version but they have. Yes using the sticks to aim pitches sucks but they allow you to aim with the touchscreen which makes aiming quite a bit easier than on the PS3 version. There's also an option to turn on a border around the pulse indicator if you're having trouble seeing it.

VendettaRed07
VendettaRed07

"Tends to slow down when a lot is happening"

Well that shouldn't ever happen because its a baseball game

...Dundun tch.....

JustPlainLucas
JustPlainLucas

The Vita's a powerful beast, but unfortunately, it's not a PS3, so it can't do what the PS3 can do, hence the slowdown.  This is exacerbated by the fact that the developer just doesn't have the time to fine tune the graphics of the game because both versions' releases have to coincide.  Personally, I'd rather play sports games on the go, so that's why I sacrificed graphics and bought it on the Vita.  It's still a fine looking game, and actually much more enjoyable than last year's installment.  As I said when I commented on the PS3 review, it's a shame that cross-buy was not supported with this version.  

guitarpete462
guitarpete462

@JustPlainLucas I would have LOVED cross buy with this game. This would have been a perfect game to support it. Maybe next year or with a future PS4 edition. Still enjoying this game a ton.

MLB 13: The Show More Info

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  • First Released
    • PlayStation Vita
    • PS3
    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.
    8.3
    Average User RatingOut of 108 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate MLB 13: The Show
    Developed by:
    SCEA San Diego Studios
    Published by:
    SCEA, SCEI, SCEE
    Genres:
    Sports, Simulation, Baseball, Team-Based
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Everyone
    All Platforms
    No Descriptors