Almost no one would argue that the MLB The Show series has been the premier baseball simulation for any gaming console over the last six years.
With that status, it would be easy to rest on the reputation of a solid product. The developers at Sony's San Diego studio are obviously not proponents of that approach. They continue to add more to this franchise, and the new MLB 13 the Show fact sheet (ShowNation.com) supports that.
With Pittsburgh Pirates star Andrew McCutchen winning the cover vote, the game has a face. Now it's time for the substance.
Here's a summary of each new feature, and my take on what it could bring to the series. To read the official description, click here.
The “Post Season” Mode (PS3 & PS Vita)
This season you can choose to skip the regular season and head straight to the playoffs. This is attractive for gamers that don't have time to play through even a condensed regular season schedule, or they just want to battle it out with playoff intensity from the beginning.
You can choose all the teams, and the mode recognizes the new playoff format with the one-game wild card round.
You can customize the lengths of series and make all 10 teams human-controlled. The mode supports single player, head-to-head, co-op and PlayStation Move.
Cross Platform Online Home Run Derby (PS3 & PS Vita)
The Show series has invested a lot in the way their game plays on the PS Vita, and this new feature is proof of that.
It could be the first step towards allowing franchise play between Vita players and console gamers, but in the immediate, it is a cool way to swing for the fences cross platform.
Beginner Mode (PS3 & PS Vita)
If The Show has a drawback, it could be the level of difficulty.
Sometimes I wish I had a water cooler next to my TV, so I could take out my frustrations. I especially have a problem hitting consistently.
That could be because I insist upon playing from the pitcher's view—even when I'm up to bat. What can I say, I'm obsessed with TV-style presentation. I'm insane I know, but this is my little world.
At any rate, the new Beginner mode is designed to allow more novice players to enjoy The Show series. The game assesses your skill level and progresses the difficulty as you improve. Think of it as virtual training wheels—only on the baseball field—if that makes any sense.
It is a great idea, and somewhat similar to the concept EA Sports tried with the Madden series in 2010 and 2011. Before you scream copycat, you must understand there aren't many entirely new concepts to explore.
Everything is a build off a previous concept. As a gamer, I love the idea of borrowing older ideas—especially if they can be improved with every new spin. Here's to hoping that is the case with Beginner mode.
New Push/Pull Hitting Trajectories Engine (PS3 & Vita)
I love the concept of this feature. It is designed to more accurately depict the hit-fields of major league hitters.
By looking at the pitcher-batter screens, you'll be able to see if a batter is an extreme pull, pull hitter, balanced, opposite field hitter or extreme opposite field hitter. This information should give you valuable clues on how to pitch to hitters in certain situations.
That's just so baseball, I don't even know what to do with myself after thinking of the possibilities.
The data is taken from spray charts from MLB.com, but the official description promises us that swinging very late or very early, will still create realistic results.
Well-timed swings will be subject to the bias created by the hitter's preferred zones.
Franchise and Season Mode Evolution (PS3 & PS Vita)
I'm a big franchise mode guy.
Of all the ways to play sports video games, it is still my favorite. Any time a series adds features to this aspect of a game, I'm all ears.
The Show is concentrating on how your franchise mode progresses from season to season. A new budgeting system has been created that will be directly impacted by win-loss record and past spending habits.
In short, you can take a penny-pinching team like the Kansas City Royals and build them into a big spender with "sustained excellence."
Players will be valued differently based on team-specific guidelines. This is done to give each team their own identity.
These are the types of improvements I love to see in franchise modes. These experiences should be like an alternate reality, (I've been watching too many re-runs of Fringe) and these concepts contribute to that.
Road to The Show Gameplay Evolution and Presentation Changes (PS3 & PS Vita)
The Road to The Show mode has also received some enhancements. Sony is smartly taking steps to create and even more different experience between this mode and traditional play.
Now while you're on the field, you'll get the sounds of the game as you would as a player, instead of a quasi-mixture of a TV-style broadcast.
That sounds interesting, but I'm hoping there is enough going on in the background to keep me entertained. The Road to Glory mode in the NCAA Football series can be a little dead, as it also offers just the on-field effects and a PA announcer.
We'll see how his works out, but it's nice that the mode will still inject some commentary and special cut-scenes for important events in your career. This could be a very nice balance of first-person and TV-style broadcast.
Simplified controls are also part of the new features in RTTS. I'm especially hoping for some help on the base paths. That aspect of the game bedeviled me constantly in MLB 12 The Show.
The Show Live (PS3 & PS Vita)
We've seen this concept in other sports games, but boy am I glad to see it coming to The Show. Basically, gamers are allowed to play the real-life matchups of that current day.
If Roy Halladay just won a pitcher's duel against Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, and you want to replay that same matchup. This mode allows you to do just that with a re-creation of the lineups, pitching matchups, game-time, etc.
You can even chose to play games from a previous day on the schedule.
This mode also uses data from MLB.com to power the realism and the Show's commentators will reference real-life stats and occurrences from the real MLB season. It's just like playing a season or franchise mode game, only the data is from the current MLB campaign.
Diamond Dynasty 2.0 (PS3)
Diamond Dynasty was an ambitious mode that debuted in MLB 12 the Show, and it was one of the only disappointing features in the entire game. While conceptually building a team from the ground up was great, and it seemed to build off the trading card/fantasy draft concept, it was dogged by a few issues.
The lag time was a bit troublesome, and the structure was a too complicated. This season, it seems Sony is intent on taking this mode to it's very lofty potential.
DD allows gamers to build their team through the acquisition of player cards, but unlike other similar modes, DD allows you to customize uniforms and other details to keep your team completely your own.
It doesn't appear that Sony has tried to re-invent the entire mode, but it is clear they have listened to The Show community's feedback. There will be tutorials for the more complex aspects of the mode and improvements to the overall structure.
While the menus and such may be more intuitive, the biggest test will be the actual online gameplay.
TruBroadcast Presentations 2.0 (PS3)
From a presentation standpoint, no sports video game nails their sport like The Show nails baseball.
From the varying and stadium-specific camera angles, to the cut-scenes and awesome sound effects. The presentation package was already stellar, so the announcement of TruBroadcast Presentations 2.0 blows my mind.
Sony promises even more new cut-scenes, cameras, on-screen displays, music, audio and overall stadium ambiance.
In addition to that, The Show promises to really show the difference between the atmosphere and presentation of a regular season, All-Star Game and postseason games.
That just makes me tear up.
New Scouting and Training System in Franchise Mode (PS3 & PS Vita)
Scouting and training in franchise modes can be an afterthought for some gamers, but that's because most games don't have a system that engrosses you.
The idea was born through community feedback and hopefully it manifests itself as a fun and necessary component to player development.
Position-specific drills are a great addition to the package. I truly have my fingers crossed, as this is a difficult aspect of sports gaming to make appealing to the masses.
Online Road To The Show Leaderboard (PS3 & PS Vita)
This is a nice concept that organizes the RTTS leaderboards by position and level in the organization. For example, gamers will be able to see where they rank as a shortstop at the Triple-A or Double-A level.
This is a great way to track your player's ascension through the pro ranks, and how he compares to other RTTS players around the world.
Universal Profile (PS3 & PS Vita)
Think if this feature as your MLB the Show DNA. The UP tracks every thing you do on the game in every mode, and on both platforms.
Every The Show experience you have will earn you XP, and other gamers can view your UP to see how they stack up against you.
Button Accuracy Meter (PS3 & PS Vita)
If you're an advanced Show gamer, you'll love this. It gives users full control over the strength and accuracy of throws.
It'll be up to the gamer to turn this on, and if it is enabled, you'll be the one controlling how hard you through it and how accurate. Before you could control the speed, but the accuracy was based solely on the player you were controlling, and his accuracy rating.
Steve Lyons Joins The Booth (PS3 & PS Vita)
Steve Lyons is joining The Show's virtual broadcast booth. The series already has perhaps the best commentating in any sports game; only NBA 2K is in the same ballpark.
Adding another recognizable voice shouldn't hurt the product.
Hopefully, his comments aren't just plug-ins and there are steps taken to add flow to what Lyons brings.
MLB 13 Online Leagues Overhaul (PS3)
Online leagues in baseball games are tricky because the game's take a long time. There is no way around it, it is the nature of the sport.
This season, the commissioner will have more tools to customize their league in an effort to allow for the best experience.
You can even play the real MLB schedule with all the teams, upgrades and changes.
If all that wasn't enough, check out this list of 50 more enhancements and features. Things are looking good for Show gamers.
- Hitting engine improvements deliver more hit variety than ever before.
- Wider timing window across all difficulty levels.
- Improved ball physics (less ground rule doubles, etc.).
- Over 250 new fielding and running animations.
- Over 90 new batting stances.
- Over 130 batting stance re-captures for players who changed their stances.
- Over 50 new pitching motions.
- Over 60 new HR swings.
- New Defensive Positioning screen, view the whole field and watch your players shift on the fly.
- Franchise Mode: Team specific player valuations, which affect drafting, trades, free agency, etc.
- Franchise Mode: Projected team budgets and free agents for the upcoming season.
- Franchise Mode: Previous award winners and each team's Hall of Fame members will now be tracked and displayed.
- Franchise Mode: Ticker in Franchise that displays scores, milestones, trades, etc.
- Franchise Mode: Top 50 Prospect icon, used to indicate the best up-and-coming minor leaguers.
- Franchise Mode: Organizational depth chart, which displays your starters at each level (AA, AAA and MLB).
- New CBA "qualifying offer" system included.
- Seven new Minor League and Spring Training stadiums.
- On screen tutorials to help you navigate some of the more complicated screens.
- New silhouette bat when bunting.
- Back picks while a catcher in RTTS.
- Ability to assign swing animations when creating or editing a player: follow through, step in, etc.
- Big glove for catcher when a knuckle ball pitcher is on the mound.
- Over 500 new presentations.
- Pitcher energy/rotations for Online Play Now.
- Mercy Rule for online games.
- Twitter in The Show.
- Ping indicators in online game rooms.
- New online ranked game Play Now flow with game worth.
- New post-game summary screen for all online ranked games.
- Player photos updating with roster updates.
- In-game simulator when FF to the end of game.
- PCI Appearance -- There are four alternate PCI appearances.
- Pitcher/Batter Analysis will now display 40 instead of 25 pitches.
- New throwback uniforms.
- More catcher animations on plays at the plate providing more exciting outcomes.
- Enhanced CPU base running. Less predictable and more human like behavior.
- New base running animations "around the bases." Allows for more control of your base runner.
- New Pulse pitching, Meter pitching and strike zone art .
- New player accessories.
- New online ticker design, more stats and information.
- RTTS infielder’s pickoff request.
- New more interactive user steal system.
- Improved CPU pitcher substitution logic.
- New player card.
- Guess pitch evolution.
- RTTS Removal of the “green-light” system.
- Over 1,000 new RTTS-specific presentations.
- New RTTS user catch option.
- New RTTS On/Off options for ball halo and ball trail.
- Over 15 new batting camera’s and 5 new pitching camera views.
Follow Brian Mazique and Franchiseplay on YouTube and Twitter for reactions, analysis and news from the world of sports and sports video games