Late summer into early fall is a sports video game goldmine. The FIFA, NBA2K, Madden, WWE2K and NHL series each release in that short window that it makes it frankly a little overwhelming.
Even people with all the time in the world on their hands have to prioritize. I'll usually push Madden to the forefront in late summer before the NBA2K release, which gets the lion's share of my attention until Christmas—usually when NHL or FIFA comes into play. WWE2K, a more evergreen series, holds over the boredom during the early months of the new year.
That is, right until MLB the Show swoops in with a clean calendar and impeccable resume to clear out the competition. The Show is perhaps sports gaming's most consistently stellar release, boasting deep franchise mode and career options that make it one of the most successful yearly games.
It also has a full season's worth of free reign against the gaming calendar before any real competition comes down the pike. With a March 28 release upcoming, let's take a look at what to expect from MLB The Show 17.
Road to the Show
The Show's classic career mode—where you attempt to build your player from struggling minor leaguer into a future Hall of Famer—returns. As in recent years, you may carry over your career from MLB 16—provided you still have the data saved.
The big difference this year—and one that may make you restart your journey—is the new role-playing style element called "Pave Your Path." For the first time, The Show is adding a little personality to proceedings and giving the player some agency over the type of personality he wants to have. Managers can do things like asking you to switch positions and other smaller options that shape the outside perception of your player.
The Show is a little behind NBA 2K and FIFA in that regard, but this should help liven up a mode that's grown a little stale in recent years.
The Show already offers perhaps the deepest franchise mode in sports gaming, and this year's iteration may push MLB 17 to its all-time apex. Additions to the mode are mostly small—they're not fixing what's not broke—but continue to develop layers that will make the multi-year experience more fun.
Things like Critical Situations, which is essentially a baseball version of Madden's well-received Play the Moment, expedite the 162-game process. It's near-impossible for anyone to slog through 162 games against AI; anyone who has ever played franchise mode has gone in with the intention of playing every game before breaking down and simulating at least some of the games.
Critical Situations puts you only in the moments that will decide an outcome. Players will also have the option of "managing" a game from the sim screen.
The biggest new game mode—and the one most-touted by developers—is Retro Mode. It's essentially a throwback to the days of RBI Baseball, complete with old-school graphics, easy-to-use button options and even the retro feel of a game made for Super Nintendo.
Retro Mode is all about simplicity. It's something your parents can probably handle playing—in the best possible way.
Here's to hoping this continues a little pattern with sports gaming, and we get a Tecmo Bowl-style mode for Madden next year.
The mode returns this year essentially unchanged, but with additions to legends, missions, events, flashbacks, etc. It's your standard year-to-year upgrade. That's not necessarily a bad thing; these card-based, VC-based modes are always a little hard to significantly tweak.
But it'll be back for those who enjoy it.