Every year, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s MLB The Show consistently brings an absurdly authentic Major League Baseball experience mixed with a top of the line suite of accessibility options. MLB The Show 17 is no exception to that standard, though this year’s entry also comes equipped with some of the biggest changes the franchise has seen in years. While most other sports franchises remove and replace features every year, perhaps just to offer something new, The Show instead chooses to build on top of the spectacular foundation it has built for itself over the last more than a decade.
First and foremost, MLB The Show 17 is still the premiere baseball simulation on the market. Core gameplay is as crisp as ever, and the focus on more accurate throwing motions for fielders this year is an immediately noticeable and welcomed fix over past years entries. No longer is your fielder triple clutching the ball and soft tossing it to first while the runner is barrelling down the line to beat out the throw. Not only does this help authenticity, but it makes removes interactions that feel “cheap,” like they shouldn’t have happened in the first place for obvious reasons. This attention to detail, while seemingly minor, has a huge impact on gameplay.
Returning are all the usual accessibility options you will expect from The Show. Batting and pitching can be boiled down to one button press, while fielding and throwing can be assisted or simulated as need be. However, the biggest new accessibility features come by way of quality of life features found in some of the game’s premiere modes, such as Franchise and Road to the Show.
The biggest new additions to Franchise mode are the new “critical situations” feature and the accompanying quick manage mode. Quick manage is The Show’s take on gameplay akin to Out of the Park Baseball. Players can choose a course of action for every situation, pitcher or batter. For example, with a runner on first and second with no outs, you might choose to tell your batter to sacrifice bunt, setting up men on third and second for a perfect sacrifice fly scenario. When pitching, you can tell your pitcher whether to pitch to contact or pitch around certain batters, putting your players in great situations to succeed as a real MLB Manager does. With critical situations, when simulating large swaths of games, the simulation will stop and the player will be prompted to pop into a game during an important moment. If the game is tied and the bases are loaded, players would be prompted to jump in and take control of that situation themselves.
Critical situations and quick manage, the latter especially, improves accessibility even further. While hitting and pitching can be boiled down to one button press each, quick manage offers players the opportunity to control their favorite players and franchise without the need of any timing or accuracy demands. They also give players more agency over how the season plays out. Playing a full game of baseball in The Show takes close to an hour, while quick manage can take anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes depending on the level of the player’s involvement.
Adding to The Show’s impressive amount of polish are other quality of life fixes that are felt much more than they are praised. In Road to the Show, training sessions happen less often but reward more points, giving players more time to play actual baseball as opposed to a constant stream of mini-games. Those mini-games were always the least accessible part of The Show anyway, so removing the heavy reliance on them makes RTTS mode more accessible by default. However, some headaches from previous entries haven’t been smoothed out yet. The throw and spectacular catch QTEs still exist from last year with no option to toggle them off without just turning off fielding opportunities altogether. While we refuse to sweep it under the rug, the fact that this feature is one of the least accessible aspects of gameplay says a lot of good things about the game as a whole.
Diamond Dynasty, The Show’s card collecting, microtransaction filled online mode focuses this year on a new breadth of modes featuring Battle Royale and Conquest modes. Conquest is a single player, baseball skinned game of Risk. Players must slowly move across the United States with their created and collected baseball team, taking fans and territory away from established Major League Baseball teams. Battle Royale is The Show’s “Draft Champions” clone, where players can draft their team from a randomized preset of players, choosing between some of MLBs newest stars and older fan favorites and legends, making team building just as important as gameplay. For players that like the grind of collection and online play, Diamond Dynasty’s new modes should keep them hooked all through the season.
We have seen this time and time again, but the games with the least accessibility hurdles are the games that give players the widest assortment of options and control methods. MLB The Show is head and shoulders above every other sports franchise in gaming, and remains one of the most accessible games of any genre, period. In fact, with the addition of quick manage, the gap has managed to widen ever so slightly. I don’t know whether that speaks more to Sony San Diego’s dedication to accessibility or to the lack of care from gaming’s other premiere sports franchises, but one thing we can say for sure is that MLB The Show continues to set a high bar for the rest of the industry. A standard it would be wise for other developers of every genre to strive to reach.