Like the NFL, Major League Baseball has a history of offering a very sought-after license in sports videogames; The 90’s and 2000’s had a crowded dugout of competitors when it came to virtual hardball, but ever since Take-Two Interactive (Owner of 2K Sports) signed an eight-year contract in 2005 that made them the only third-party licensee in MLB gaming, the market hasn’t had a lot of…Warming up in the bullpen, so to speak. With that kind of contract signed, it seemed that when it came to triple-A budget MLB console games, 2K would win the proverbial World Series with a walk-off grand slam; However, Sony and their MLB The Show franchise proved to be superior year after year, no performance-enhancing drugs needed. That history lesson was the appetizer, and now we can get to the main course — MLB The Show ‘19 has stepped into the batter’s box, and it’s time for us to determine if Sony has once again brought the right lumber; Grab some Big League Chew and allow me to talk to you about it.
Covering our bases
On the diamond, The Show ‘19’s controls are as tight and accessible as ever; You have several control schemes to choose from in all four tasks of the game — Batting, pitching, baserunning, and fielding. I like to use Pure Analog in every way functionally possible because it reminds me a lot of EA Sports’ MVP Baseball series, which is a huge compliment coming from me. What Pure Analog means is that instead of the face buttons, you use the right analog stick for the majority of whatever scenario of the game you’re currently in. When batting, you still have the typical pitch-guessing mechanic, but your swing is performed by pulling the right stick back and then pushing it forward; Pulling it back but not following through will allow you to do check-swings if you think the ball won’t be a strike, and simply pushing the stick left or right performs a bunt. On the mound, you select your pitch type, take aim, pull the right stick back, and flick it forward with as correct timing as possible; Your goal is to execute your pitch when your meter reaches the sweet spot, and your timing determines the speed and trajectory of the ball. Commanding your fielder to throw the ball is done by simply flicking the right stick to in the direction of the base you are aiming for; You must do it with the right timing and strength to prevent errors from occurring. Baserunning is, as per usual, controlled with the left stick, face buttons, and bumpers; If you’ve played any baseball game imaginable, avoiding the tags shouldn’t be too hard.
A bullpen of tweaks
One of the heavily-hyped new modes this time around is simply titled “Moments,” which is a collection of playable highlights from MLB history. This can be played both offline and in Diamond Dynasty, which is a very nice touch on Sony San Diego’s part. The other new mode in this iteration is called “March to October,” which is like a normal season/franchise mode except you only play take part in the most important scenarios of the season as you attempt to net your team a World Series trophy.
“Road to the Show” mode hasn’t been completely overhauled, but there is a new feature in which you interact with your teammates and build up your chemistry. Earning the respect of your fellow players will also increase your reputation both in the clubhouse and the press; Good rep is a must in sports games, wouldn’t you say?
Baseball diamonds are forever
Graphically, The Show ‘19 rakes yet another home run; There are hundreds of new player animations, the broadcast-style presentation is well-produced, and the ballparks look as realistic as ever. And if you’ve got a PS4 Pro with a 2160p monitor, you’ll practically be put on the diamond regardless of whether or not you actually have Cracker Jack in your hands. No sports simulation would be complete without fantastic audio, and the team at Sony San Diego is incredibly aware of that; Matt Vasgersian, Mark DeRosa, and Dan Plesac return to the mics and deliver hundreds of new voice lines. At the sidelines this year is Heidi Watney, whose inclusion will please those who regularly tune into the MLB Network.
The closing pitches
It’s not like this is required to be said, but Sony San Diego added some tasty icing to this already delicious cake of a baseball series; If you’ve got a PS4 in your home and you need a deep-and-rewarding baseball sim on your monitor, MLB The Show ‘19 should definitely be your starting pitcher. It doesn’t pitch a perfect game, but it’s as packed with content and accessibility as it’s always been, and this series will continue to rock the virtual diamond for the foreseeable future.