MLB The Show 16 Review – Rounding The Bases


Despite some interesting ideas for gameplay updates, the real focus of MLB The Show 16 is improving upon the game’s foundations.

Developer: SCE San Diego Studio

Publisher: Sony

Platforms: PS4 (Version Reviewed), PS Vita

Release Date: March 29, 2016

I remember exactly where I was for Game 5 of the ALDS between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays. Sitting at a bar on Bloor Street, right in the core of downtown Toronto, I was right there in the middle of what may go down as one of the craziest innings of baseball many will ever see in their lifetime; the 7th inning. It was an amalgamation of the best and worst of Blue Jays fandom; frustrated slights by the umpiring crew built up over a full series that boiled over on the error by Russel Martin. The overwhelming crushing of the heart, woe over the idea that the Blue Jays lost it, and may not get back to the playoffs for some time.

Until the home run.

That home run, its consequent bat flip and the neverending torrid of hot takes that followed (even in March of this year), represented the joy in saving an excellent Blue Jays team decades in the making. For Jose Bautista, it represented the silencing of the so-called “haters,” those who thought he would never amount to anything beyond utility journeyman until Dwayne Murphy changed his life forever. It was the physical representation of that entire 54-minute inning; emotional, turbulent, wild, and loud.

And now, that bat flip can be seen in MLB The Show 16.

MLB(R) The Show(TM) 16
MLB(R) The Show(TM) 16 /

MLB The Show 16 may not feel like a major overhaul, but it’s the culmination of tidbits of new content imposed upon the excellent base gameplay of this baseball simulator that will have fans talking. Sure, there is a bevy of new gameplay modes that come to online-oriented players, but the bulk of the work this year goes into make what has worked well for years even better. If that doesn’t sound good enough for MLB 15: The Show fans looking for new offline experiences, then the best course of action may be to dip in again next year.

San Diego Studios wants to make the Road to the Show mode as painless as possible for MLB The Show 16 players…

As with every version of this series, the first aspect of MLB The Show 16 I dove into was the Road to the Show. Presentation is key to preparing you for the long road to the majors, especially with the added pressures of the new Bowman Scout Day. Offense, defense and speed are measured for position players, while the ability to hit your spots with your pitches gets scouts talking about pitchers. Based on your performance here and in the showcase games result in an authentic 80-grade scouting report for present and future value. It’s a nice added touch to immerse players into the rookies-to-riches journey for MLB prospects.

Last year saw the additional implementation of basic RPG elements with stat-altering equipment brands, such as Rawlings gloves, Nike cleats, etc. This year, this aspect is notched up by Perks, for use over time and in specific one-use circumstances that allow you to do things like guarantee groundouts/fly balls, improve a hitter’s count or see specific types of pitches.

San Diego Studios wants to make the Road to the Show mode as painless as possible for MLB The Show 16 players, highlighted by playing an entire series without exiting the game field and using a ShowTime buildup meter to slow down time at the key moments in a game. Alongside small presentations that highlight plateaus and advances in your player’s career, the aspirational goal of making the player feel the grind of the farm system without dragging on is obtained.

It’s a smart decision to aim for, even though players in other major sports titles are starting to see more of a focus on storytelling. Madden NFL 16 opens with a choose-your-own-adventure story from the year’s prospective Superbowl, teaching you basic game mechanics like a cinematic tutorial. The less said about the outrageously self-congratulating NBA 2K16’s “Living ‘Da Dream” mode, the better intact your sheltered vision of Spike Lee remains. With Road to the Show, the focus remains on enriching gameplay options, lightly prodding cinematic moments of accomplishment and letting the player enjoy their power fantasies at a measured pace.

MLB(R) The Show(TM) 16
MLB(R) The Show(TM) 16 /

Franchise Mode also sees upgrades, but most of them come from the overall improvements in covering the analytical information of baseball that MLB The Show 16 provides. Revenue streams, GM Goals, prospect/free agent scouting, morale systems and player-generation areas have been expanded to include more data and improved gameplay logic. The 20/80 scouting system fits perfectly into the toolbox of armchair GM’s as they go about their business in creating a successful franchise well into the future.

It’s not just front office/managerial modes that received an injection of depth; the developers brought a host of upgrades to the base baseball simulation experience in MLB The Show 16, no matter how exactly the game is framed. Each year, the newest version of PlayStation baseball gets the basic bonuses like 140 new batting stances (including 150 re-captured for the game), 50 new no-doubt HR swings, 120 pitching windups and animations both new and old, plus 400 different animations in fielding, catching, double play maneuvers, dives, etc.

…You have the early phases of what the PS4 can push to graphical and audio limitations.

That’s not what excites me most as a player; it all comes back to reliving the moments in the virtual gaming space that we see as fans of baseball. It’s those little “have to’s” from the developers, like getting switch-pitcher Pat Venditte the option to pitch from either the left or right hand when facing switch-hitters. It’s fixing how pitchers cover balls back to the mound so they pivot properly. It’s Edwin Encarnacion pimping a home run by walking the parrot, mirroring the numerous different pieces of personality flair added to make the video game project real life as best as possible. It’s adding advanced stats like WAR and FIP to bring baseball gaming into the 21st century.

Best of all, it’s neatly wrapped up in a gorgeous presentation. MLB The Show 16 looks phenomenal, with a reworked lighting system through physics-based rendering that reflects and refracts light based on the type of surface. Matte black helmets won’t cause reflections like regular helmets normally do, just like paint on a wall will reflect light differently than a wood bench or plastic stadium seat. Mix that in with Sounds of the Show making its long-overdue return (including the ability to USB-import MP3’s to replace the god-awful soundtracks each year) and you have the early phases of what the PS4 can push to graphical and audio limitations.

MLB(R) The Show(TM) 16
MLB(R) The Show(TM) 16 /

That said, pushing the limits comes at a cost, and nowhere stronger is that felt than in the frame rate. MLB The Show 16 often plays at a close-to-60 FPS to the observable eye in gameplay (not replay or transitional scenes), but it is more dynamic and fluid than I’ve noticed on any PS4 version of the baseball series. As a result, players will notice a harsh stuttering when flying through gameplay presentation, or when pitching transitions to hitting.

…The broadcasting crew continues to carry the standard for poor games play-calling.

Additionally, some basic changes to standard Road to the Show gameplay push further away from the progressive nature of growing a farm hand player. Set up as the standard fielding option, fielders throwing to a bag will now enter a Matrix-like bullet time where you have to aim the reticle towards your teammate and press R1. The further this series adds analog controls for non-VR gameplay, the further it enters a wierd QTE mix that plays little like the core exprience it was built upon. It’s awkward, clumsy and makes you react like you’re in an action game. It’d be a neat feature for PlayStation VR + Move, alas, that hasn’t been made available yet.

Finally, and I hate to sound like everyone who has played any version of the series leading up to MLB The Show 16, but the Matt Vasgersian crew of broadcasting misfits needs a major overhaul. It’s harder to believe promises of thousands of re-recorded dialogue when I’m hearing voice clips present in games since the early PS3 era. Plus, especially when playing exhibition games, you hear lines about how certain pitchers are 4th or 5th starters, yet they’re projected or already announced in real life as the Opening Day starters for their clubs. Predictable, boring, overwrought; the broadcasting crew continues to carry the standard for poor games play-calling.

MLB(R) The Show(TM) 16
MLB(R) The Show(TM) 16 /

If you were looking to have an enjoyable, dynamic and robust online infrastructure, I’m not sure you’re ever going to find it consistently in MLB The Show 16, let alone any future iteration. Unless there’s a major netcode adjustment, the inherent trigger-finger reactions that come with reacting to a pitch as a batter will never feel as smooth in online gameplay as it is in offline couch co-op.

That said, the changes to Diamond Dynasty, at least, keep things interesting. In addition to fleshing out the basic experience, Battle Royale and Conquest modes have been added. Battle Royale sets up double-elimination tournaments with goals to aid your online captains, helping to flesh out your rewards and gameplay styles. Conquest is like a turn-based strategy game, but instead of fighting soldiers vs soldiers like in the board game Risk, you offset “fans” to improve the difficulty options in adjusted mini-games of baseball.

While they’re certainly not major advancements in the online infrastructure or provide substantial gameplay differences on a plain baseball level, they do contribute to strengthening the least egregious card-based sports mini-mode. Stubs to pay for cards to improve your Diamond Dynasty team are easier to earn than ever, and there are a ton of different ways to win them than ever before. It keeps things fresh and reduced the feel of the grind that non-pay-to-win players endure.

. MLB The Show 16. 7.5. Treat this review as your buying guide; do you really <em>need </em>a game like <em>MLB The Show 16</em> right now? If you like online gameplay mode variety, it may be worth your time. If you haven’t bought the series since ’14 or earlier, I would say the time is inherently right to pull the trigger due to the overall package getting a boost of updates. Caution goes to those who are on the edge of picking up the newest iteration each year, as all signs indicate a massive holding pattern.<p>Things look better overall, but underneath that glossy new coat of paint, the song remains the same.</p>. SCE San Diego Studio

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.