Spring is in the air, and that means that San Diego Studios and SCEA’s annual love letter to baseball, MLB 13 The Show, is on deck and is ready to swing for the fences. The Show once again highlights everything that a sports game should be, whether on the PS3 or the PS Vita, as this year the two titles are closer than ever in presentation and gameplay.
Whereas last year’s edition of The Show for PS Vita amazed in the way it leapt away from the stagnated PSP version from the previous year, both in graphics and presentation, this year’s game had no lesser powerful system to easily outshine. So even compared to last year’s game, The Show 13 is still an amazing triumph on handheld gaming.
New seems to be the theme this year, as The Show 13 makes one of the biggest jumps in the year-to-year in terms of graphics and features and modes. With new graphics and animations for the PS Vita’s powerful 5″ OLED screen to show off, and a ton of new features, the 2013 game has really outdone itself. Push and pull trajectories have been added to batters in-game DNA giving that much more oomph to an already great game. If the player is a known pull hitter, expect him to pull pitches in The Show 13. If a real life player tends to get under pitches, he’ll do the same in The Show 13. It really is a marvel how close to real baseball San Diego Studios has come.
New modes include a Post Season option that takes players right to October with a ten team tournament that culminates with the World Series. The player can pick the ten teams and choose to control one or all teams and battle it out in all modes of play, including single players, head-to-head, and co-op.
If jumping to the end isn’t your thing, The Show 13 also includes a new “Beginner Mode,” which is designed to make the game more accessible to new fans. The game AI is adaptive to the player’s abilities and will amp up the skill level alongside the natural progression of the human player. And it’s a welcome feature as The Show has never been a “pick up and play-type” of sports game in the past. Sure, every facet can be tweaked with sliders, but the game is brutal in its learning curve and that is one of the reasons it is so beloved by fans of not only baseball, but of sports games as well.
Also new this year is The Show Live, an exhibition-based mode that uses real-time schedules from MLB.com, including real life pitcher matchups and lineups, giving one of the most realistic sports game a whole new level of realism. Fan favorite modes, such as Franchise, Season and Road to the Show have all been upgraded with new features such as greater emphasis on player development and budgeting. In fact, team budgets are now set by a reward/penalty system based solely on how a team performs. In last year’s game, I made the playoffs one year only to see my budget cut the following season, which prohibited me from reaching the post season again. That has been corrected in The Show 13, which is a very welcome addition.
In terms of gameplay, an accuracy meter has been included to all fielding positions, which gives the human player better control of the position player based on the situation. Double plays are no longer “gimmes,” and even throwing out a steal attempt from behind home plate takes on a whole new face. It does take a few games to get used to the new feature, and you quickly learn to start the meter going to hit the green sweet spot before the ball even gets there for a cleaner transaction.
Pulse Pitching returns, though much like last year, it is a broken feature on the PS Vita, as the touch screen is late in picking up the screen press and pitches miss more often than not. Luckily, this feature can be turned off for the much better meter pitching. As with last year, I feel like I have more control of the location of the pitch (especially in the timing of the release) when using the color-coded meter as opposed to a ridiculous mini-game of a timed screen press. It should also be said that all new features in The Show 13 can be turned off or reverted back to previous versions, which speaks to the level of user interface customization.
In terms of cross-play features with the PS3, The Show 13 for PS Vita has access to the cross-platform online Home Run Derby, where players can compete head-to-head no matter what system they are playing on. Cross-play Home Run Derby is even compatible with the Move on the PS3. Unfortunately, the PS Vita’s internal six-axis gyroscopic controls are not used for motion swings, but given time, I’m sure the good folks at San Diego Studios will figure that out.
Also, The Show 13 has Universal Profiles, so games played on either system will be recorded on the Player’s virtual trading card. Games played, and played well, will earn the player XP to level up the user’s profile and the very popular cloud transfer returns, where games, players and seasons/franchises can be saved to the cloud and played between the two systems with little difference in presentation and zero difference in game features.
As for the graphics, the player models are nearly the same as last year, but the lighting/shading effects seem to represent better, and the inclusion of seven new minor league stadiums as well as the unique features of the big league parks are commendable. I have noticed pop outs of teams in the dugouts and stutters and frame rate issues in cut scenes and in animations. But then again, this is the PS Vita and not the PS3. The graphics are still leaps and bounds better than, say, the PSP and PS2 versions of The Show from year’s past.
Steve Lyons, long-time Fox Sports broadcaster, joins The Show 13’s broadcast crew, and the results are mixed. It’s hard to differentiate between he and Eric Karros, and neither has the style that Dave Campbell had. Matt Vasgersian remains stellar, even when repeating the same lines over and over.
New for The Show 13 for PS Vita is a faster, streamlined presentation, which moves full-length games along at a much quicker pace. The only down side is that ALL animations are lost, even if you happen to throw a no-hitter (or in my case, have one thrown against me…*sigh*)
The LiveArea screen contains the usual user’s manual, and links to The Show’s Facebook page and a link to the ShowNation website.
MLB 13: The Show for PS Vita is still the best handheld sports game around. It only slightly fails to compare to the more powerful PS3 version, and the amount of real, honest-to-god baseball that can easily be taken on the go makes The Show 13 a must own game for sports fans everywhere. With much appreciated tweaks to long time fan favorites, franchise and season modes, and new evolutions to The Road to the Show mode, San Diego Studios has created another diamond level masterpiece.
Shop for MLB 13 The Show for PS3 or PS Vita at Amazon.com (March 5, 2013 release date).