Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
MLB The Show 18 is a love letter to baseball fans—and those with even the slightest interest in the sport.
Call it the same sweeping appeal someone such as New York Yankees star Aaron Judge has on the sport itself. Even casual fans can find it fun when he’s so often sending rockets out of the park in a stylistic manner.
This is probably at least part of the reason he’s the cover star of MLB The Show 18:
MLB The Show @MLBTheShow
Pre-order #TheShow18 now: https://t.co/hAmH3Jqu8e https://t.co/uEEuQ8y0JI
The latest offering from developer Sony San Diego walks this accessibility-minded tightrope in every facet, from things like the soundtrack right on down to the gameplay within modes and on the field itself.
Speaking of the soundtrack, these are some of the notables from the game itself:
- Beck — “Colors”
- Chris Stapleton — “Midnight Train To Memphis”
- Earl Juke — “I Got Music”
- Greta Van Fleet — “Safari Song”
- JD McPherson — “Under the Spell of City Lights”
- NF — “Destiny”
- Nipsey Hussle — “Loaded Bases” (ft. CeeLo)
- NoMBe — “Signs”
- Queens of the Stone Age — “The Evil Has Landed”
The full list is more expansive, though players always have the option to queue up their own custom playlists via apps such as Spotify.
Like the soundtrack, MLB The Show 18 has an overall low barrier for entry. Players who want a relaxed experience can kick back in the retro mode. It’s a fun side affair where the presentation, visuals and controls (one button to pitch; one button to hit) make for an arcade-esque experience worth a player’s time.
And that retro mode is one of many available from the main menu or within franchise mode itself. There, players can choose to play a game on a calendar in a full-blown game, in retro, or have a smaller time investment outright thanks to 10-minute modes where players are locked into one athlete or only play the critical moments.
It’s a nice addition considering the various audiences who will likely want to hop in and help build a team. And the franchise process has been streamlined into phases, ensuring players see the critical points of the calendar in a given phase and that they are all accessible from the franchise home screen.
Franchise is, of course, an in-depth affair for those who want it to be. Same story for the newly revamped Road to The Show. Those who want to just hop in and play a quick line of games as a created character while trying to make the pros can.
Those who want to dive deep into the experience can keep track of their progression via on-screen feedback for each throw or hit during a game and carefully groom their stats, which have temporary ratings caps assigned based on the archetype a player initially selected in the creation process. Power hitters, for example, have a lower rating cap to earn on skills such as speed.
That creation process is as simple or deep as players want it to be as well. Breezing through it is, well, a breeze. But a new feature like the batting-stance creator is something a player could invest hours in while carving out a unique stance in the box while tweaking numerical values such as the bend of the knees.
This accessible nature extends to on the field as well, especially at the plate. Batting is responsive and rewarding, with a few basic swing options available to players. Aiming the ball is easier than ever if contact is solid, allowing for a player to get a read on the defense before attempting to send the ball through a weakness in the defense’s alignment.
But the feedback and strategy are where things at the plate take a deep dive into the advanced side of baseball. Every sort of feedback a player could want is here, from contact and exit velocity metrics to the useful plate-coverage indicator (PCI) graphic. Statistics related to an individual pitcher and batter weigh into results, as do stadium and time of day and year, thanks to the dynamic weather system.
The note about weather there says quite a bit about MLB The Show 18. The depth is there and realistic, should a player want to seize it. But Sony San Diego has covered all the bases with the retro mode, online play, player-lock games, weekly challenges, a reimagining of the game’s most popular mode and even Diamond Dynasty, the ultra-popular card game. Even universal profiles allow for player customization of nameplates and other features as seen in other games.
Sony San Diego listened to fans here, and it shows, making the Judge-covered affair something fans of the series and otherwise should watch closely. Those interested in how it all comes together can check out our official review.