MLB The Show 19 is the perfect game for baseball video game fans without a lot of time on their hands, or for those just not crazy enough to play through 162+ games at 9+ innings a whack. This year’s edition of Sony PlayStation’s officially-licensed national pastime has a whole surplus of modes that will keep players happily jumping in and out of the starting rotation.
Seeing how last year’s edition was this longtime Xbox-only player’s first ever Show, I played nothing else but a full-on Franchise with my hometown squad. MLB The Show 18 was all about experiencing next-gen baseball for me. Thankfully now, I can run back another season with the Sawx and have an entirely new experience. March to October is a fractured season mode that selects particular games and game-specific moments that can alter your team’s momentum throughout.
An impressive early-season bit threw me into the 7th inning with Dave Price on the mound in the midst of a no-hitter; players receive bonus XP and team momentum for completing goals such as this, while other moments may toss your most clutch batter into the bottom of the ninth with a pair in scoring position for the W. While I failed at no-hitting the A’s with Price, I still received a reward for having a complete game and keeping the lid on Oakland, while J.D. Martinez absolutely crushed a dead center shot over the ‘Backs to score some major love in my other quest. M2O allows hardcore sim junkies to enjoy the “situational baseball” experience of a full season while handing us the opportunity to hop onto other game modes we simply wouldn’t have time for before.
But the meat and potatoes of MLB The Show 19 is the Road to the Show. Much like NBA 2K19‘s MyCareer and FIFA 19‘s The Journey, RTTS is essentially The Show‘s RPG story mode; players can create their own potential slugger or mound magician, fit them into a legendary class mash-up– whether you want to dig around the bases as an also golden glover or eventually wind up a 5-tool rarity that can hit for percentage as well power. You’ll also choose a personality for your player, be it the “me first” billionaire baseballer that can break up team chemistry or the all-around Captain America Cal Ripken guy who’ll always say and do the right things. Your choice.
In addition to conversating and making road-buddies or locker room rivals in RTTS, much like the Gatorade weightrooms in 2K hoops, players also have the option of hopping into an array of mini-training sessions to enhance their diamond stud. Of course, as you move your way from Double A to the majors and beyond, you’ll be presented with various in-game challenges: get additional XP for reaching extra bases in a key moment, or lose on those defensive skill points every time you botch a routine grounder or drop a pop-up. These dynamic challenges — each with three levels of risk — will frequently pop up throughout games and the weeks to come, including hit streaks, consecutive games without giving up a run and so forth.
Another mode I’m happily diving into home with this year is Diamond Dynasty, despite never getting very far in other sports title’s card collector modes (although, NBA 2K19 does do a fine job with MyTeam mode, keeping things fun and fresh with sustained updates). The noticeable difference between The Show‘s DD from other card-collectors is the number of options. While I’m not an online player, there is still plenty for me to do in Diamond Dynasty: conquest maps, offline challenges, drafts, and even couch co-op.
Creating a team with your own or server-found logos is a blast, too; but nothing beats Moments — a number of historical challenges that throw the player right onto some of the best times ever seen at the ballpark. While I’ve yet to take a gander at lengthier moments featuring Babe Ruth and Willie Mays, I did get to knock 3 basehits to hit a whopping .400 BA with Tony Gwynn, flip the bat with Jose Bautista during the 2016 ALDS, hit 20 K’s with Kerry Wood in the 9th inning, among other scintillating challenges. Much like March to October, Moments is perfect for those who just want to pick up and play the video game of baseball for 20-30 and get the same feels you would spending an hour or more getting to a 1-1 game in the 8th.
As far as what’s new on the field, it’s the defense. Using leather in The Show is no longer trash. Improvements include gold icons for.. ahem.. gold glovers or gold glove contenders, fly-ball and lined-shot travel aids for proficient outfielders, and signature defense; primetime players will now snag, control, and rocket the ball in the same specific motions they would in real life, while reacting more purposefully to plays in the outfield than lower cohorts. Hell, some third basemen can recover a hard-hit bouncer they botched and still gun out the man at first, while not every SS will handle DP’s the way the Indians’ Lindor can, either.
For over 25-years we’ve witnessed signature swings in baseball video games; but can you ever recall signature defense, at least to this level? Bravo, Show, for making the dusty leather game of baseball a thing of visual beauty. And thank you, Show, for going round-the-horn with several tasty modes we can enjoy without having to go into extra innings. 4.25/5 Hard Leather Bibles.