Sports games are designed for sports fans first, as a rule. That can be an enormous problem if, say, you don’t care about the fiddly aspects of running a team, or if you enjoy rivalries more than strategic nuance or elegant defense. Which makes MLB The Show 17 a fascinating game because it tries, genuinely, to offer something for everyone from the nostalgic gamer to the enthusiastic kid to the hardcore sabermetrics nerd.
MLB The Show ’17 (PS4, $60)
No longer beholden to the PS3, MLB The Show 17 is free to use the PS4 to its whole potential, and it looks a lot better as a result. Animations are smoother, players look and move more naturally, and the ballparks have finer detail. It also has the usual jukebox of pop tunes and stadium chatter, which are well-executed but forgettable.
Being a yearly series, innovation is going to be in refinements, not major changes. But if you played last year’s game, you can spot where it feels a bit smoother. Don’t expect many changes, however.
It’s really the approach to execution that stands out. In our overview of the Retro Mode that’s this year’s big innovation, we noted it was a simple, fun, pick-up-and-play experience that was accessible to pretty much everyone. Interestingly, though, that mindset extends to the rest of the game.
Any sports game is going to be full of fiddly bits, because fans want to tweak to their hearts’ content. Interestingly, in the opening screens, you can configure the game to be as simple, or as complex, as you’d like. It offers several different control schemes for batting and pitching you can try out, to see what feels natural, and which are geared towards rookies, casual fans, and hardcore sim types in different ways. You can even more or less set the game to play itself, if you want, or once the game installs, you can just go straight to Retro Mode and spend all your time there.
This gives the game a welcome accessibility sports games as a genre need. You can hand any baseball fan, whether it’s your grandpa or a little kid, the controller and with a little tweaking, they can try and head for the World Series themselves. Or, you know, you can try and save your team from their garbage season. Either way, it’s easy to see this disc getting a lot of time in a PS4 from any baseball fan, even if they never go further than Retro Mode.