Major League Baseball just wrapped up its opening weekend for the 2019 season, and that means that America’s pastime is back. It also means that Sony’s San Diego Studio is back with arguably the best sports game on the market: MLB The Show 19. This year’s game brings with it a handful of new modes and features that finally breathe new life into the iconic PlayStation-exclusive series. In addition to the new modes, which we’ll get to shortly, MLB The Show 19 has also included a large number of legendary players, many of whom are new to the series, and instead of locking them behind hard-to-acquire player cards, players will get to step into their hallowed cleats from day one, for some spectacular gameplay scenarios that any baseball fan will love.
MLB The Show 19 brings back the solid gameplay that the series is known for, and this year, it includes over 1,300 new animations. The change is noticeable from the first game, as players react to balls more fluidly, and on defense, more emphasis is put on an athlete’s real-life capabilities, which can lead to errors if you are used to the previous years’ player skill sets. I say this with experience, as I’ve had some issues getting the new throw mechanics down. Of course, I can always go back to more classic mechanics — like tapping a button to throw to a corresponding base — but the new throw meter is a solid addition, even if it takes some getting used to. MLB The Show 19 gives us the option to go back, but the new mechanic is here for a reason, and it deserves to be tried out.
Hitting has also been tweaked, giving players more control in how they swing, connect, and even place the ball on the field. Yes, you can actually use your skill to try and hit a gap in the outfield, putting less emphasis on just connecting in a particular zone and hoping for the best. Already, I’ve noticed my Road to the Show player pulling off heroic hits, based purely on my skill and where I need — as the batter — to put the ball. It creates a feeling of being a true professional baseball player, putting the power in my hands to do what I need to to help my team win games. I didn’t think it possible, but San Diego Studio really pulled it off. And seeing it in action, I can see where further tweaks can take the series as a whole going forward, and that excites me.
Online play has some issues still — there’s a smidge of lag in the pitcher/batter interface, but in a game where timing is essential, it can get annoying. I have a solid internet connection, and when I play with someone with an equally good connection, the game runs smoothly. The flip side of that (playing against someone with unstable internet service) is a rage-inducing experience, which could explain why, once again, online franchise play has been omitted from MLB The Show 19.
That being said, the standard franchise mode does return, and you can choose from three different levels of team interface. You can opt to just play the games for a season, play and manage the team, or go full tilt and deal with contracts, sponsorships, scouting, trading, and just about everything else a GM needs to do to run a successful franchise.
The real meat and potatoes of MLB The Show 19 are in the new game modes, including Moments and March To October. Moments is, by far, the best addition to the series in years; certain historical moments are pulled from the annals of baseball lore, and players are tasked with either playing the scenario or changing history.
Tom Seaver famously lost a perfect game in the ninth inning to the Cubs in July of 1969. Moments allows you to play as Seaver and get those last two outs to preserve the perfecto, and this is only one example. Successfully completing a scenario rewards you with XP and Stubs and more. Better yet, Moments will be updated throughout the year and will include scenarios and full games where you get to replay history as legends, and as previously mentioned, you don’t need the player’s card to do it.
You get to play as Babe Ruth — not in your often tacky player-created Diamond Dynasty uniform, but in his classic Yankee pinstripes. The Griffeys, father and son, have a back-to-back home run moment. Ken Griffey, Sr. and Jr. are wearing the 1990 Mariners unis, and it makes it look and feel as big as the moment was almost 30 years ago. Simply put, Moments is a must-play for baseball aficionados, and different skill levels offer bigger rewards for completing the scenarios.
The other new mode in MLB The Show 19 is March To October. Players choose a team, which has been grouped into four different pools, based on preseason projections, and then go through a full season, playing only the key games, innings, at-bats, or moments that can dictate where your favorite ends up in the standings as the season progresses. Winning the first game builds momentum that will carry the team through the first week, and coming from behind in the bottom of the ninth will ignite another win streak, adding more fire to a hot team at the right time. An entire season can be played in a few sessions as you try to take your team to the World Series.
My team, the Mariners, are in a grouping called “Underdogs,” and the rewards I get as I turn this rag-tag team of no-names (seriously, look at our real-life off-season) into contenders are huge since we aren’t expected to do anything in 2019. I love this mode, as the slog of a full 162-game season is no longer a hindrance, allowing me to play a dream season based on my skills to achieve the dream of every team and every player: to win a world championship. To make things even more interesting, you can choose your own difficulty and earn bigger rewards for winning. There’s plenty of replay value and customization here, offering plenty of incentive to come back for a new run.
Older modes have been tweaked in MLB The Show 19, including a major revamp of the Conquest mode — a Risk-like battle to take over every team’s fanbase and rule the U.S. as the most beloved team. New maps, challenges, and programs have been introduced to create faster conquest experiences, pairing up with the already-shortened three-inning games to create a nice alternative to the bigger, more intense game modes. It’s also easier to earn rewards and parlay that into bigger and better teams, making your conquests easier.
Diamond Dynasty is tied into rewards, and playing any game mode in DD pays off with XP, stubs, and more. It’s all tied to you as a player, and also to the programs available. Team affinity is huge, as you can unlock team-specific rewards by playing DD games with your favorite franchise’s players. A solid, well-rounded DD team can unlock plenty of rewards, driving you to keep playing to unlock more and more. Sony’s San Diego Studio knows how to play its fans like a fiddle, and I know that I’m a sucker for unlocking stuff. Needless to say, they got me. They got me good.
The last big mode is Road To The Show, which has some of the most tweaks of any existing mode in the franchise’s history. MLB The Show 19 builds on the additions from previous games, adding better narrative options and even new branching conversations, with perks and consequences to your player’s career story. At creation, you can select from different archetypes for your created player, including Pure Power for offensive hitters, Flamethrower for ace pitchers, and more. This puts your player on a set path, building them up into the legend you want them to be.
In addition, as your career takes off, you can select what kind of clubhouse presence you will have. If you are a clubhouse leader, choose Captain. If you’re the guy who motivates everyone else, you are the Heart And Soul. If you prefer to be the quiet loner who gets the job done, pick Maverick, and if you are an exciting “force of nature player,” choose Lightning Rod. Each path comes with its own skill tree that unlocks perks that not only help you, but the team as well. There are opportunities to build up relationships with teammates via off-day conversations and workouts, and even stoke the fires with a rival, all to earn huge bonuses to your player.
But the biggest change in Road To The Show comes with the newly-added challenges. Players are given in-game challenges — like “get an extra base hit,” or “drive in the runner from second” — and the reward for completing them are huge amounts of skill points to quickly build your created player’s stats. Some challenges come with off-day mini-games. You can opt to skip the mini-games and take the base level bonuses, but the games are a fun distraction that offers big leaps in both points and caps.
Road To The Show has taken a huge leap in MLB The Show 19, yet there is still room to improve. The narrative could be more cinematic, like what EA has done with the Longshot mode in the Madden series. But aside from that, RTTS has never been this interactive and rewarding, as you take your created player through their (hopefully long and successful) career.
MLB The Show 19 continues to reinvent the game of baseball without actually tampering with the game itself. The new modes and the tweaks to the existing modes make for a solid in the storied franchise, one that shouldn’t be missed by fans new or old. There’s a reason why The Show is one of the best video game sports franchises year in and year out, and MLB The Show 19 is the perfect example of why this game is beloved by gamers worldwide. With so many entertaining baseball-related distractions, as well as a near-perfect representation of the game of baseball itself, MLB The Show 19 is a must have for all fans.
This review is based off time spent playing on a PlayStation 4 Pro. A copy was provided to us by Sony Interactive Entertainment.
MLB The Show 19 continues to reinvent the game of baseball. A handful of additions, along with tweaks to existing modes, make for an excellent entry in this long-running franchise, one that shouldn't be missed by newcomers and long-time fans alike.