A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that MLB The Show 18 is a baseball simulation that's the latest installment in the popular sports franchise. Players will have options for multiple control settings, as well as options to tweak player settings to fit personal game preferences. Even with this, higher difficulty levels will still give challenges against other players or the computer. There's no objectionable content, although there's heavy product promotion throughout. Stadium billboards frequently promote Topps, Bowman, PlayStation, and other products. Unlike in previous years, players can't upgrade created player stats directly by paying for enhancements. Instead, baseball packs purchased with tokens earned in game or with real money frequently include new baseball players and stadium cards, and will occasionally include player stat boost items. Players can also be exposed to inappropriate content in online games, because these matches are unmoderated.
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What's it about?
MLB THE SHOW 18 is the newest edition of Sony's long-running acclaimed baseball franchise, and it's been revamped from the ground up to completely refresh the game. While the Road to the Show mode keeps the "fake documentary" narration for your created character's progress through the minors and hopefully to the major league, there are a few twists this year. Your players aren't stars or high draft picks; they're guys following the dream and proving that they've got what it takes to be a star. Additionally, this year, players have archetypes that they have to fit into based on their playing style and position, like being a speedy base runner that doesn't have a lot of power, or a pitcher that's hard to hit, but isn't tossing with a lot of speed. Franchise has been tightened up with more checkpoints, so player GMs are more aware of milestones to pay attention to, like Draft Day, trade deadlines, and significant game moments that you can choose to participate in. Diamond Dynasty's programs from last year have been further expanded as well, with the option to eventually unlock legends like Frank Thomas, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, and more, all of whom have stats that dwarf their modern counterparts' to indicate their Hall of Fame status. Rounding out some of the enhancements are new batting, fielding, and baserunning animations, new audio commentary, improved visuals and even weather effects, like rain delays that can completely change the fortunes of a game. Are you ready to step up to the plate and take your place in The Show?
Is it any good?
While this franchise is still the reigning champion of baseball games, some of Road to the Show's changes need some more time in the minor leagues. While MLB The Show 18 could've rested on its laurels with its presentation, it instead revamped virtually everything from the batting stances for your players to almost 900 new throwing, catching, and tagging animations to make the game look more realistic. Not only does this provide additional realism to the game, but it gives you a bigger rush when you pull off a clutch double play or knock one over the fence to win the game. Another notable addition, specifically to the Diamond Dynasty mode, are the addition of stat-shattering legends that you have to work to unlock, like Babe Ruth or Nolan Ryan. It's really impressive to put in the time, and be rewarded by seeing outfielders move toward the back wall when they see a slugger like Frank Thomas walk into the batter's box. In fact, much of the game, particularly the in-game currency and the game packs, feel like its shifted its focus toward unlocking Diamond Dynasty and elements for franchise.
The downside once again feels attached to Road to the Show, which shows glimpses of excellence but feels stuck in its own concept of greatness. For example, this year, the newly created characters are forced into a game archetype to reflect the kind of athletic role they might perform on a squad, with caps for stats based on that position. As a result, speedy base runners aren't going to be power hitters. While this was meant to provide progress through your career based on your in-game performance or off-field training regiment, this system is flawed. First, progress seems arbitrary, and doesn't always seem to reflect how you play. How does the game accurately gauge how much to deduct in your stats if you miss two fastballs before knocking a triple into the gap in left field? There's no way to tell. Secondly, the training boosts in the off-field activities are pre-selected, so you don't always have a choice about what you can or can't enhance. It's a bit annoying to find that some of the training regiment options aren't really usable because the stat for that exercise is already maxed out. Finally, this year's version rarely provides stat boosting items in baseball packs, and barely gives a lot of in-game currency during play. As a result, you feel like both you and your created character are grinding away in obscurity, hoping (like many minor league players) that you're eventually recognized for your work. But if you can look past some of these rough edges, MLB The Show 18 shines as a fun, engrossing, and visually amazing take on our national pastime.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about consumerism. Do you feel pressured to spend your money on in-game packs in MLB The Show 18 to give your created baseball teams an advantage, or would you rather earn new players by playing multiple baseball games?
Talk about playing a virtual sports game on a television versus playing the real game on a baseball diamond. Is MLB The Show 18 a substitute or merely an entertaining addendum for when you can't play outside? How can you best bridge the gap between real and simulated play?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.