Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed)

Last year’s MLB The Show 16 served as a definite high mark for the PlayStation-exclusive baseball series, making noticeable improvements to both the game’s career and Diamond Dynasty modes which improved on the series’ already stellar presentation. Because of this, fans were naturally worried that this year’s MLB The Show 17 had nowhere to go but down, that developer San Diego Studios couldn’t possibly make the experience any better. Fortunately, this is one case where I’m sure the fans were glad to be proven wrong.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

One of the first elements of MLB The Show 17 that is sure to impress both returning fans and newcomers alike is how crisp and clean everything looks. The game’s menus are vibrant and easy to navigate, and once you get into an actual game, you’re treated to high-quality recreations of players and fields that come to life in immaculate detail thanks to the power of the PlayStation 4 and an increased focus on using lighting and shaders to good effect.

High-quality graphics aren’t the only improvements MLB The Show 17 offers either, since the game also comes packed with a variety of both returning and new modes. The vastly improved “Road to the Show” career mode lets players take their own baseball champion from the rookie leagues into the hall of legends and its new RPG-esque mechanics offer a surprisingly deep narrative experience that meshes rather well with the sports-based gameplay. Considering how in-depth Road to the Show is, it’s hard to believe that the story experience is just the start of what MLB The Show 17 offers.

If you’d rather just get in and start scoring home runs, the game’s revamped Diamond Dynasty mode offers a number of different sub-modes and scenarios such as Battle Royale where you can participate in elimination-style tournaments for exclusive rewards, or Conquest which plays out like a faux-strategy game experience and tasks you with going up against the best MLB teams in existence. Of course, for those who really want to venture out into the weeds, MLB The Show 17’s Franchise mode lets players control virtually every aspect of the game, and the mode’s new Critical Situations help to add yet another layer of control by automatically pausing and letting the player take the reins whenever a big play is about to happen.

Foul Ball

There’s very little about MLB The Show 17 that I didn’t like, but of course no game is ever perfect. The new Retro mode which aims to replicate the old-school 16-bit baseball games of yore is a fun little gimmick the first time you play it, but overall it just feels kind of off being put alongside so many other high-fidelity modes and you probably won’t want to revisit it more than a handful of times (if that).

My only other criticism is that the dialogue spoken by announcers isn’t very varied and can actually get quite repetitive if you play multiple games in a row. I understand that San Diego Studios wanted to retain a degree of accuracy and realism with the announcer commentary, but overall the implementation of said commentary felt half-assed and a tad sloppy. Still, if the worst element of a baseball game is slightly repetitive commentary, that just goes to show how good the overall game really is.

Swinging for the Fences

As a complete package, MLB The Show 17 manages to make one of the best video game baseball experiences even better and it certainly shouldn’t be missed by any baseball fan who happens to own a PlayStation 4. Whether you want to be immersed in the in the game’s thrilling story mode or you just want to get out there and hit some virtual balls in the game’s various other modes, MLB The Show 17 will scratch your digital baseball itch in more ways than one.