Review: MLB Manager 201803 Aug 2018 5
Review: MLB Manager 2018
Released 28 Mar 2018
If you know anything about Baseball, you’re in luck. MLB Manager 18 has no tips, no tutorials, no hints at the rules of the sport or the nuances within the stats. Whereas so many management sims allow a little wiggle room for new players who may only take a partial interest in the sport, this game effectively shutters itself off from any kind of enquiry. In fact, even those who have an extensive knowledge of the American pastime might find themselves completely lost among a hundred menus which offer no solace or guiding nudges about what specific command does what action. It’s a mess.
MLB18 opens with the usual fare of naming your coach, selecting the team you’d like to head up from the American or National leagues. Before even seeing a playing field or batting cage, the game prompts ask whether to simulate the real world of Baseball. Maybe you’d like to tick boxes which really mean very little until the game gets into the flow of things? MLB18 has you covered by asking about pitchers and batters with no shade of why they’re asking.
Once these frustrating opening screens have passed by, we’re met with the most uninspiring handful of menus. Still, there’s no sign of any tutorial so absently tapping at certain boxes in the hope of either starting a season or changing the line-up of the team relies solely on either luck or parsing the information until you stumble into the correct menu option and there’s a list of names that mean very little. Do we tap and hold? Do we tap? Can we rename anybody to make the game more personal? Mess around and find out, because the developer clearly doesn’t want to tell us.
I chose to use the Philadelphia Phillies, for myriad reasons and wanted to dive straight into a game, hoping to have some sway on how my team performs. I entered a game, forgiving the lack of direction thus far and tapped ‘Swing’. My hopes of any kind of interesting interaction were thwarted as I watched a wall of text fall down the screen in a pseudo commentary voice. The pitch of the ball was described as arcing through the air, my batter did his thing and we made it to first base. The static Baseball diamond on my screen changed the colours of a few names to state that the Phillies had grabbed the first base and the game prompted me, asking if I wanted to steal second base.
Why not? Maybe there’s a mini game hidden away that allows me to test the infield players as I heroically dash from first base to second as the pitcher unleashes his ball. Nope. More text, we didn’t steal the base and my batter struck out. Before I even considered trying to swap out players, I decided to simulate a couple of innings, in the hope that maybe the game would show some form of animation of players movements, balls flying out to home runs or sliding into home. Sadly, a few names blinked red rather than black and the menu appeared from before, only now I was 0-3.
Of course, most management games are brimming with menus and stats. That’s mostly why we flock to them, because it’s in the minutiae where we find joy. It seems no matter where I turned, every menu is bland, leading into another soulless list where drop down menus languish, unexplained or even brushed over by the game itself. I know a decent amount about Baseball, I like to watch a bit of Spring training, I catch games where I can, and I stumbled around lists that made no sense to me. Despite knowledge, a game needs some form of guidance. Building a routine of which option furthers play or the calendar, maybe highlights a few of the star players to add into the starting line-up. If I wanted to roam endless boxes of information I don’t really understand, I’d open Microsoft Excel.
I can’t imagine that even the most expert Baseball fan will find much joy here. There’s no option to swing a bat, or throw a pitch, which could have easily been implemented. MLB18 takes everything that makes Baseball an interesting sport and removes it. There’s no passion for the game, or even any hint that there’s a genuinely fun sport within the simulator.
After a time I started changing the strategy of my team – increasing their aggression on running bases, telling my pitcher how to hold base runners, I asked my players to steal bases wherever they could. I found a screen that told me that my personality was “charitable” and that I was “delighted” with the performance of the team. I started rotating players around, choosing different starting pitchers. Not one thing made any noticeable difference. I might as well have just simulated every game using the default settings, because nothing I changed really mattered. The game rolled some imaginary dice or randomly generated a few numbers, translated that into ‘boy howdy’ Baseball commentary and declared my batter swung and missed. STRIKE!
I’d like to say that MLB Manager 18 has a redeeming feature, but it doesn’t. It’s the most lifeless, boring game I’ve played in a long time. Maybe someone who reads every little detail about the sport will find something to love. You have to be an absolute die-hard fan of Baseball and have the patience of a saint to really get anything from MLB18. As someone who supports a team, watches games, plays other Baseball games on mobile and console I wanted to still be guided around and told about the intricacies of this management sim. Instead, I felt like I was scooped up from Little League practice and told to bat in the World Series.