Hitting a baseball might be the hardest thing to do in professional sports. It’s a feat not just reliant on athletic ability, but on skill, patience, and finely tuned mechanics. MLB The Show 17 revels in this fact, making each line drive and moonshot feel immanently special. From the emphatic crack of the bat as the ball is sent careening through the air, to the way the crowd rises to their feet with oohs and aahs in equal parts awe and rabid excitement.
Batting in Sony’s long-running series has never been better. Previously, the series’ ball physics were modelled on a baseball hitting a flat surface, which resulted in the ball taking relatively straight flight paths with minimal spin. I never considered this to be a facet of the game in urgent need of improvement, but now that the physics are based on the trajectory of a ball colliding off of a round bat, the leap in quality is unmistakable. Not only does this enhancement inject a dose of added realism, but it also increases the variety of dynamic hits you’re likely to see. You’ll witness balls sliced down the third base line that spin just enough to stay fair, bloops that fall between the second basemen and right fielder, and topspin line drives that soar over the center fielder’s head before crashing into an outfield wall. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve paused the game after a scorching double, just to hop into a replay and savour the ball’s flight path. The physics are really that good.
This isn’t to suggest fielders are outmatched, however–far from it. Those patrolling the diamond are more intelligent than ever thanks to The Show 17’s Humanity AI. You’ll never have to worry about a runner being called safe because your shortstop took his sweet time throwing to first base. Now the AI is smart enough to discern between a speed merchant like Billy Hamilton bursting down the line and the lumbering stride of someone like Miguel Cabrera, and can adapt their level of urgency appropriately. They’re going to rush throws for those bang-bang plays at first,