MLB 13: The Show UK Review: Virtual Rounders Finally Comes Home

MLB 13: The Show (PS3 / PS Vita) is a slick, entertaining and hugely polished sports sim which also manages to break down an impenetrable game for new players. Even ones who don't like rounders.

Unlike NFL American football, NBA basketball or even Major League Soccer, Major League Baseball hasn't ever managed to click with us Brits.

Why hasn't it crossed over? Well, maybe it's just lingering resentment that America turned away from its cricketing roots. Perhaps we just can't accept that our US cousins went from hosting the first international cricket match to instead stealing, then taking on as a national pastime, a game that, for all its regalia and substance abuse, is basically rounders with caps?

Or maybe it's that baseball is, at its core, just a difficult game to love, outside of its nostalgic and narrative appeal. For one thing, without any time constraint, baseball games are potentially endless, though usually they just feel that way.

Whatever the reason, unlike American football with its Wembley-filling International Series and spectacular showpiece half-time shows, baseball in both real and video game forms is essentially dead in the UK.

Except for me.

As a dedicated fan of the (completely appalling) New York Mets baseball team, as well as a former recreational softballer and a man with a working knowledge of the designated hitter rule, I might be one of the only people in the UK to care that MLB 13: The Show has been given a full European release on PS3 and PS Vita in time for the new season.

MLB: The Show is basically FIFA with bats, and in similar fashion to EA's incremental soccer masterpiece is a completely polished, complex, evolutionary and at occasionally baffling experience.

The new title is filled to the incomprehensible brim with stats, figures, genuinely lifelike player models and stadiums. The presentation is immaculate and blends well the need for a broadcast-quality feel with helpful camera angles and on-screen prompts. The game modes are also really solid, including - unlike Madden 13 - a simple tournament mode.

MLB 13: The Show also comes with some neat new features. Save games are compatible between Vita and PS3, meaning you can pick up a game you played on the Tube on the home console version. The Vita title doesn't dull down the graphics too much, and the core game is totally intact save for some new ball physics and finer details of the expert modes.

What's especially pleasing about the new game, however, is that if you are a complete baseball beginner - or haven't played a baseball game since the NES - playing MLB 13: The Show is really easy. With its new 'Beginner Mode', the game knows that some players just want to play a simple game of timed swings and single-press pitches - exactly like the NES game, in fact - and lets them do so if they want.

Above: Nintendo's 'Baseball' - MLB 13: The Show isn't as far off as you'd think

Of course it's possible to amp up the difficulty to an almost ridiculous degree too. Precision swings, complex pitching tactics and full control of fielding, defensive manouevers and management quickly enter the game, if you want them to, and make things more challenging.

But for both non-experts and non-fans, the new game is also able to offer a simple, entertaining, slick and polished game of pitch-and-toss in which it is genuinely possible to lead the Mets to a World Series title, a feat that will not be accomplished outside the virtual realm.

No, it's not going to sell a million copies in the UK. And no, at its core it's not as kinetic or thrilling a game as FIFA or Speedball, which we presume is America's other favourite sport. But if you care at all about baseball in the UK, you finally have a baseball game worth buying.

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