Plugged In

Review: ‘MLB The Show 18’

Major League Baseball is seemingly at a crossroads. In an effort to appeal to a younger audience and grow the sport, fundamental changes — things like pitch clocks, limiting mound visits and starting extra innings with a runner in scoring position (a change making its debut in the minor leagues this season) — are being made to a game that has largely evolved a glacial pace.

Any change made to a game as steeped in tradition as baseball is sure to ruffle the feathers of some longtime fans and that is exactly what happened. Critics were especially vocal in voicing their displeasure at the extra-inning rule change that could one day make its way to the major leagues.

Sony’s Major League Baseball franchise, “MLB The Show 18,” finds itself at a similar crossroads.

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Spring has arrived, and with it comes the year’s first wave of blockbuster video game releases. Over the next few weeks we’ll see the latest installment of Ubisoft’s “Far Cry” franchise, a fresh take on Sony’s “God of War” and, of course, the definitive sign that spring has truly sprung — “MLB The Show 18.”

But before turning my focus toward the games of the not-so-distant future, let’s pause and take a moment to look back at some of the games I’ve been enjoying so far in 2018:

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Review: ‘The Evil Within 2’

Way back in 2014, “Resident Evil” director Shinji Mikami and his Tango Gameworks studio set the bar for modern survival-horror games with “The Evil Within.” Now three years later, Tango has delivered a sequel that maintains the creepy vibe of Mikami’s vision while offering more of what made the original game such an unforgettable experience.

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Review: ‘Batman: The Enemy Within’ Episode 2

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(Editor’s note: This review contains spoilers for “Batman: The Enemy Within.”)

Much of the momentum that “Batman: The Enemy Within” built with the cliffhanger conclusion to its premiere episode was surprisingly squandered in Episode 2, “The Pact.”

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Review: ‘NBA 2K18’

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As the start of the 2017-18 NBA season approaches, there are plenty of question marks around the league.

How will Kyrie Irving fare in Boston?

Can the Cavaliers remain dominant in the Eastern Conference without Irving?

Will the Big 3 of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony be enough to lift Oklahoma City into contention in the Western Conference?

Is this the year New Orleans or Minnesota take the next step and challenge for playoff berths?

Despite the unknowns, there are a couple of sure things this season — LeBron James is the best player in the league, the road to the NBA championship goes through Golden State and “NBA 2K18” is the best basketball sim on the market.

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Review: ‘Destiny 2’

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As a solo player in a multiplayer world, it can often be difficult to find enjoyment in games that, frankly, weren’t created with me in mind.

The original “Destiny” is one such example of this, an online shared-world shooter that served up its best content to players who teamed together while offering only an uninteresting and brief campaign to those seeking a more solitary experience.

The fact that the game was developed by Bungie — a studio which made its name by creating a shooter franchise, “Halo,” that successfully appealed to both solo players and multiplayer fans, alike — made the shortcomings of “Destiny” all the more glaring. I wasn’t looking for a “Halo” clone, but I was hoping for a game I could enjoy without the need to team up with a bunch of random players.

And that’s exactly what Bungie delivered this time around with “Destiny 2.”

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Review: ‘NASCAR Heat 2’

nascarheat2There was a series of events during the running of the Daytona 500 in my “NASCAR Heat 2” season mode that pretty much boils down my experiences with the game in a nutshell.

As the laps ticked down in the final stage, I had methodically worked my way up through the field when practically every AI-controlled car decided to come to pit road under green at the same time — something that never, ever happens in an actual NASCAR race.

As one could imagine, this caused a massive pile-up. As I veered off the track and onto the infield grass in hopes of avoiding the carnage, my eyes were drawn to a car flipping over and over and over again down the track. It was the No. 33 of Jeffrey Earnhardt, and it was the kind of crash that any driver would simply be happy to walk away from in one piece.

Yet Earnhardt didn’t walk away. Or even get out of his car. Nope, he stayed strapped into his ride and went on to race the final 15 laps, finishing on the lead lap, just outside the top 10.

All I could do was put down my controller and shake my head.

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Review: ‘Madden NFL 18’

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Unlike most years, I opted not to board the “Madden NFL” hype train leading up to launch this time around.

Don’t get me wrong, I always look forward to each new edition of EA Sports’ annual football sim. But for “Madden 18,” I wanted to approach the game with a clean slate. So I tuned out as much pre-launch noise as possible and actively avoided reading others’ thoughts on the game.

“Madden” is one of the most subjective franchises around — some people love it with blind devotion while others refuse to play a single snap if the secondary color on their favorite team’s alternate jersey is the slightest shade too dark — and I’ve found it’s easy to be influenced by those who aren’t looking to get the same experience from the game that I am.

So when I fired up my review copy for the first time late last week, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew the series was moving to the Frostbite engine, so I figured it would be really, really pretty, but beyond that I was Jon Snow — I knew nothing.

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Review: ‘Batman: The Enemy Within’ Episode 1

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The announcement last month of a second season for Telltale’s Batman series was certainly a welcome one. The first five-episode arc of “Batman: A Telltale Series” was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I was hopeful Telltale would give us another opportunity to don the cowl and become the Caped Crusader once more.

And if the first episode of “Batman: The Enemy Within” is any indication, this season appears poised to surpass the original both in terms of quality and surprises.

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Review: ‘Horizon: Zero Dawn’

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At a glance, “Horizon: Zero Dawn” bears a striking resemblance to any number of open-world action games on the market.

The influences are hard to miss, whether it’s the post-apocalyptic world reclaimed by nature (“Fallout”), the protagonist’s ability to see things in the world undetectable to the naked eye thanks to the aid of technology (Rocksteady’s “Batman” series), or how large sections of the game map are revealed by platforming to the top of a tall structure (“Far Cry”).

But look closer and you’ll find a game that, while familiar, succeeds in forging its own path. “Horizon: Zero Dawn” isn’t just another open-world game, it’s one of the best games of any genre I’ve had the pleasure of playing.

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