RADICAN’S THE PULL LIST (VOL. 16) – MLB The Show in-depth review (PS4), Blockers starring John Cena, Johnathan Gresham first half MVP of ROH’s Honor Club streams

By Sean Radican, PWTorch Columnist



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MLB THE SHOW 18 REVIEW 

Available now at all major retailers (PS4 exclusive)

MLB The Show 18 is the most fun I’ve had playing a baseball game in a long time, but several improvements are needed online and with the gameplay in order for it to be a top flight sports simulation. The game, developed by San Diego Studios under Sony, is the only act in town when it comes to true simulation baseball and is a PS4 exclusive.

The developers focused their attention on the online element of the game to prepare for the launch during development. It appears that online franchise mode and offline season mode were sacrificed to ensure the online infrastructure was in place for this game.

The results have been mixed for me playing online since the launch of the game. There’s been times when a pitch is coming in and the game skips a beat making it impossible to time and aim my swing. Every so often a fly ball or ground ball will go right by me while I’m playing due to some issues with lag.

The thing the game gets right is the baseball atmosphere. The crowd animations are great. The announcers can be a bit repetitive at times and perhaps having them record new commentary during the week to update each week like Madden NFL does would help, but that’s a minor complaint, as they do a good job of bringing excitement when it’s required or just keeping the chatter going during the game.

There’s a ton of great animations for broken bats, bouncing balls, and fielding. I’ve been playing the game for awhile and I’m still seeing new animations on the field. The crowd is very interactive as well. They jeer you when you’re on the road and conversely cheer you on if you’re at home. The cinematics of the game are great, especially when you get to admire a nice home run blast. There’s so many little things the game gets right when it comes to seeing things in the game that you’d expect to see on a baseball field right down to small details.

The hitting interface is a mixed bag. It can be frustrating, as you get feedback on screen after each pitch. Sometimes I would match my PCI up perfectly with the ball and get good feedback for timing and swing, but I would hit a weak ground ball. Other times, the feedback would indicate that my PCI was nowhere near the ball and I’d crush it. Sony has patched the PCI several times and it has gotten better since launch, but it just doesn’t feel right yet.

For the most part, the fielding is great, but every so often there are some weird issues where you think you’re fielder is going to either field a ground ball easily or catch it easily in the outfield, but because of detection issues, it goes right by them in both cases. It’s also frustrated to see balls bobbled at first base and in the infield for no reason even if you have infielders with high ratings. Cases like this occur frequently. One thing I’d like to see is fielders in certain situations approach plays with more urgency, especially in the infield where it seems like the fielders are in no hurry to get the ball over to first at times, which creates a ton of close plays that aren’t necessary.

The main attraction of the game is the Diamond Dynasty mode where you can earn the best legends and amped up versions of current players as well. To earn the best players, you essentially have to do a ton of grinding through programs, career arcs, and immortals.You can also acquire team epics through grinding. It was overwhelming to look at the immortals like Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Ken Griffey Jr. and see the amount of time and money it would take to get the top players in the game. To do so, you most likely have to buy the in-game currency called stubbs to either purchase packs or purchase the necessary items like signed balls and bats, jerseys, hats, and bobble heads to complete certain exchanges to further your progress to earn the player you want.

I really want to play with Ruth, Robinson, and Griffey at some point, but I’m not sure I’m willing to spend the amount of time and money it’s going to take to get those players. You can’t just buy these cards either on the auction block.. I’ve played other card based sports games like Madden NFL’s MUT and NBA 2K’s My Team and have never seen the top cards in the game available to begin grinding for at launch, so it seems perhaps MLB The Show could have paced their content release a little better.

On the other hand, I was able to earn a bunch of diamonds (top level cards) quickly just by trading in roster members of current day teams at launch. You can earn certain diamond level cards fairly easily, which is nice while you’re building up your team.

Conquest mode under the Diamond Dynasty umbrella is really fun, as you try to build a stronghold with your team across an entire map by earning the fans from other teams. You can play games against the CPU to earn fans, but once you gain a stronghold on certain areas, you can beat the map through simulation. I was able to conquer the entire map, but to earn the top rewards and advance to conquest extreme, there was still some difficult grinding to do.

It’s really hard to earn stubs this year from MLB The Show 18 to buy things in Diamond Dynasty, but it’s not a total bust, as there are daily objectives and rewards like free packs to balance things out somewhat. The pack odds are terrible, but the nice thing about Diamond Dynasty is that nearly everything you get in each pack has value because of the exchanges required to acquire the best players in the game.

If you’re diligent about flipping your cards on the market, you won’t have to spend hardly any money on stubs, as you can simply sell what you get and then buy more boxes of cards to acquire the best live series players and legends.. Eventually this method of buying and selling really began to pay off for me with a minimal monetary investment in stubs. Sony deserves a lot of credit for creating Diamond Dynasty in a way that doesn’t seem like a money grab compared to other sports titles. As I said, I wish they would make it a little easier to get the very best cards in the game, but there is a nice balance here with the lower-tiered diamonds. You truly can grind and sell your way through the mode for the most part with a minimal financial investment.

Road to the Show hooks in with Diamond Dynasty, as you can ramp up your created player and use him in Diamond Dynasty mode. This year you have to pick an archetype for your created player in Road to the Show. No player can reach a 99 rating now in every category because they will have strengths and weaknesses based on the archetype you choose. Your players ratings will either rise or lose through training or playing in games.

Other modes of note include Franchise mode. This is a fun mode if you’re into doing a Franchise offline and managing your team. The game does a nice job of streamlining various tasks like trads and the draft for you. You can also have the computer do whatever tasks you don’t want to do manually for you. If you want to have some fun, you can do franchise in Retro mode, which is more of an arcade based mode than a simulation.

Overall score: (7.0) – This game gets a lot of things right. The graphics, presentation, and atmosphere for games are fantastic. The crowd is really realistic if you pay attention, you can see how much detail went into animating the fans and even the vendors walking up and down the steps of the various ballparks in the game.

Diamond Dynasty is a mix of good and bad. The good does outweigh the bad, as you can grind and build a beastly team fit to your customization, but if you want the very best players in the game there’s a big time and money investment involved for the most part.

The gameplay is a mix of good and bad as well. I feel like the pitching is on point. It’s the fielding and hitting the get dicey, especially during online play. If the fielding is tweaked and the PCI can be fixed for next year, this game is going to be a big winner in 2019.

BLOCKERS BLU-RAY REVIEW 

Available at most major retailers on July 3 on Blu-Ray & DVD & Digital

John Cena’s first leading role in a major comedy is a smashing success. I’ve watched Cena in several WWE Studio movies that were truly terrible, but he shines in his role as sensitive father Mitchell and outshines his co-stars Leslie Mann, who plays single mother Lisa, and Ike Barinholtz, who plays divorced father Hunter. Mitchell, Lisa, and Hunter meet when their daughters are preschool, but the main focus of the movie is about their reaction to the news that their daughters have agreed to a sex pact on prom and they want to put a stop to it in this shock comedy.

Their daughters are Julie played by Kathryn Newton, Kayla played by Geraldine Viswanathan, and Sam played by Gideon Adlon. Although this movie flips the script on the usual male dominated movie trope about teenage boys finding a way to have sex on prom night by focusing on three girls in a very raunchy comedy, the stars of the movie are the parents and their reactions to the actions of their daughters.

Things have changed for the adults since their daughters met in preschool. Lisa is a single mother that doesn’t want to see her daughter go to college, Hunter is divorced and hasn’t spent enough time with his daughter as she’s grown up and living with her mother and step-father, and Mitchell is an out of touch and sensitive parent that’s scared to death about his little girl becoming a woman.

Cena steals every big comedy scene he’s in during the movie. Whether it’s him being unable to interpret the eggplant emoji in text messages his daughter is exchanging with her friends at one point during the movie that Lisa intercepts and shows to Mitchell and Hunter or when he gets into a beer chugging contest using his rear end at an after prom party, Cena’s facial expressions and comedic timing were great. Perhaps the highlight of the movie is when Mitchell, Lisa, and Hunter are on the hunt for their daughters and Cena locks eyes with another parent while watching him through a window as he climaxes.

The movie starts a bit slow, but really picks up as the audience gets to bond with Mitchell, Lisa, and Hunter, who eventually all become endearing characters by the end of the movie after coming across like complete psychos while chasing after their daughters. The movie really picks up for the second half and hits its stride. Director Kay Cannon did an incredible job bringing the script to life.

There are some gut busting moments involving a very raunchy game of Marco Polo that Cena is in the middle of, as he aids Lisa and Hunter in the search for their daughters. Although Cena outshines his co-stars, Mann really strikes the right balance portraying the motivations of her character, as Lisa is scared as a single parent of losing her daughter now that she’s graduating high school.The scene when she has to exit a hotel room as her daughter is about to have sex for the first time is right up there with being as good as Cena’s big scenes. Barinholtz is really good in his role as well, as the wisecracking absent father.

The Blu-ray set features several bonus features. The deleted scenes are pretty good, especially one featuring Mitchell’s daughter Kayla showing some comedic range in a high school locker room. There are several fun mini-features included in the bonus feature section of the Blu-ray, but the best are Ike Barinholtz (Hunter) explaining the origins of sex in “The History of Sex.” The other features Cena giving prom night survival tips in “John Cena’s prom Survival Kit for Parents.” There’s also a feature length commentary bonus feature available with director Kay Cannon, which is a great bonus, although I wish they could have gotten one of the lead co-stars to join her.

Overall thoughts: (8.5) – Blockers might be raunchy, but it treats all of its characters with dignity and there’s a real human touch to how all of the main character interact. Wrestling fans are going to love seeing Cena in this role. He shines as Mitchell and steals the show so to speak with his comedic performance. He’s surrounded by two fantastic co-stars in Mann and Barinholtz. I can’t recall another movie that blended raunchy comedy with a human touch so well, but Blockers somehow manages to strike that balance and succeed.

RADICAN’S TAKE – Jonathan Gresham is the MVP of ROH’s early offerings on Honor Club

Ring of Honor has been streaming their house shows live for several months now and one wrestler that has stood out above all others is longtime indie veteran Jonathan Gresham. Gresham has wrestled all over the world and has been featured in top indies like Beyond Wrestling, but he’s never really gotten the chance to shine on bigger stages like ROH until this year.

If you’re not familiar with Gresham and you’re an Honor Club member that hasn’t been watching the house show offerings live, now is the time to get familiar with him. Gresham is under a non-exclusive deal with ROH and hasn’t gotten any opportunities to shine on ROH’s big shows, but he’s made the most of his minutes on ROH house shows.

What works against Gresham is his size. He’s not tall, but he makes up for it with great submission wrestling. He’s a treat to watch, as he works over his opponents on the mat. He’s someone ROH could push into title contention if they got behind him. He’s great in the ring, but he hasn’t gotten much of a chance to shine in promos.

ROH house shows usually feature paint by the numbers wrestling. There’s usually nothing excellent when it comes to in-ring wrestling on the house shows that stream on Honor Club. ROH can rely on The Young Bucks to stand out on these house shows, but other than that, it’s a very mixed bag when it comes to watching these shows at home.

Gresham has taken advantage of the opportunities given to him so far this year in ROH.  It is certainly apparent that his peers respect him. Gresham had a two match series with Jay Lethal on Honor Club streams. ROH was testing Honor Club when they aired “Honor Reigns Supreme” on Feb. 19. Lethal and Gresham stole the show with an excellent technical battle that saw Lethal come out on top.

It didn’t get much hype, but Jonathan Gresham and Jay Lethal faced off once again on Honor Club on April 15 at Masters of the Craft. Once again, Lethal and Gresham had a believable and intense match that blew away just about everything else on the card and was every bit as good if not better than their match at “Honor Reigns Supreme.” Gresham lost the match once again, but Lethal put him over and he came across as being on Lethal’s level despite losing to him twice.

What convinced me that Gresham is the MVP of the first half of 2018 for Honor Club house show streams was his recent performance against Cody Rhodes at “State of the Art: San Antonio” on June 15. This time around I wasn’t expecting Gresham’s match to steal the show, but he once again turned in a four-star range effort.

A lot of credit goes to Cody Rhodes, who was willing to wrestle Gresham’s style of match in the middle of a house show. It’s clear that the top talent like Rhodes and Lethal respect Gresham given how they work with him on house shows. Gresham looked fantastic here making Cody wrestle a technical match under his own terms. Cody came out on top in the end, but he put Gresham over at the end of the match by showing him respect.

If you’re looking to watch one of the most unheralded wrestlers in wrestling, tune into the aforementioned shows on Honor Club and watch Jonathan Gresham. Gresham deserves the eyeballs on his work on Honor Club over the course of 2018.

Contact Sean at pwtorchsean@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @sr_torch.

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