Sony San Diego’s MLB the Show is multiplatform for the 2nd year in a row, and once again it’s available day one in-game pass for both Series and Xbox One consoles. Full of improvements both off and on the field the game of baseball has never played better, but not everything is a dinger. A continued emphasis on microtransactions in full-priced games is a blemish on an otherwise stellar package. What has changed both good and bad? Let’s play ball and find out.
Modes Modes Modes Modes Modes!
One of the first things you’ll notice, outside of the slick UI, is just how many modes the latest entry of this long-running series has. On offer are:
- Road to the Show – The create a player career simulator.
- Diamond Dynasty – The main money-maker online-focused competitive team builder mode.
- March to October – An excellent truncated season where you control key moments.
- Franchise – Become GM and control a team’s fate.
- Challenge of the Week – Online arcade-style challenges to win items for Diamond Dynasty
- Moments – Legends and Superstars “relive or rewrite baseball history”
- Home Run Derby – You play a home run derby, pretty simple.
- Exhibition – An offline exhibition game of your choosing
- Exhibition (Live Rosters) – An exhibition game using the current MLB Rosters from any day of the season.
- Online Rated – Competitive-focused online matches.
- Retro Mode – “Experience the sights and sounds of old school gameplay” with a casual focus.
- Postseason – Create a tournament bracket and play for the World Series.
- Custom Leagues – Online friend-focused multi-season mode with a focus on customization.
- Online Co-op – Play 2v2 or 3v3 with friends online.
- Custom Practice – Create custom scenarios to try and improve.
- Options Explorer – A well-done tutorial.
Boy, that’s a lot. Some like Challenge of the Week are short but can be a lot of fun. Others such as Road to the Show can last you hundreds of hours if you want them to. This game does not support smart delivery, but both Xbox One and Series console versions are available with Game Pass. There is no shortage of things to do both on and off the field. We were given the Digital Deluxe edition for review, which included many of the microtransaction fueled card packs for the Diamond Dynasty and Road to the Show modes. You earn the “Stubs” currency at a decent rate, but it still rubs me the wrong way to see so much focus on it in the UI for a game that is $70 on launch on the new generation.
One of the big changes this year is the introduction of crossplay, cross-progression, and a release on the Nintendo Switch which are all great to see. The Stadium Creator is back for PS5 and Series X|S only and it features an easier to use interface. Jon Sciambi and Chris Singleton are the new commentary team and blended into the background for me, which is the highest compliment I can pay. They were never in the way, annoying, or trying to be bigger than the game itself. A surprisingly large number of Legendary players are in the game now, over 160 in total and they can be used in the various modes listed above. Rounding out the new is an increased emphasis on providing extra post-launch content through the game’s live service. From what I can tell the majority of this will just be included for free into what is already an incredibly dense package. None of this matters though if the on the field action isn’t up to snuff.
The new pitching mode stinks! Thankfully they kept the old ones.
Another big new introduction is the “pinpoint” pitching mechanic, and I hate it. After choosing your pitch you must trace a path on the ball with the right analog stick, and not only match the movement but the speed as well. It’s extremely difficult and feels nearly impossible to aim at times. Thankfully there are multiple other modes on offer as well. I ended up using Meter the majority of my time playing, as it’s the classic golf swing style and it felt challenging but fair. Classic is a basic point and click, Pulse is weird and hard to explain properly but just know to avoid it, and Pure Analog is like a mix of meter and Pinpoint that some may find a solid middle ground.
Batting wise you have Timing, which is a simple click at the right time arcade style. Zone where you try to match where the ball is going with the left stick and Directional where it’s a mix of timing and trying to influence ground or flyballs along with their direction. I enjoyed directional the most as it again felt challenging enough without being too punishing. There are options galore for everything here such as using a Guess Pitch system, how baserunning works, and if sliding is auto/assisted/manual only. You can get lost in the number of options this game has and I very much did. Once I dialed in exactly what I wanted the game went from playing well to feeling excellent.
This goes into the presentation of the game as well. A lot of time in baseball is spent in-between the action and by default, the hybrid presentation style will cut out as much of this as possible while trying to maintain the feel of the sport. You can swap to Broadcast if you want the full baseball experience or fast play if you want most of the game’s cutscenes and presentations skipped.
A Current-Gen Showcase
Last year’s title looked nice but this year? Oh boy is The Show ’22 a beaut. Player models look fantastic, and the animations look smooth in transitions. You’ll still get the occasional super soldier level reaction time and bursts of movement, but on the whole, it looks and feels like a real game of baseball if you set the options that way. The stadiums are flipping gorgeous and I found myself letting the PC play in various parks just so I could admire them while working on something else. The presentation of the game matches the graphical ambition. It’s attractive, smooth, gives solid info during and after games, and features short load times thanks to the new hardware.
As stated previously though that presentation has a major emphasis on the dreaded microtransactions. It’s not all bad as you do earn a decent number of the Stubbs currency for completing missions and in-game activities are always earning you XP for your in-game profile. It still feels wrong to see a full-priced AAA title from one of the 3 major platform holders having a never-ending focus on getting you to continually pay if you want to be able to keep up with its competitive multiplayer and single-player career modes. Things are well polished though, as I ran into few bugs with all of them being tied to the always-online nature of the game. It wants to be online, and you lose access to most modes if you are not.
MLB The Show ’22 is an excellent baseball game and a marked improvement from last year’s debut title on the Xbox platform. Featuring some of the best on-the-field action I’ve ever experienced in a baseball title, a massive amount of game modes, excellent commentary from the new team, and incredible customization options, it is worth your time. Being available day one on Game Pass makes it an easy recommendation and if you passed up on last year’s and like to “own” your games then there is more than enough here to warrant a purchase.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Playstation 4&5, Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||April 1st (early access) April 5th, 2022 (full release and Game Pass)|
|Developer||Sony San Diego|
|Publisher||MLB on Xbox and Switch|
|Rated||E for Everyone|