I swear it’s been a year since MLB The Show 21 was released, however, looking at MLB The Show 22, I wouldn’t have known it. The year has changed on the cover of baseball, and Shohei Ohtani has replaced Fernando Tates Jr. in box art. And after.
The Show continues to be the best baseball simulation, and now with MLB The Show 22, it’s available for all three major consoles – PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch. It is the essential game that every baseball fan must have if he wants to celebrate the “America’s Hobby” in video game form. If you’re a baseball fan and haven’t tried The Show or haven’t purchased a premium annual franchise in the past three years, for example, there are plenty of reasons to buy the new game. However, if you already know, love and celebrate this game as the owner of The Show 20 or 21, I can’t find a good reason to buy this year’s post.
This is not an indictment of the makers of The Show San Diego Studios. You can’t blame them for following a model that has proven profitable. However, it’s somewhat surprising that since major video game franchises like Halo and Call of Duty have jumped onto the live-service bandwagon, sports games — titles that are literally based on new seasonal content — haven’t followed suit. Games like The Show 22 – or Madden 22, FIFA 22 or Insert Sports Game Franchise Here 22 – simply can’t offer enough value to guarantee you spend $60 if you own the previous year’s edition. But am I going to pay $60 once for a game, and then spend annually on roster updates and cosmetics like vintage uniforms, uniforms, or custom cleats? definitely.
Without such a shift in the sports game paradigm, we are left with the familiar game: a ‘new’ game in which the main features are nearly identical, with good but eventually incremental changes marketed as highlights of the new game while most of them are a better fit. To the bottom of the list of correction notes.
There are plenty of updates between The Show 21 and The Show 22. San Diego Studios has added custom gameplay to the game’s custom training mode. The PCI now shrinks when speculators attempt to hit notes thrown outside the hit zone to match more realistically the real-life difficulty of hitting such notes. Likewise, pitch types that are intended to be thrown in specific areas (such as dumbbells or fast split balls, which are more effectively thrown at the bottom of the strike zone) are less accurate when they are targeted in unrealistic areas. The “PCI Anchor” now allows hitters to lock in their focus (read: hitting the pointer) if the bowler appears to be focusing on a specific part of the hit area. There is a new animation of the field, and perfect throws from the field put the player receiving such throws in a better position to make a mark. All of these changes are clever and good and things I would never have noticed in a million years had they not been detailed in an hour-long stream that highlights new elements introduced in The Show 22’s gameplay.
In fact, there are two main reasons to buy The Show 22. The first is for Switch owners who can now play the franchise for the first time ever. As mentioned above, if you were not able to play this game before as it was exclusive to PlayStation until last season, when it comes to Xbox, it is a must-have for baseball fans. However, the Switch version, while serviceable, has a noticeably worse frame rate, especially in cut scenes and mobile-class graphics — especially from a batter perspective, given the stadium backgrounds. The Switch version doesn’t seem to have the Stadium Creator feature, which is probably the best, given the graphics.
The second distinguishing feature of The Show 22 is the introduction of cooperative play, which allows up to three players to join a team. In theory, it appears to be a fun new feature, one found in games like FIFA or Madden. But instead of playing the game together, you’re just splitting your playing time.
While baseball is a team sport, the actions of the game are individual. In the board in co-op, players take turns controlling the hit, which means that – unless there’s a runner at the base – the other player sticks his thumb. The same in the field. Only the bowler makes a real impact until the ball is hit. Then on a fielder. (Oddly enough, the player controlling the bowler also controls the catcher, while the other player controls the other field players, which can take some getting used to as the runners move around the bases.)
There’s really no advantage to co-operative teamwork, unlike FIFA or NBA 2K when teammates can make timely cuts to receiving passes or deny players the ball in defense. In The Show’s co-op mode, you’re not adding another player to the game, you’re just dividing your game in half. Add to that the fact that you can only play co-op against other players directly and it’s hard to see many cases when I choose this mode instead of just playing with my friends head to head.
Unless co-op mode scratches a very specific itch for gamers, or you’re a Switch owner, there are some objective reasons to buy the new game if you already have The Show 21. The next-gen features are the same as the previous one. In season, with the stadium maker back and perfect contact on the board resulting in a very satisfying crack and shake through the PS5’s DualSense controller. The Road to the Show, which puts bespoke players on the track of the major tournaments, is an almost reenactment of past seasons with its usual scenes where the “manager talks to the player” about the alarming hit volume (which really isn’t that worrisome given their MLB appearances in The real world).
All this replay content is good. That’s why people bought The Show and loved it before. That’s why they still play and enjoy it. But it’s also little reason to drop the money on the new version.
And there are some frustrating year-to-year elements that are still present in The Show 22. It’s still very hard to consistently access, as there are no two sides of the real world (no depth perception from the TV screen and no visible/spin layers) that help identify certain tones. Fighting the changes is just as difficult as facing the most unjust attackers on the Elden Ring. But for the most part, The Show’s biggest problems can be attributed to its fantastic and totally unfair baseball game. So while the above seems unfair to a video game, it is ultimately fair in the context of the sport it’s emulating.
It’s definitely frustrating, when you finally call, after a home run of ball-breaking, to get perfect connection only to make a short stop. It also gets worse when you put a slider on the corner of the board only to see that it’s called a ball. This is baseball though. that happens. And while it looks like your player is struggling when he hits only 0.245, that’s really average for one of the recent major leagues. If you want to mix every racket like someone signs their name with “HOF” at the end, you’ll probably want to go from the game’s simulation setting to the normal mode. The developers have added two new difficulty level settings (Amateur and Junior) to help deal with new or low-skilled players as well.
There are other nits to choose from. The user interface can be tricky to navigate in the menus and some information (such as the current bowler stress level) is absent from the screens as this would be very helpful (when making bullpen decisions). It is still very easy for a player to make a bad throw even when the throw meter ends in the green.
For the most part, though, newcomers will find plenty to embrace around the series and players who have been to previous iterations of MLB The Show will find plenty they know and love. The biggest problem, in fact, is that they’ll probably find a lot of them.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Series S and Xbox One