Baseball is back. Confession: I’ve been looking forward to MLB The Show 21 more than watching actual baseball. And it’s finally hit the (mostly virtual) shelves. So far, the critic reviews have been generally solid, if not stellar, with the Metacritic average currently sitting at a respectable 76.
In this review, I’ll take you through why I love this game (spoiler: this game is good), what’s changed since the last edition, and if it’s worth buying. Let’s go!
TL;DR: If You’re a Baseball Fan, Buy
The thing that I absolutely love about MLB The Show is that you don’t feel like you’re playing a video game; it’s like you’re in an actual game. I’ve literally had family members walk into the room and thought I was legit watching a live broadcast.
It’s not just about the visuals. It’s the entire show. You get everything that you expect on the average game day, the atmosphere, the commentary from familiar voices, and the attention to detail is rarely matched by other games. You even get integrated videos of reporters (names like Robert Flores, for example), and I also like the touch of podcast segments being added to the player story sections.
But back to the graphics. They’re fantastic, and the game looks better than it ever has before. MLB The Show reaches a level of realism that surpasses previous versions, and the over 100 animations that have been added also give the game a fresh feel. The lighting has also been greatly improved, enhancing the experience.
The big addition I really like is that the player is able to create their own baseball stadiums. Harking back to the MVP Baseball franchise, you can let your creative juices flow with this new functionality. It’s an extra that doesn’t necessarily affect the core gameplay, but it’s still great.
Perhaps contrary to most players, my favorite version of the game is Franchise mode, which lets you take control of a team and play (or simulate) a full 162-game season. It’s a grueling task, and it may not be what some people are into, but it’s perfect for me.
Know the Details
You see, I’m a baseball nerd and a big baseball betting nut. I go so far that I know what sportsbooks offer the best MLB promo codes and betting bonuses according to WSN.com. This site shows you where to bet, how much to invest, and what bets to place. This all means you also need to be a huge stats nerd (if you want to win, at least). You want to look for anything that will give your team the slightest percentage edge; in gambling, I do it by looking in-game boosters, promo codes, statistical analysis without emotion, and following team news obsessively to tilt the odds in my favor. It’s a little like playing your own version of Moneyball. In other words, you have to be addicted to small details, knowing matchups, team attributes, hot streaks, and how injuries will affect the game. For this mode, you need to be into the minutiae, the little things other people don’t notice.
If this isn’t for you, the flagship Road to the Show mode is the best of its kind. It’s the ultimate individualistic experience, where you control and follow the career of a single player. It’s almost like a role-playing game, as you work your way up to the Majors.
Question: Has Enough Changed?
The game’s calling card, its gameplay, remains top-notch. There’s nothing on the market that will deliver both realistic and fun baseball on a console. There are a few additions, like Pin-Point Pitching, which are very much worthwhile (although there’s a learning curve, so look for some pitching tips).
Yet the game doesn’t feel that new. The graphics are fantastic, yes, but they’re not revolutionary. If you’re expecting a huge leveling up due to the addition of a PS5 version of the game, it’s best to lower your expectations a little bit.
The PlayStation 5 doesn’t really give you much over other players. For example, 3D Audio doesn’t seem to be a thing. I may be wrong, but the difference isn’t really there when using a headset. This is a bit of a shame, as crowd noises or player chit-chat would work incredibly well.
That doesn’t mean the crowd noise isn’t impressive (it definitely is), but it seems to be a bit of a missed opportunity to not take advantage of what PS5 has to offer. But for most players, what will stand out is the impressive sound quality that provides players with an immersive experience.
Another gripe I have is the online playability. The timing is still quite inconsistent, and while it’s solid, there’s huge room for improvement. For a series like this, I’d call that near unacceptable.
Final Take: Perhaps Underwhelming, But Still Awesome
The ‘generational leap’ is relatively small. If you’re hoping for something far beyond the 2020s edition, you may come out a little disappointed. But that’s not really the point of the game. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
If you’ve never had access to the series before, it’ll blow you away. It’s really the best baseball game on the market. For veteran players, it’s still a worthy addition. The improvements are small but noticeable. Some may consider it a little underwhelming, but it remains an awesome baseball experience you don’t want to miss.
If you want it, you can get it on the two most popular consoles. We’ve known about it for a while, but the series is now officially no longer a PlayStation exclusive. It’s now also available on the Xbox One and the Xbox Series X/S. It’s obviously also sold for the PlayStations 4, and also makes its debut on the PlayStation 5 console.