Baseball. America’s favourite pastime. Or something like that. See here in the UK we had rounders as children and weren’t offered college sponsorships to play on any rounders teams. Baseball is a sport of complexity, it is a sport of big money and it is a sport of stats. Lots of stats. That said baseball has just never been popular over here and I doubt that will ever change.
However MLB remains as popular over the pond as ever and we have our “second season” of The Show on Xbox with MLB The Show 22. As a Sony owned title, pressure from the league themselves forced Sony’s hand in a use it or lose it moment for last year’s edition. They received the ultimatum to lose the rights or make MLB The Show a multi-format title. Spoilers – Sony chose option B.
Which has brought us to the here and now where we live in a world that upon loading up a Game Pass day one title, shines the PlayStation studios intro in our Xbox loving faces when we boot the title up. I take this as a win and heavy progress towards title sharing. Whether left without a choice or not, Sony have given Xbox owners the chance to take themselves to the ballgame.
So to MLB The Show 22 then, shall we? This year’s title is as seen in previous years, loaded, and I don’t mean the bases. The Show has always been famous for its dedication and passion to the sport and its fans, this year is no exception. All the major teams are included from the glorious Toronto Blue Jays (Go Jays Go) to the notorious Boston Red Sox (boo) and the world famous New York Yankees.
Players, stadiums, stat sheets, even the uniforms are all recreated with phenomenal accuracy and loving care. You genuinely get a sense and feel for each stadium you play in and the surrounding areas. Nothing has been done half hearted or without passion. Not a bad word can be said about the faithfulness of the atmosphere, which not only has the stadium sounds, but also the noise from the dugouts and players. It also has a pumping licensed soundtrack the likes usually reserved for EA’s sport offerings. A great job all round audio wise.
In gameplay, you are in a fixed position unless you are fielding. This means you only really have to worry about your hits when batting and throws when pitching. These both can be tweaked to your heart’s content till you find the control setup that works for you. Making a perfect hit and getting a home run feels absolutely amazing and never unfair. Each time you hit too early or late the game tells you so for the next swing, you can make necessary adjustments to try to get that sweet spot.
Now let’s get to your options. The headliner for MLB The Show 22 is – not surprisingly – their Road to the Show mode where you are tasked with getting your team to the Majors, baseball’s top league. Complementing Road to the Show are a vast array of gameplay modes from Diamond Dynasty in which you take the game to the online leagues to the GM Franchise more where you act as the manager for your favourite MLB team.
There is a new online co-op mode which enables you to go online with a friend or a random player. Here you can play 2v2 or even 3v3, and it must be said that there is something cool about playing baseball with a friend when you know you could help them steal a base or even get a home run. It isn’t quite fully fleshed out, however it is a fun little diversion from your multiple career mode options.
We have to touch on the Diamond Dynasty. This is your obligatory “Ultimate Team” style pay to win mode. These are dated modes in all sports titles that receive the most backlash from fans and here the in-game currency is Stubbs; you can purchase them with real money to enhance your team. The one difference The Show has is that the packs are actually earnable by gaining Stubbs by completing in-game events such as your daily challenge. Diamond Dynasty gets a pass here where other titles don’t because of the ”generosity” of the earning in-game Stubbs.
Before you even want to consider which type of mode you wish to partake in, you will most definitely need to check out the extremely in-depth training modes. Seasoned vets of The Show need not apply as the game plays almost note for note identical to last year’s offering. For newcomers The Show 22 bends over backwards to offer you a ton of options to test out every area of the game. There is no gating here; they truly have every variation of “enter sports title here” control scheme available.
Want to make the game more arcadey? No problem, just set fielders to auto. Fancy a bit of a tougher time? Then choose the manual option for every area of the controllable options and it’s all on you my friend. Checking out the training mode is highly recommended and will most certainly provide a feel for the game for those unaccustomed to baseball positions and roles.
This is where The Show falters slightly. Sure it is a wonderful love letter to fans of the sport and not a thing is wrong with catering for your audience. That said, for newcomers seeing the exhausting amount of options, stats, play styles and modes, it may be off putting and a stumbling block for entry. If baseball is your sport then do not worry, this is the game you were looking for. For the non baseball fans, it might be a tough sell.
Taking this all into account, MLB The Show 22 is a game made for the fans, even those with a fleeting interest will be enough for some to enjoy their time with it. For the rest? Well, the same reason the sport isn’t popular will apply – game length is longer than a Lord of the Rings movie, stats without prior knowledge are like trying to decode the matrix and figuring out pitch types can be like translating out ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The game is available on Game Pass so no argument can be made why it isn’t worth a look. That said mileage will vary depending on how taken the casual or non baseball fan is with the opening game. Talking of the opening game, which is designed to give a feel for the sport and your chosen control scheme, and it is really well designed and encouraging to play – mostly thanks to one particular feature.
Dynamic difficulty. Often this is touted as a revolutionary mechanic when offered in titles and leads to not much besides adjusting the difficulty. In MLB The Show 22 you actually feel the slight tweaks as it is not just the difficulty level of the AI that can increase. The pitches, for example – throw better for a while and The Show is putting the difficulty up, or do worse and it will make it slightly easier.
This is applied to each area of the field and every role, so a better batter might have a higher batting difficulty given. But if your throwing arm ain’t that strong? The Show recognises this and tweaks accordingly. It’s a great system well implemented. Several bad catches presented the option of setting the fielders to AI, and this is very much appreciated, so the dynamic difficulty truly balances the game to suit your strengths and weaknesses.
Is MLB The Show 22 for everybody? No. Is MLB The Show 22 going to please fans of baseball? Absolutely. Very few titles outside of 2Ks NBA offerings can boast such perfection of the sport it is trying to recreate. There is a real eye to detail in every section and MLB The Show 22 is undeniably the king when it comes to the field of dreams.
This is one to pick up and try if you even have a fleeting interest, whilst a deeper dedication to baseball is a requirement to truly appreciate the kitchen sink game we have here. It is on Game Pass after all, so grab your shredded gum and worn out leather catchers mitt and dig in.
MLB The Show 22 is on the Xbox Store