It’s about playing catch & throwing strikes.
Baseball is a rather complex game hiding behind a simple idea. Filled with stats and averages, looking behind the basic premise can be mind boggling. Does that mean MLB The Show 23 is only for the most dedicated fans? Can newcomers and casuals appreciate what San Diego Studio has crafted? Let us see.
Last year when I stepped up to the plate and reviewed MLB The Show 22, I said “baseball has just never been popular over here and I doubt that will ever change”. I still stand by that statement, and I doubt over here (the UK) baseball will ever reach the lofty heights it has in America. That said, playing a video game version of a sport should not mean you must be a devout fan of said sport.
MLB The Show 23 once again welcomes all kinds of players with open arms. Not the best way to make a catch, no, however, the team at San Diego Studios have made sure every possible play style and interest level is accounted for from the start. Fancy an in-depth complicated realistic simulation? Check. Want to play the game arcade style with a few button presses? Double check. Or even fancy a play style somewhere in the middle? Triple check.
Making the controls accessible to this degree is something every sports game should make a note of. Me, being absolutely terrible at MLB The Show, chose the basic easy arcade style. This means it’s a simple swing (and a miss usually) button for batting, and the same for catching or fielding. See, even the worst players in the world (me) can still enjoy their time with America’s Favourite Pastime™.
The menu screen is not usually something I like to go in-depth speaking about, however I feel the need to point out how refreshing the simplistic minimalist style is here. Every game mode is easily accessible, and there aren’t fifteen-odd flashing or scrolling blocks to distract you or point you in the direction of the awful sports staple – the pay to win card game – bleugh.
Yes, MLB The Show 23 has its own version of MyTeam/Ultimate Team seen in the offerings from 2K and EA Sports. Diamond Dynasty is our variation of the card collecting competitive mode. Much the same as last year, I found it to be much less predatory than the other sports titles offerings. Build your team and compete against others online by spending stubs. These stubs are purchasable in-game currency that can also be earned in-game rather than using real life money.
Card collecting aside, the real star of the show is usually Road to the Show. This is where you create your own ball player, choose a position, and move your rookie up from the minor leagues to the big time in the MLB. It is a fantastic mode to try out and the place I would recommend newcomers to begin their baseball career. The best part in this mode is how the game actively tailors your experience based on how you play, really making for a well rounded starting option for players.
You may have noticed how I said Road to the Show is “usually” the real star of the show, that is due to it being knocked aside by a brand new mode. The Negro Leagues is an absolutely phenomenal look into baseball history in America. In this mode you get stories of some of the most recognisable names of baseball’s past. Getting clips in between playing creates a whole story of each of The Negro League players, delivering a compelling and fascinating look into sporting history.
For those wanting a little more in-depth baseball, Franchise mode is where the magic happens. A whole stat filled, customisable mode awaits those ready to get down to brass tacks. From player training to scouting talent and even managing budgets, franchise mode is the place to be for the budding MLB manager. If you aren’t as familiar with baseball, the handy tips and pointers that MLB The Show 23 has available are more than sufficient to get things started.
Of course the graphics need to get a standing ovation in MLB The Show 23. Over the years the franchise has gained a reputation for being one of the best looking sports games on the market. This year’s addition does not disappoint one bit; from the lowly mounds in the minor leagues all the way to the bright lights of Yankee stadium, MLB The Show 23 is top class. Details in player facial expressions are absolutely incredible, entering uncanny valley territory with the realism.
Combining this realism with flawless presentation as you play ensures a feeling of a game that was created to be the absolute peak of what sports games should all be. The sound design in play is so on point here – when you hit that sweet crack of the ball for a home run and hear the crowd roar, there is nothing better. The ambience in MLB The Show 23 is again something all other sport titles need to be paying attention to.
So now to the slight (and only) downside and MLB The Show 23 only feels like a slight upgrade. Now, before the masses come at me with pitchforks, I rate MLB The Show 22 very highly, so this isn’t the put down it may sound like. Player models and roster updates aside however, there isn’t much of a new feeling on offer this time around. Having the absolutely brilliant addition of The Negro Leagues with the storylines for each player is great, but the other areas of the game feel very samey,
That being put aside, if you are looking to play some baseball, MLB The Show 23 is 100% the first option to pick. It has game modes galore with control schemes to suit any kind of player. The presentation is absolutely fantastic and the in-game help can turn most players (not me, I’m awful) into proficient bat swinging monsters.
Anyone slightly interested in baseball needs to check out what is simply the greatest baseball game of all time in MLB The Show 23.