The horrors of winter are over and after surviving a potential strike, Major League Baseball is now underway. With this comes the release of the latest baseball title from San Diego Studios, MLB The Show 22. The team expanded the game last year with a release on Xbox and will be including the Nintendo Switch for the first time. PlayStation players are all too familiar with the game for better or worse. With not a lot of changes from last year across the board, what has been added is important to help change things up.
You can go back the past few years and look at previous reviews and most of these modes remain in this year’s game. Road to the Show, still the excellent individual career mode, retains its same style of gameplay as you choose a position and work your way up to the majors. Of course, a ton of Minor League Baseball teams are in the game ranging down to the AA-Level. In RTTS, you will also build relationships with literally everyone across the league over time. This expands as you compete against each team. You will also build relationships with your coach, which has been seen in the past. The layout of the mode is no different, but one of the bigger changes comes with the ability to be a two-way player. This means, much like cover athlete Shohei Ohtani, you can pitch and hit. It still remains an excellent mode, but no major changes again for it.
Franchise Mode will leave fans underwhelmed that were expecting changes. It’s hard to improve on something that’s already as deep as this, but once again there’s no option to do an Online Franchise which was once a part of the game some years ago. Besides some behind-the-scenes updates to trade logic and being able to test the field with a trade tracker, this is also much of the same. The quicker way to progress returns with March to October and this remains my favorite mode.
There’s still inconsistencies with March to October involving its design. Reading a starting pitcher is part of the game and picking up their tendencies, but much of the games have you coming in the late innings. There are a few instances where you’ll focus on one player, especially after a trade, and can have you playing the entire game. Wins and losses affect the momentum of the simulated games. The mode still ends up being addictive as you’ll jump through a month without even knowing it.
Diamond Dynasty includes a new Mini Season offering more ways to grind for cards. This still remains my favorite card-based microtransaction mode to play as building the lineup is achievable without having to spend money. There are still plenty of campaigns including the battle royale here to gain more stubs for purchasing packs and cards. The biggest change comes with the inclusion of cooperative online play. The games can be played either 2v2 or 3v3, but finding the amount of people to play is more of a problem as you’re having to depend on up to five other people to connect and play. All players will include the four best cards, a starting pitcher, and two bullpen pitchers to create a lineup. You need to work with the others to set the best lineup so you’re not including three first baseman on defense. Players will alternate pitching innings and alternate hitters in the lineup. This mode is also available for regular play as well. This is a nice upgrade especially with the inclusion of cross-play.
The game has managed to have issues with playing online with some hesitation during gameplay. This seems to be much more limited this year and MLB The Show 22 is the most playable version online. This caused me some worry with adding in the cooperative option, but there were no issues even in this gameplay. There are still a couple of hiccups, but they are far less than they were in the past. The team has also added to the Stadium Creator that was introduced on current-generation consoles. There are more assets and the ability to play at night. It will also be more seamless to create the stadiums, which are a big plus as previously it was convoluted.
The actual gameplay is as tight as ever with a variety of hits off the bat. Pitching and hitting still offer a few different ways to play with either directional, zone or analog interfaces. These aspects are all dated, and the precision hitting and pitching return even though they don’t pop up a lot. There still remains a major bug that’s annoying where your current hitters attributes that are shown during the at-bat will show the previous batter and not always update. I find it difficult to believe this has been overseen since last year and it should be a minor fix for something that’s important. I also had a strange bug where the fielders would not move and needed to quit and re-enter the game.
Matt Vasgergian and his team of cringy background chatter are gone and we finally get some excitement in the booth. Vasgergian has been around dating back to the PS3, but always seemed to be too calm. MLB on ESPN Radio announcers Jon “Boog” Sciambi and former White Sox player Chris Singleton are in the booth to change up the feel of the game. While Singleton doesn’t stand out, Boog sounds awesome and brings excitement to crucial situations. They do have some good chemistry, but Boog stands out more and sounds like a proper baseball commentator. This, along with the presentation changes help make the gameplay feel fresh.
The visuals are beginning to feel dated for the series. While everything from a distance still looks good as do the Major League stadiums, camera cuts will showcase ancient assets that are buried throughout. Most of the player faces that are real look solid enough, but with a lot of other sports games pushing the envelope on the current generation of consoles, MLB The Show 22 seems to be left behind. Skin tones and body sizes also feel dated in their design. The facial hair is slowly becoming an eyesore, and this may be due to San Diego Studios removing the visual options for the game. There were three visual options last year including a performance mode and a graphical mode, but that has been removed for a seamless experience at a dynamic 4K resolution that maintains 60 FPS.
MLB The Show 22 continues the tradition of being an excellent emulation of the sport of baseball, but this is another year without major changes. The team seems to be playing it safe and while there will be new players that are blown away, PlayStation players continue to clamor for something refreshing. The cooperative play is fun and it works well, but a portion of this requires going down the rabbit hole that is Diamond Dynasty. It’s the look and the feel of what’s on the field with the updated presentation and the new announcing team that helps to bring some light to the series. Regardless, there’s nothing like the experience of playing MLB The Show 22 alongside opening day.