MLB The Show 20 is the latest installment in the long-running PlayStation-exclusive baseball franchise. Growing from a game trying to compete with the EA Sports and 2K titles to becoming the sole simulation game on the market, the series has gone through quite a lot to keep its place as one of the best sports games out there.
Now with cross-platform play likely to arrive next year, MLB The Show once again demonstrates why the series has been the award-winning title for all things Major League Baseball for the past two decades.
Sony San Diego doesn’t disappoint with its promise of rewarding good hitting this year. An overhaul of the game’s hitting engine and revamped plate coverage indicator provides a fresh new perspective and feel to swing the bat this year.
While hitting on dynamic difficulty as well as legend, power hitters truly felt powerful and contact hitters placed the ball all over the field. Hitting felt natural again. However, perfect-perfect feedback still ended up being line outs occasionally with low power hitters. But not to be discouraged, many perfect-perfect hits by contacts hitters resulted in more line drive grounders and base hits. I did notice my propensity to foul off multiple pitches on late swings. Purists of The Show no doubt would like to see a greater portion of foul offs as whiffs rather than another opportunity for their opponent to have hitting success.
In addition to hitting, the feedback graphic overlay has undergone some minor revisions and adds to the fresh perspective players will experience. I found that with the dozens of options players can choose for their PCI many of the colors that have been added create more of a distraction than a benefit. Unless the option for PCI Fadeout All is selected, colors with a high brightness such as orange, cyan, ocean, and magenta caused difficulty in placing the PCI on the ball even when transparency is set to 100.
Defensive fundamentals also received an overhaul this year with the emphasis being more on outcomes dictated by user skill arising from intensity and focus. With the addition of the extreme catch indicator and throw accuracy meter, defense this year is marketed to be less predictable. The new defensive attribute screen has replaced the active batter’s eye cam and provides a scouting report of your opponent’s defensive players. Though a nice addition, I rarely found myself using this feature, especially against the CPU. At times the feature also felt misleading, especially when my high rated defensive player would bobble and drop the ball despite me lining up the throw accuracy meter perfectly in the green.
Defensive AI legacy issues also seem to persist. There were some head-scratching moments when my highly-rated defensive player would make what appeared to be a scripted animation not consistent for the play at hand.
Despite some of these miscues I still enjoyed playing on defense. As opposed to last year, each player feels different on defense with their responses. Now, more than in any other iteration, defensive attributes matter.
Two new game modes have been added to Diamond Dynasty this year: the first being Showdown. Players familiar with Battle Royale will easily pick up on the drafting mechanism used to build and field a competitive team.
What makes this game mode stand out unlike Battle Royale is that users are given on 10 rounds to draft the base or backbone of their team. As you progress the rest of your team is acquired through rewards for the ultimate culmination of a boss battle. Showdown is all about hitting, and what makes the mode so addictive are the perks that can be added to your team based upon your play style. Essentially, perks provide boosts to your team in certain in-game situations. Road to The Show and Moments players will immediately recognize this feature.
Showdown is filled with massive amounts of content and rewards that also help with other programs such as the First Inning and Team Affinity. Players will spend a substantial amount of time in this program as the content and rewards are overwhelming. Though it is initially locked behind a stub wall similar to Battle Royale, the awards and content more than makes up for the initial entry fee.
Despite the program stars and the many rewards you receive for playing towards each inning, the low spot for Showdown is the entry fee attached to it like Battle Royale.
Despite not being what most fans expected for a revamped deep online franchise experience, Custom Leagues are an attempt to give players a semblance of what an online franchise could be.
With the ability to join up to three leagues at once, with each league consisting of a maximum of 30 teams, players will have more than enough opportunities to experiment with teams structured from a real MLB live roster or a Diamond Dynasty squad. The idea behind this new mode is to give players the option to create a friendly or competitive league their way.
Lacking a fantasy draft, imported rosters, and the ability to relocate teams outside of cities already programmed into the game, Custom Leagues leaves much to be desired from those who want a true online franchise experience.
March to October
Building off its debut last year, March to October adds the ability of beginner and dynamic difficulty assuring the right amount of challenge for new users. With an all-new high leverage index factor system, players will be immediately put into new key situations. This year for March to October Sony wanted to provide its players experiences that have immediate, big, and exciting real-life MLB moments.
Fans will appreciate that all the new MLB rule changes…
With the inclusion of the new trade management hub players will have more control over trades all throughout the season while also having the ability to roll their team into Franchise once their March to October campaign is over. A gated reward system also guarantees team affinity rewards throughout the entire season.
For that inner Billy Beane in all of us, Franchise Mode, a staple in MLB The Show makes its return with the addition of full minor league rosters. However, the mode in MLB The Show 20 once again did not undergo a lot of changes that hardcore players wanted such as create a stadium, better team budget system, editable managers, or a deeper interactive scouting mode, just to name a few.
Fans will appreciate that all the new offseason MLB rule changes like the three-batter minimum rule have been implemented. The waiver trade period has been removed as well.
Despite its lack of a deeper GM experience the implementation of full minor league rosters should hold players over another year when the possibility of stronger consoles like the PS5 and X Box Series X will have enough power to facilitate deeper gameplay innovation.
Road to the Show
Road to friendship, at least that’s what Road to The Show feels like in MLB The Show 20 as Sony has placed greater emphasis on the dynamics and inner workings of relationships between your created player and his teammates. The goal throughout your entire career is to move from unfamiliar relationships with teammates to becoming friends and ultimately brothers.
Establishing relationships with teammates is a slow grind as many of your interactions with teammates that result in marginal friendship boosts happen off the field. Those who don’t mind playing each game of every season will not be bothered by this; however, those who want to get called up fast to big leagues and utilize better perks and boosts from teammates will be in for a slow grind as friendships do not come fast.
For the first time in Road to The Show attribute changes can be seen in real-time as opposed to once the game is finished. Dynamic challenges and boosts complement this new feature as players can receive instant gratification from successfully accomplishing various scenarios. Boss battles in Road to The Show provide the opportunity for item rewards. Finally, four new equipment sponsors have joined with Jordan brand making its debut.
Carried over from last year, Dan Plesac, Mark Derosa, Matt Vasgersian along with Heidi Watney fill out the play by play commentary. Graphical detail has always been the strong suit of MLB The Show over the past three years and this year is no different. With hundreds of new animations added this year along with stadium upgrades, card art overlays, and greater fan noise in high leverage situations, MLB The Show 20 shows no signs of graphically going backward.
With the full implementation of minor league rosters, the return of online custom leagues, and offensive and defensive changes geared more towards user skill MLB The Show 20 is poised to make its claim once again as the best baseball game available today.
*NOTE: SGO was given a copy of MLB The Show 20 for the purposes of this review.
MLB The Show 20 once again demonstrates why the series has been the award-winning PlayStation exclusive for all things Major League Baseball for the past 15 years.