With the signing of a new collective bargaining agreement, baseball is officially back, and that means it is time for another installment of the popular MLB The Show series. Coming off a year that saw the series expand to other consoles for the first time, San Diego Studios is again introducing their game to a new console, the Nintendo Switch.
Though MLB The Show 21 was viewed by most to be a thorough success, technical issues, and a bevy of complaints from fans of all game modes have put SDS in a position where they needed to deliver on community requested updates and fixes. Have they pulled it off, or is the series getting down to its final strike? Let’s find out as we take a look at MLB The Show 22.
The gameplay of MLB The Show has always been among the most authentic of any major sports game on the market. This is no different this year, as the on-field gameplay continues to feel authentic to what you see in real life.
Two new difficulties have been added, Amateur and Minors. These are set below Rookie and hope to give new players a gradual climb as they get used to the mechanics of the game. A new hitting interface, Timing, offers another chance for new players to get used to the game before challenging themselves with the more advanced settings.
Besides these changes, not much has changed with hitting and pitching. The main change to hitting is with zone hitting, the PCI will now shrink as you move it towards the edges of the strike zone. This means it will now be harder for players to hit pitches far outside the zone. Similarly, the accuracy of pitches will now be affected more by their positioning. Breaking balls high in the zone will now be less accurate in general. This helps promote pitching strategies similar to what we see in real life.
In the field, player skill is now more important than ever. The perfect throw mechanic is now extended to all bases. Now, if you can hit the right spot in the meter, you will place your throw in the perfect spot for your teammate to make the tag on a baserunner.
With its wide range of difficulties and gameplay settings, MLB The Show 22 continues to allow players to find the perfect balance between a competitive challenge and a leisurely pastime. Somehow it manages to do this while still maintaining its authenticity to the license it bears. When it comes to gameplay in AAA sports games, MLB The Show is unrivaled.
Just like its gameplay options, MLB The Show 22 also offers an impressive assortment of game modes. This large number of modes also compliments the idea of letting players choose how they want to play, either single or multiplayer. The four main modes in the game remain Road to the Show, Diamond Dynasty, March to October, and Franchise.
As usual, Diamond Dynasty received the most significant updates this year. Beyond the new live content that will fill the mode throughout the MLB season, Diamond Dynasty has a lot of new content to offer players. A brand-new single-player mode, Mini Seasons, allows offline players to take their squad up against CPU teams in 28 game seasons. Players can earn significant rewards by making the postseason and winning multiple Mini Seasons championships.
[penci_blockquote style=”style-1″ align=”left” author=””]It is hard for fans of Franchise mode to feel like they are important to SDS[/penci_blockquote]
Several other modes in Diamond Dynasty received quality of life updates like increased sim speed in Conquest and saving lineups in Events. Multiplayer modes have also been adjusted to now give players that may not be the most competitive a chance to earn the great rewards these modes offer. Changes like this are why Diamond Dynasty has the reputation as the best card-collecting mode in sports gaming in terms of allowing players to earn the best items without spending extra money.
One change, however, that has fans questioning that reputation is the introduction of Featured Programs. This new feature takes Team Affinity and Inning Programs from MLB The Show 21 and condenses them. The only thing being condensed, it seems, is the rewards. In the first Featured Program, players can only earn 12 of the 30 bosses in the program through gameplay, and 6 of those 12 are randomly selected. While the rewards seem to have been condensed, the grind has not. To earn those 12 bosses, players will need to earn over 400,000 XP in less than a month, a tall task for sure. While it is possible players will have the chance later on to earn these bosses through gameplay again, this still feels like a slippery slope that SDS needs to be careful about going down. Otherwise, they risk their good reputation going the way Madden and NBA 2k.
It is hard for fans of Franchise mode to feel like they are important to SDS with the little number of additions to the mode in the last few years. This year appears no different, as the main change, this year is improvements to trade logic, which was supposed to be improved last year… and the year before that. Now early on with the game, I still saw awful trades where big-name players like Juan Soto and Jazz Chisholm Jr. were being traded away for pennies on the dollar. However, a patch during the early access period seems to have fixed this problem. In my simulations after the patch, I see far fewer lopsided trades and more trades where teams are trying to find that one last piece before a title run.
Other updates to the mode include some changes to reflect the new CBA that was recently signed. Things like universal DH and extra innings runner, which were already options in the game, are now default. Contract and budget restrictions have also been updated based on the new CBA. However, the 12-team expanded playoff is still absent. It is hard to think that SDS won’t patch the new format at some point this year, as the agreement did only come a few short weeks ago. Just be aware that as of right now, the playoffs still reflect the old format.
Franchise mode’s younger cousin March to October returns with big new additions. The mode now lasts more than just one year, as players can choose to continue into the new offseason period in the mode. This seems promising at first until you realize you can only sign free agents during this offseason period. You are not able to re-sign your players unless you sign them as free agents. You cannot offer arbitration, make trades, or participate in the Rule 5 draft.
This theme of missing features seems to be constant throughout March to October and feels like it holds the mode back from being a true successor to Franchise mode. In March to October, there is no first-year player draft. There is also no way to view the calendar to give you a feel for how much is left in the season. My biggest gripe with the mode is that there is no option to skip certain situations you don’t feel like hopping into. I don’t want to load into a game in the bottom of the 9th with one out down two runs. I would rather skip that and move on. For what is supposed to be the streamlined version of Franchise mode, it feels like it takes longer to get through a season in March to October than it does simming with critical situations in Franchise mode.
After introducing two-way players in Road to the Show last year, MLB The Show 22 adds a few quality-of-life features to this mode as well. Players will now be able to create up to 10 ballplayers and will no longer be forced to start as a two-way player. However, the progression in Road to the Show still feels like a poor concept in general.
Even though Diamond Dynasty missions to progress your ballplayer were taken out, you can still only progress your attributes to 50 through gameplay. All the rest is determined by your archetype items, perks, and equipment. If you do decide to create a new ballplayer, you will start with all the items you already have unlocked. This means you can start a brand-new Road to the Show already with an 80+ overall player in the minor leagues if you have the right perks and equipment, which can be conveniently purchased in the marketplace. This hurts the replayability of the mode as it makes the grind of creating a ballplayer something you can only really do once per archetype.
In the presentation department, MLB The Show has been in desperate need of a makeover for a while now and boy did it get one. Though the MLB Network broadcast style is gone, MLB The Show 22 brings two brand new broadcast styles. The Show theme returns with upgraded graphics, and the new regional theme is specific to the home team. This makes you feel immersed as you see a unique style for each regional game. Meanwhile seeing The Show theme pop up makes you feel like you are going into a big primetime matchup. In modes like Road to the Show and Franchise, the new bottom line will give you updates from around your league, which helps increase the immersion you feel while playing.
The commentary was also revamped this year with a brand-new team. John “Boog” Sciambi and Chris Singleton are the new guys in the booth this year and the commentary does sound good. Often when I play games I do it on mute with YouTube or something else on in the background, but I took some time specifically to listen to this new team. There were a few moments where I heard lines be repeated or the enthusiasm on a home run wasn’t quite there, but overall, it was a good first year for the pair, and I look forward to seeing them continue in the role into the future.
Graphics-wise the game looks unchanged. I played this game on the Xbox Series S console, and player models look similar, if not identical, to how they did in MLB The Show 21. It still feels like the game is being held back by the technical limitations of previous generation consoles. It is unclear if or when the series will leave the older consoles behind, but it is clear that a graphical update is needed to push the game into the next generation.
Bugs and Technical Issues
MLB The Show 21 was plagued all year with server and technical issues, and sadly those seem to have returned with MLB The Show 22. It can still be difficult to connect to the servers, and at times, it is downright impossible. This worries me because when the game enters full release, there will be even more players trying to get online.
Now usually this would only affect online modes like Diamond Dynasty, but the integration of Road to the Show and March to October with Diamond Dynasty now requires servers to be working properly to get the most out of three of the four main modes. Players dealt with this issue up through the final days of MLB The Show 21, and the fact it still is not improved now is unavoidable. It does not matter how good the game is if server problems prevent people from playing it.
During the early access period of the game, there have been several bugs and issues with Diamond Dynasty. In the hours after release, players saw their marketplace orders vanish into thin air. They were not completed, did not show up in active orders, and did not return stubs to players. I saw almost 20,000 stubs worth of my orders just disappear entirely. However, a fix deployed by SDS was able to fix this problem for most players.
Several players have also reported not being rewarded wins within the Diamond Dynasty modes. Ranked Seasons, Mini Seasons, Battle Royale, and other modes are reportedly not rewarding wins to some players, although I have not encountered this issue myself. On top of this, blue-screening and freeze-offs have again been reported by players following a patch during the early access period.
Gameplay bugs have been few and far between. The only main bug I have encountered comes when player-locked with an outfielder, such as in Road to the Show. Sometimes when a ball is hit over my player’s head, I will be automatically sucked in towards the infield, making an already difficult play downright impossible.
MLB The Show 22 Review Verdict
Coming off one of the best-selling iterations in the series’ history, MLB The Show 22 seems to take the if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it approach this year. San Diego Studios seems to have taken the biggest gripes of the community and focused on fixing as many of those as possible, which they should be commended for.
Gameplay is just as impressive and enjoyable as ever. The wide range of modes and options makes recommending this game to new players very easy. The new presentation and commentary have brought a much-needed breath of fresh air into the game.
That being said, there are still some problems that detract from the overall experience. Server and technical issues, as well as minimal new features to modes like Road to the Show and Franchise, could make some feel like this game is MLB The Show 21.5.
I feel there are enough improvements here to get old and new players excited for this year’s version of the game. I also feel like SDS needs to get creative with new features soon if they don’t want the series to get stale.
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