MLB The Show 22 flashes the leather, but needs to confront a few issues off the field – Review

Sony has thrown another MLB The Show at us for 2022, but did it smash a home run?

MLB The Show 22

Image via San Diego Studio

It’s spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means warm weather and — if you’re in the United States — baseball season. Every spring, Sony San Diego Studios servers up a simulation baseball game that attempts to replicate the Major League baseball experience. That is no different for this year, as SDS has officially released MLB The Show 22 for Xbox, PlayStation, and, for the first time, the Nintendo Switch.

But how does this year’s game feel? SDS touted a number of new additions to MLB The Show, and those additions do make the game feel a bit more fresh. Still, users who have been looking for a major shake-up might be a bit disappointed by what’s here for 2022.

Back to the field

Image via San Diego Studios

MLB The Show 22’s gameplay engine is, by and large, very similar to 21. The PCI and its layout from The Show 20 & 21, as well as Pinpoint Pitching are among the features to return for this year’s title. In fact, it doesn’t seem like much in The Show has changed at all at first glance. But, a deeper look does reveal some positive changes.

For one, late timing does result in a higher success rate of getting base hits. Last year, a lot of balls with late timing were either weak fly balls, or grounders that were destined to be outs. On the other hand, early timing had a much better chance of resulting in a base hit. This imbalance has seemingly been fixed. Balls hit with late timing now seem to have a much better chance of getting past the defense for base hits. 

This was intended by SDS, at least based on what the development team said during the promotion of the title. However, the devs stated that this would only really have an effect on pitches hit on the outer half of plate. But based on my observations thus far, late timing on pitches have also seen more success than last season.

Additionally, the PCI Anchor now gives users a bit more added control to the Plate Coverage Indicator. For those unaware, this new feature allows users to have the hitting cursor set to one of nine pre-set locations on the strike zone, rather than just being set at the default in the middle of the strike zone.

Personally, I look at this feature as a big bonus. Last year, I had some difficulty — especially with the Xbox Series X — pinpointing the right spot for the PCI at times. Boy, that was frustrating to say the least. This year, at least I — as well as everyone else who plays MLB The Show— will be able to pick where the PCI starts out at the zone. This should (hopefully) take care of that issue to some degree.

Now, would I say these changes are ground-breaking? No, but not many big changes were needed to begin with. A lot of the problems that MLB The Show 21 had, such as contact swing spams and the easiness of attaining a Perfect-Perfect in Pinpoint Pitching, were patched throughout the year. Minor tweaks for MLB The Show’s gameplay engine might not sound sexy, but avid players, and the newcomers, should appreciate at least some of the changes that make the quality of play a lot smoother, but more challenging as well.

Get your Ballplayers out there

Image via San Diego Studios

Road to the Show is also back for MLB The Show 22, and this is a rather pivotal year for the mode. Last year, RTTS was plagued with a variety of problems that made things just a little bit annoying for committed players of the Road. Users needed to play Diamond Dynasty in order to complete Ballplayer-specific Missions and unlock Perks. While it did add another purpose to Diamond Dynasty, it made for a very odd dynamic, especially for those who only wanted to play Road to the Show. Additionally, players could only create one specific avatar, entitled Ballplayer, per profile. 

MLB The Show 22 sees the addition of new features that does alleviate some of the problems from the past. New Ballplayer slots now allow users to make up to 10 unique avatars that can be used across Road to the Show and Diamond Dynasty. Archetype programs are back from 21, but Missions only can be completed in Road to the Show. Diamond Dynasty has been cut out, but some other issues linger from last year.

Road to the Show missions, despite not being in Diamond Dynasty, still require an online connection in order to be completed. On the surface, that doesn’t sound odd, especially since other career modes in sports games require the same. But, The Show is now on the go thanks to the fact that it is now on the Nintendo Switch. If you were planning on getting in some RTTS game out and about, or during a server maintenance, be prepared to make no progress on the missions. 

On top of that, Road to the Show looks and feels just about the same as 21 from a presentation point of view. Aside from new cutscenes that feature MLB journalists, former MLB players, and commentators talking about your career, pretty much everything else, ranging from the UI and coach & agent conversations, are holdovers from past games.

A fresh coat of paint for Diamond Dynasty, or…

Image via San Diego Studios

MLB The Show’s collectible card game (CCG), Diamond Dynasty, has been a change of pace from other CCGs that can be found in other sports games. Virtual currency, new cards, and cosmetics can all be easily obtained just from playing online and offline play, and I’m not talking about items that only have use in lower tiers of the game. SDS has become quite liberal in recent years when it comes to handing out meta-breaking cards for nothing, a stark contrast from the likes of Madden and NBA 2K.

Diamond Dynasty is just about the same for MLB The Show 22. Inning Programs have been abolished, as has Team Affinity. Instead, SDS has installed Featured Programs, which are just about the same as compared to Inning Programs. These programs feature boss cards, as well as other rewards like packs and Stubs. The number of bosses will fluctuate during each period. So, be prepared for that change.

Mini Seasons does offer another option for the grind. Users can partake in this mode, and play against user-created roster in order to acquire more Stubs and packs. Plus, other game modes like Battle Royale, Events, and Conquests are all back for MLB The Show 22.

Outside of the addition of Mini Seasons, everything here looks and feels a lot like 21. That’s not all that bad, provided that SDS continues along its path of avoiding promoting microtransactions to all.

Add some friends to The Show

Image via San Diego Studios

I can’t neglect arguably the biggest addition to MLB The Show 22: co-op play. Users can now team up in squads of two or three, and compete against other squads in either online play using MLB teams, or in Diamond Dynasty. This new system, much like the other online modes in The Show, utilizes crossplay. So, players from different platforms can get together and team with one another.

It’s understandable as to why this feature hasn’t been in MLB games of the past. After all, baseball does have a lot of exciting moments. But, the sport is not like hockey or basketball where everyone is always involved. Baseball, especially for outfielders and infielders, does contain a lot of time that consists of waiting for the action to come to you, as opposed to moving in on the play. The way SDS incorporated co-op into The Show does work quite well, since users share the responsibilities of managing the infield, outfield, and the pitchers. 

The verdict

Image via San Diego Studios

This game is hard to grade for a few reasons. One, there are glitches that need to be fixed. Lineup cards at matchup screens show incorrect players, announcer VO lines play at the wrong time, and as usual, there are server problems. However, those aren’t gamebreaking.

Second, though, this title does feel very much the same as compared to 21. Road to the Show features very minimal additions, outside of those cutscenes mentioned previously. Diamond Dynasty, for the most part, is also the same, The most impactful changes made to MLB The Show were quality-of-life changes and gameplay tweaks. Those do help, but it’s very difficult to recommend paying the full $70 for this game, just due to the fact that little has changed.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t play MLB The Show 22. I happen to enjoy this year’s title, as a lot of those changes make the title a bit more challenging. But if you were looking for innovations to shake up the franchise, those just aren’t here. 

Final Score:

7 / 10

+PCI Anchor and gameplay tweaks make for more variation, and gameplay is easier to navigate
+Diamond Dynasty sticks to its successful formula
+Co-op brings multiple people into the action
Road to the Show, a mode that could use more than a few changes, feels just a bit too similar to 21
Other games modes remain basically unchanged