MLB The Show 22 review – Shotime shines in step forward for series
MLB The Show 22 delivers an excellent rendition of America’s favorite pastime with crisp gameplay and beautiful graphics, but there aren’t enough improvements here that revolutionize the franchise.
Since way back in 2006, MLB The Show has served as San Diego Studio’s yearly baseball title, each year sporting a new cover athlete and a handful of upgrades.
With MLB The Show 22, SDS delivers a stylish new entry into the franchise that will satisfy its annual customers and wow newcomers with gorgeous visuals and gameplay.
MLB The Show 22 key details
- Price: PS5 / Xbox Series X $69.99, PS4/Xbox One/Switch $59.99
- Developer: San Diego Studio
- Release Date: April 5, 2022
- Platforms: PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch
MLB The Show 22 Trailer
Baseball is back, and it’s beautiful
MLB The Show 22 was nearly the only real baseball we got in 2022. An owner-led lockout delayed most of the league’s offseason, leaving many fans worried about if there would be a shortened season, or no season at all. Thankfully, on March 20, a deal was struck and Opening Day was only to be delayed one week with no games to be missed at all.
What jumps out as MLB The Show 22’s biggest strength is what would’ve been missed most if there was a full-on lockout: baseball’s presentation. Recreations of new and old stadiums are handled with care. Modern and throwback baseball stars seamlessly blend together as their batting stances and pitch deliveries are remade with laser accuracy which brings their personalities to life. All of what makes baseball a time-honored tradition is what San Diego Studio has honed in on, and it shows.
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Annual sports titles are always marked by their gameplay, and The Show 22 absolutely delivers. There are no complete system reworks here, however, as SDS delivers its typical pitching and hitting systems like in years past, only adding minor upgrades. What is fantastic gameplay-wise is fielding, as defense feels more important than ever.
New fielding animations bring a noticeable difference and create incredible game-swinging moments. In previous years fielding felt like a somewhat boring obligation, but this year, it’s a blast to set up a flashy double-play or tag someone out at home from a canon throw from the outfield. Another point of appreciation comes from the Difficulty settings, as two new settings have been added in Amateur and Minors which help new players get adjusted.
With that being said, easily the best Difficulty feature The Show delivers on is Dynamic Difficulty. This adjusts game difficulty based on player performance, unshackling you from the rigidity of specific Difficulty settings.
Offline really is where The Show 22 shines, as online hiccups continue to be a problem for the franchise. Disconnecting from an opponent is a regular occurrence, a bummer considering baseball is all about timing your pitches and swings for perfect accuracy. Introducing crossplay is a fantastic addition, but the overall experience online is that of just hoping your game isn’t dragged down by lag or interrupted entirely.
This year’s The Show departs from Matt Vasgersian, the game’s announcer for the last 16 years, replaced by Jon “Boog” Sciambi and Chris Singleton. The pair might not have the audio catalog of over 15 sound bites, but they offer great play-by-play commentary and absolutely get the job done.
Along with the new pair of commentators is smaller features that give the game an edge: New York radio legend Chris “Mad Dog” Russo pops in after your player gets drafted in Road To The Show to shout about how you’re an overrated prospect. MLB legend and former The Show cover athlete Ken Griffey Jr hops on the RTTS broadcast to talk about what it takes to not only make it to the majors but to have long-term success. Little additions like these are small additions that gave the game character.
Shohei Ohtani is this year’s cover athlete, and the game offers a decided effort to make him the star of the show. The Japanese superstar’s unique skillset, being both a hitter and a pitcher, was made the focus of The Show 22 as tons of additions were made to highlight 2-Way players, something the MLB hasn’t seen in generations.
In years past, Ohtani offered San Diego Studio a massive headache. The Show wasn’t designed to be able to handle a player that was both a hitter and a pitcher, as stamina bars wouldn’t recoup correctly on off days. Now, they’ve finally fixed the stamina issue so that Two-Way players, like Ohtani, can be used correctly in all game modes.
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Legendary Japanese illustrator Takashi Okazaki was tapped to create the game’s Collector’s Edition cover art, as well as the card art for five Legendary Diamond Dynasty cards, all of which are incredible. Players can choose one of the five cards upon pack opening, and then collect the other four from the marketplace. Each player sports an 88 overall and serves as both a great and stylish way to get your Diamond Dynasty team rolling. Sadly, the prize for completing the Okazaki collection of cards in Diamond Dynasty is a measly single pack of cards.
For newcomers to the series, Diamond Dynasty serves as The Show’s version of Ultimate Team. It allows players to build a roster of player cards, current and old, collecting players by either grinding for “Stubs” and XP for free rewards – or buying them with real money from the shop.
Diamond Dynasty returns
Diamond Dynasty has built a solid reputation over the years for not requiring players to spend copious amounts of money to improve their team compared to its contemporaries like EA SPORTS’ Ultimate Team. And while there are avenues to build a great team without dropping a dime, this year it feels harder to do so.
The Show 22 has moved away from Team Affinity and now uses the new Faces of the Franchise Program, the main avenue for players to earn rewards by simply playing and earning XP within a limited time frame. While it is a consolidated way for players to earn rewards, specific rewards aren’t guaranteed: Each MLB team has one Face of the Franchise 90 overall card that can be obtained through advancing in the program.
Yet, you cannot choose which card you get upon advancing through milestones, meaning if you’re a Red Sox fan, and you get a Yankee card, then tough luck.
The randomness of the rewards, coupled with the high amount of XP required for each milestone, makes it harder to be a fully free-to-play Diamond Dynasty player. Not all hope is lost, however, as the Faces of the Franchise Program at launch won’t be the same program one month from now, and San Diego Studio will hopefully listen to players and allow some sort of player choice to go into future rewards.
My favorite mode in all sporting game titles is Franchise mode. I love taking over a team and handling their roster moves, seeing if I can turn bad teams into title contenders. For MLB The Show 22, there were a handful of additions announced before launch that had me excited to dive in, like improving trade logic systems to create more realistic outcomes and more options for player contracts. It also made a point for rebuilding teams to not cough up players under long-term cheap contracts or to take on bloated salaries.
While the improvements are somewhat noticeable, I ran into hiccups along the way. Teams were seemingly trading away franchise players at the drop of a hat for low-grade prospects, and top-tier free agents, like Aaron Judge, who signed with the Oakland Athletics. It’s more likely we discover an entire alien race than Judge is to sign with the A’s, a team that’s entire player payroll was less than a single year of his salary. Franchise mode is still fun for the fantasy of taking over your favorite team, but it remains light years away from that of its contemporaries like Out of the Park Baseball.
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March to October, Franchise mode’s alternative where players only take over big moments during the MLB season, has a handful of changes to make it more appealing. The Show 22 allows March to October to play out over multiple seasons, making it not just a one-and-done experience. As well as adding in free agency, March to October is now a much more formidable choice for players who don’t want to go through the entire MLB calendar like in basic Franchise mode.
Road To The Show, the game’s single-player experience, is back feeling mostly the same as years past. New player archetypes allow you to create more specifically the player type you desire, which is a solid addition. Outside of serving as a solid avenue to grind XP for The Show’s Face of the Franchise rewards program, Road To The Show doesn’t specifically stand out in any meaningful way and is mostly forgettable. If there is one game mode San Diego Studio should look at a full revamp for future titles, this is easily it.
MLB The Show 22 is a solid entry in the long-running baseball franchise. This year’s approach caters to its fanbase by improving upon what it’s good at while helping new players discover the magic of baseball.
Despite encouraging players to spend more than in years past, Diamond Dynasty is still a game excellent mode that is a real highlight for the baseball sim that provides an unbelievable amount of replayability.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5.