This is a game I’d have paid good money to bet against to have never existed. 10 years ago, if somebody told me that one of Sony’s first party studios would be releasing a multiplatform game, I’d have laughed my ass off and then walked away from you. Yet here we are in 2021 and MLB The Show 21 is out on both hardcore consoles.
While not a hardcore fan of baseball (hell I don’t sports in general), I do appreciate the sport. Much more so than I appreciate football and its massively overpaid players. That’s kind of weird, especially for an Asian who doesn’t have any baseball playing experience (unless you count playing softball as baseball).
…but that’s neither here nor there.
Point is, when I realized MLB The Show 21 was coming, I practically begged Sony for a review code! They came through of course (thanks Sony!), so here’s the review!
What is MLB The Show 21?
MLB The Show 21 is a baseball game developed by Sony’s San Diego Studio.
It’s published by SIE and is available for the Playstation 4 and Playstation 5, as well as the Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles. It’s fully licensed by the MLB (America’s Major League Baseball), which means it features real players from the league.
This review is based off the Playstation 5 version of the game.
There are a couple of main modes to the game but I reckon the most time you’ll spend in the game will be in The Road to the Show and Diamond Dynasty modes.
The Main Modes
The Road to the Show is MLB The Show 2021’s version of a career mode. It’s not as cinematic as EA’s FIFA career modes but it does have a ton of choices and decisions you can make to better flesh out your experience. For example, early on you’re asked if you want to pitch and hit or just focus on one position. I really like that they integrate that into the mode itself instead of just presenting it as an option you pick when you’re creating your character.
On the field, you’re constantly being updated on the progress of your character with small icons that pop up after every play to show if you’ve improved in a skill. It’s non-intrusive and is a nice reminder that you’re constantly getting better as you play. Conversely, perform like crap and you can actually see your stats steadily go down. Given a chance though, I’d have preferred not to be punished (especially in the early game when your stats are low) because at times it’s unavoidable due to circumstances out of your control.
Playing in this mode means you’re only focusing only on one player (yourself), so games don’t really last long unless the AI coach decides to keep you playing. If you’re playing badly though, chances are he’ll substitute you out. Sometimes that’s disappointing, since you’d want the chance to help out your team if you’re trailing.
The other mode, Diamond Dynasty is pretty much’s EA’s Ultimate Team modes from their sports titles. In the mode, you create your own custom team with player cards of various ranks, buy card packs to get better players and challenge other teams. Rinse and repeat.
While I like the premise, like Ultimate Team, it’s basically a grind to make your team competitive.
Unless you’re hardcore (and I’m not), this mode probably won’t appeal to you, especially if you’re into short games. The mode is fine (after all it’s still MLB The Show) but you need to play a ton to get enough in-game currency to purchase packs. There are challenges to help, which reward currency to buy packs with, but they’re doled out stingily.
Online play is passable though I seem to have an issue staying connected. I don’t know if it’s the game’s servers or just me (nah it’s not me), but I keep getting kicked out of games or getting errors getting connected to the game’s servers. Sometimes, it even fails to get the latest update, which requires me to retry again and again till the game connects.
Not That Impressive
Having played the previous instalment of MLB The Show, the new version didn’t really blow me away…at least visually.
Though the faster loading times on the PS5 are much appreciated, the visuals don’t really seem that much of a step up from previous iterations of the series on the Playstation 4. In fact, for a Playstation 5 title, the visuals (particularly the character models) look a bit basic, and the textures for uniforms could do with more details.
That doesn’t detract much from the game; this is still the MLB The Show you know and love. The TV style presentation adds a ton to the atmosphere, though it still could go some ways to really feel truly like a broadcast, or like 2K’s NBA games. Gameplay aside, 2K’s NBA games look like they ripped right out of what you see on TV with their snazzy visuals during their presentations.
MLB The Show’s talking heads are nowhere near enough and make the game seem like an indie offering instead of a AAA effort from a great studio.
As for the gameplay, the myriad of playstyles return once more, allowing you to pitch, bat and field with pretty much any style you want. I’d also have preferred if they’d go one step more and enhanced batting.
As ever (at least until I get used to the game again), picking the right moment to hit an upcoming ball is pretty damn tough. Perhaps an optional toggle to outline the ball that shows the optimal time to swing the bat can be added for casuals and newbies?
I’d LOVE the feature and I know for a fact others would love too!
That missing feature aside, MLB The Show 2021 is still as fun to play as any other instalment of the series. Whether you’re at bat, on the mound or waaaaaay out in the outfield waiting for the ball, the game is just plain fun. I personally prefer to pitch and the pinpoint pitching mode is awesome to nail shots accurately.
I also have to point out that the customization options for the game’s pretty limited, at least when it comes to personalizing your character experience. You can customize songs to play when your player goes up to bat or pitch or whatever but the game only lets you use clips from the official soundtrack. You can see where I’m coming from right? I have zero love for the songs included in the game so picking a few to use with my player is agonizing!
Unfortunately, I don’t really see this getting a fix. It’s probably a copyright nightmare if anybody’s able to use custom music for their character.
The Bottom Line
There aren’t many baseball games these days, which is all the more reason MLB The Show 2021 is a godsend. It’s a great representation of the sport! With its wealth of customization options, it can cater to nearly every playstyle, from the hardcore to the casual. I had no issue getting back into the game after a hiatus because everything is so damn intuitive!
Of course, the game isn’t perfect. The Diamond Dynasty mode is too much of a grind and time sink for me, and the visuals could definitely use an overhaul. This isn’t the Playstation 4 anymore guys, and MLB The Show needs to up its game to look like a PS5 title!
I’m damn optimistic this is the last time I’ll be complaining about the visuals though.
I honestly believe that next year’s installment will look much better as the developers not only get the hang of the PS5, but hopefully also get to focus only on ONE version of the game so as to deliver the best possible version. I guess we’ll just see next year if this proves true.
- Solid gameplay
- Fast loading
- The Road to the Show mode
- Tons of gameplay customization options
- Dated visuals
- Diamond Dynasty mode too grind-heavy
- Soundtrack is lacking