MLB The Show has always been regarded as the definitive baseball video game series for ages, so we decided to review its latest title, MLB The Show 21 to see if it upholds that legacy.
MLB The Show 21 is the first entry in the franchise that is available on latest-gen consoles. It is also the first time the series has a title on Xbox consoles
This review of MLB The Show 21 was done on a PS5. As a result, gameplay features not available in previous-gen consoles will be noted. In addition, this review is more of a comparison between MLB The Show 20 with MLB The Show 21, as well as its improvements and changes.
You would expect to see stellar next-gen graphics on the PS5, but the game unfortunately looks like a PS4 game. Visually, the game looks identical to MLB The Show 20. Character models look dated, especially their faces. In particular, reporter Heidi Watney looks really off and distracting, bordering on the uncanny valley.
In addition, the environment also looks mainly the same. Dirt and grass still look flat. Lighting effects and shadows have some improvements, however.
Besides the environments, the game’s animations do look noticeably better and smoother than the previous generation. Fielders move a lot more in this game compared to the past and rarely do I feel that the AI-controlled characters are making dumb or questionable decisions. This leads to overall smoother gameplay, which is great.
In addition, another addition that current-gen consoles have over previous gens is the podcasts. In Road To The Show, current-gen consoles have actual real-life sports commentators speaking in podcasts while PS4 and Xbox One players only get to listen to audio versions of the podcasts. Watching recordings of real-life baseball commentators talking about your character really amps up the immersion.
Overall, the gameplay has improved all around. As mentioned previously, AI-controlled characters move more intuitively and perform much better. It is safe to say that the in-match AI is the best baseball AI to date.
Like the previous game, there are tonnes of options to tweak how you want to play each match. However, the newest option for pitching, Pinpoint Pitching, is a really in-depth gameplay mechanic that will challenge rookie and veteran players alike. Basically, players will need to try to match the pattern and speed displayed on the screen with their right analog stick. Different pitches like changeups or curveballs will require players to perform different patterns, like vertical motions and quarter circles. Pinpoint pitching is really difficult, but is extremely satisfying when pulled off properly.
In terms of gameplay modes, the game has basically everything a baseball fan would want in a baseball video game. Whether you want to relive historic baseball moments, lead a ballplayer to baseball stardom in Road To The Show or lead a team to success in Franchise, Diamond Dynasty and/or March To October mode, the game has you covered.
In particular, Road To The Show has received many improvements such as podcasts and loadouts. Finally, the player character is a two-way player. Unlike the past game, MLB The Show 21 finally gives players the freedom of playing the position they want at any time. No longer do players need to create an entirely new save file just to play a pitcher if their current Road To The Show character is a batter, for example.
The game’s other major modes also received many tiny improvements all around. Depth charts are available in Franchise and Diamond Dynasty. Furthermore, players can finally export their Road To The Show character to other modes, which is a fantastic edition that should have been in the game earlier.
Unfortunately for franchise mode fans, there is still no online franchise mode. Players will also be unable to carry over Road To The Show and franchise mode saves from the previous game, which is a bummer.
The image you see above summarises the fun I had from playing around with the Stadium Creator on MLB The Show 21 for this review.
The most requested feature by players, Stadium Creator, finally appears in MLB The Show. Sony San Diego Studio outdone themselves with this new feature. The Stadium Creator is really in-depth and has tonnes of customisation features. It feels like a different game itself, almost as if I am playing Parkitect or Planet Coaster, but a baseball stadium version of it.
Even outside the stadium, players can shape the environment in almost any way they want. Want to put a dinosaur? Sure. Want to put a huge skyscraper in the middle of the desert? Why not? It is easy to spend hours lost in creating the perfect (or funniest) stadium in this mode. However, do note that player-made stadiums will still need to adhere to certain restrictions for online play (i.e setting fences too high to prevent home runs is a no-no).
While Stadium Creator is amazing, there are still a few issues that do not make it perfect. First of all, player-created stadiums can only be played during the day. As to why we cannot play them during the night, we may never know. In addition, navigating through the menus and placing things around does feel a little clunky at first. Lastly, Stadium Creator is only available on next-gen consoles. For Xbox One and PS4 owners, you are out of luck.
On the PS5, the game runs smoothly with short load times. However, note that there is no option to set the frame rate to 120 FPS. This is not surprising as the game does need to ensure that online experience is stable, after all.
The game also features cross-platform multiplayer. Playing through a few online matches was a smooth experience for me with barely any lag. However, some players have reported server and matchmaking issues. Hopefully, this will be patched out soon enough.
MLB The Show 21 does make use of the Dualsense controller rather well. The haptic feedback whenever a player slides, makes a catch and bats a ball with perfect timing is very apparent. This greatly improves overall immersion.
Is MLB The Show 21 the best baseball game in the market right now? The answer is a definite yes. Furthermore, for Xbox Owners, MLB The Show 21 is a great entry point to the franchise and has so many gameplay modes and content that you will be spoilt for choice.
However, for PS4 owners, the game is not a major leap over MLB The Show 20. Sure, there are new features and improvements, but if you do not have a PS5 and still have MLB The Show 20, then getting this game is probably not that worth it. However, if you have a PS5 and want a baseball game or you are a competitive online player, then you may want to get the game.
Review Copy provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment
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MLB The Show 21
A diamond of a baseball game that has some unpolished edges, but a diamond nonetheless.
- Matches feel smoother thanks to improved AI
- Improvements to all gameplay modes
- Makes good use of Dualsense controllers’ haptic feedback
- Stadium Creator is a blast to play around with
- The game looks identical to its PS4 version
- Stadium Creator, its biggest new feature is not available on previous gen consoles.
Close to a home run