Game review: MLB The Show 21

John Watson, Sports Editor

Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the crowd. The sights and sounds from America’s 32 MLB ballparks set the stage for this year’s edition of MLB The Show. While many PlayStation users have enjoyed this franchise for years, the 2021 edition has brought new fans as they’ve expanded to XBOX compatibility.

 MLB The Show has been out since April 20 and has been met with rave reviews from the gaming community (@MLBTheShow on Twitter)

With Fernando Tatis Jr. on the cover, it is no surprise that the game is making itself more marketable towards the younger audience. Hip new graphics and a rising superstar heading the brand have made this year’s edition a hot commodity and one of the hottest games of 2021. With that being said, there are some home runs the developers got right and some foul balls that have missed the mark so far.

The presentation

This game does a great job of using current trends and styles to present itself to the video game audience. Up there with professional golf, the MLB has one of the highest fan age averages among major sports at 57 years old in 2016. The usual person who plays a video game is around their teenage years and has grown up on games like Call of Duty and fast-paced eye-catching games. Baseball is a very slow sport.

Games in the MLB are likely going to be around three and a half hours long, and there is no timer that shows when the end of the game is coming up. Innings can last from 3 minutes to 30 minutes and can feel like a chess match sometimes. Luckily, there are ways to make baseball shorter and more enjoyable for video game lovers. The different modes that MLB The Show has been refreshing as gamers aren’t just stuck to the long nine-inning games.

By creating these shorter modes like Road to The Show and Diamond Dynasty, the developers have been able to make baseball younger. If someone is more of a traditionalist… like me, then they can still play the nine-inning games and have complete control over players, rosters, and even the way you flip your bat after hitting a 446-foot walk-off moonshot off of Aroldis Chapman.

One last thing for the presentation is the user interface. At points, it does feel overwhelming and cluttered, but everything is presented on screen. While sometimes I feel like I’m going all over the menus looking for a simple task, I’ll usually find it eventually. Other than that, all screens feel like they have good intentions behind them and are all suited to make it a visually appealing experience.

The gameplay

MLB the show is a very touchy game in regards to its gameplay. One moment you’re trying to throw a guy out at third, and next thing you know, you just threw the ball into section f of the bleachers. Having played this game for two weeks now, the learning curve has been monumental. The game has a quick tutorial that you go through, but it hardly prepares you for the in-game situations you run into. That could be better.

The graphics look phenomenal, and the game runs smoothly on your console. On multiplayer, the quality isn’t as bad as other sports games, which has been good so far. A thing that has bugged players has been the CPU’s player movement and exaggerated reaction times on specific modes. In the moments mode, there has been a lot of whining going on in the community over blazing-fast reaction times and near-flawless decision making. Personally, I have yelled at my TV a few too many times over this as it has made this game mode quite frustrating. Playing this mode has become a nightmare.

Here’s an example of a moment that is quite exaggerated.

In online play, games get a little more fun as user error comes into play on an equal playing field. This has made me play a lot of online affairs, and I have found it is pretty fun. When I make a mistake, I might be a little mad, but I know that the person on the other side could easily make a mistake as well. The complicated nature of baseball has never been mastered fully, and that is a good thing.

Lastly, it’s good for the gameplay to see that they have put in so much time and effort to get down individual player movements, emotes, and even handshakes. The quality of the small things stand out, and I appreciate their commitment to being the best.

Road to The Show and Diamond Dynasty

Road to the Show and Diamond Dynasty are by far the two most popular game modes for this game, and there is a reason behind both. Road to the Show is your character rising the minor leagues and grinding from the bottom to the top. It’s fun for players who like a story-based game where they can control the difficulty and go at their own pace. Playing in the minor leagues is fun as you experience what most MLB players have gone through on their way to the big leagues.

 Play with minor league teams like the Jumbo Shrimp and the Blue Wahoos in the game mode Road To The Show Image:

One thing I would improve about RTTS is adding a little bit of online play. We’ve seen in games like 2K21 where your character can go to a park and play in pickup games that are action-packed and interesting. For MLB, it could be the same concept on a larger scale with two nine-person teams. I think adding that would be an exciting test down the road.

Diamond Dynasty is another game mode that is team-based and is also very fun. Players can draft a team using actual MLB players pulled from packs or bought off an in-game marketplace using virtual currency. The better the player, the more expensive he will be in the market. Utilizing this team, a player can play entire seasons, go to individual online games, and there’s always a need to improve your team.

The one thing Diamond Dynasty struggles with is its identity and which mode inside of it to play. While the multiple modes may appeal to players who want to jump around and be free, I find it quite confusing to find which mode I should stick to. Also, the use of microtransactions to buy virtual currency is something that makes the game less fair, and sometimes my team of 81 overall guys can’t compete with Joe Schmoe, who spent 200 dollars and has Babe Ruth batting in every spot.

Nevertheless, I’m still a fan of both game modes and love to hop in and compete against teams online or even the CPU

Final Thoughts

Playing baseball on a video game console will likely never be perfect, but this year’s installment of MLB The Show has brought a fresh look to America’s pastime. While some things in the game could be better, I’m 100 percent glad I bought this game and have enjoyed my time staring at pixels on a screen.

Spinnaker Star Rating: 4.675/5


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