The baseball season just got underway in the United States, and as always, the annual release of MLB The Show follows closely. New for this year on the other hand, is that the game is also coming for the Xbox consoles, after being a PlayStation exclusive for its entire 15 year lifetime.
While baseball is a minor sport in most European countries, the videogames have grown in popularity more than the sport the last few years. Much of it has to do with the presentation MLB The Show has given us, and visually MLB The Show 21 is no setback from earlier releases. The leap from previous generation consoles to today's consoles is not as big as before, but it still looks great, and with one hundred new animations we still see new stuff.
Unlike many sports games, San Diego Studios has given the players new content every year that has been well received. The amount of content available in these games are way beyond what we are used to from franchises like FIFA and, the later years, the Madden-series. And, for us Europeans, they have focused even more on single player/offline game modes this year, which makes connection issues less of a problem for completing tasks. Where you had to do certain online tasks last year, with the big risk of a delayed connection that comes with facing players overseas, you can now do most of the objectives in the game in single player modes.
A huge part of the game is the Diamond Dynasty mode, which is the equivalent to EA's Ultimate Team. The biggest difference between MLB The Show and Ultimate Team for EA is that it is a lot easier to create a good team without having to spend your hard-earned money. With a mountain of content for unlocking cards, virtual currency (stubs) and challenges, you will not have a problem building a competitive team without having to turn to microtransactions. And, if you were to spend actual money to buy stubs, you can use them directly to buy the players you want without having to rely on pack luck. This is, and has always been, one of the most popular features of the franchise.
There is not a lot of new game modes and other features in this edition of the game versus last year, but one thing they have added (for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S only) is the new stadium builder. To be able to build your own stadium from scratch in a very detailed manner makes the experience a lot more personal, and I am sure this function will only be improved over time with more design elements available.
In terms of gameplay, the biggest addition is the introduction of pinpoint pitching. As the name indicates, it makes for pitching to be a lot more accurate, given that you are able to handle the technique which takes some getting used to. The mechanics are similar to what you find in 2K's PGA game, where you have to be very precise with the analogue stick to make a good pitch. I am definitely not a great baseball player, but with my experience from PGA, the pinpoint pitching was actually something that came to me pretty quick. Now if I only could see the ball better when batting...
MLB The Show is no setback from the previous iterations of the franchise, and even with some server issues to start the early access period, things are looking good for the state of the game. A lot of the fanbase is afraid that a day one patch will ruin some of it as it 'always does', but even with some minor hiccups, this is without a doubt the greatest baseball game you can get your hands on at this point. When you take into consideration that it is included in Xbox Game Pass from day one, there is no reason not to try it if you subscribe to the service. You might be surprised. Even if you are not a fan of baseball, you could find yourself liking this video game.