MLB The Show 22 is a savvy veteran, a game that continues to perform well on the field, despite some fashions feeling like they are falling behind. Developer Sony San Diego is once again finding new ways to capture the realism of the sport and add even more excitement to the already amazing batting and pitching battle. Given how much content there is here, not all modes got the attention we want, but Sony is making up for them with excellent new experiences.
Down at a race at the bottom of the ninth you are on the bench, unable to do anything but chew on your nails and cheer on your teammate at the plate. In the past years, at this moment, you would be in the dough box and swinging after the fences, but now it’s your friend’s turn. Even without wood in hand, it is surprisingly intense to sit in the excavation while your friend tries to knock one out of the park. This experience unfolds in a wonderfully designed collaborative mode within the Diamond Dynasty. Through this new way of playing, MLB The Show can beat the excitement of being on a team, giving you the chance to discuss strategies, perform battles and races together, and hopefully scream in celebration when your buddy crushes a walk-off home run.
Collaborative play is fun, but surprisingly sparse in matchmaking options, allowing for only 2v2 and 3v3 matchups within the desired pitching and fielding difficulty groups – that’s it. Since baseball is a nine-person game, it is disappointing that higher numbers of players are not supported, but the lower number creates more gameplay options for each player. I applaud Sony’s decision to switch bats from player to player, which means you can not send your best friend to the record in critical situations – it’s always who’s next in line. I also like how co-op games encourage spending time in other Diamond Dynasty modes to unlock better cards through card collecting, as the players on them are the ones you can send to the course.
Chasing elite diamond-ranked players is still a problem in the Diamond Dynasty, but I did not feel so strong about spending real money on buying packs of cards as much as I have done in years past. Most modes offer excellent rewards that help build the summary quickly. Most of the early recruits will be of the silver and gold variety, but you will get a few diamond-ranked stars early on.
Conquest continues to be a satisfying way to play for card collecting and leveling. The shortened format of this mode with three inputs is better than ever thanks to AI rebalancing. Conquest’s computer opponents are now setting up a strategic clinic, diving into the bullpen, using pinch runners, bunting runners over and pitches for double play. Balancing also affects your game as pitchers start to get tired much faster – sometimes comically, then after just a pitcher or two. These are welcome changes that remove some of the repetition in gameplay movements.
If you love the three-round format, Sony added another excellent mode for fast-paced play: The aptly named Mini Season delivers three-round, short-game games of 28 games that you can get through on a weekend. It’s an excellent addition that provides a good selection of rotating missions, but which can be a bit frustrating early in your show game, as the AI teams you meet replicate teams assembled by real Show players, which means that you can meet an entire diamond team while you are still sending out gold and silver players. I developed a fun routine of jumping between Mini Season and Conquest, a path that rewarded me with packs of cards and quick experience boosts for my rank and players.
As for the action on the field, MLB The Show 22 is once again a showpiece of iteration. Building on an already good foundation, Sony continues to find ways to tighten up the game, add more realism and reduce repetitive moments. Variation is featured in the new fielding animations for all types of hits, the way players load balls, and new homerun animations. It’s also easier to read pitch release points, and the ball has a bit more weight, which means you’ll see more realistic ground ball jumps and runways just outside the bat.
The feel of the game remains remarkably fluid, but do not be surprised if you go for more batteries than you have done in previous iterations. There is a more pronounced penalty for lack of precision, which causes the ball to sail out of the attack zone. As a pitcher runs out of gas, Sony will make you work in later rounds, and you’ll probably rely more on bullpen arms, a nice little way to stay on your toes and change things up.
While taking many steps forward, The Show 22 falls a little short in several areas. Repetition is a recurring theme in the comment box, consisting of two new voices: Jon Sciambi and Chris Singleton. They provide great insight into the sport and play well out of each other, but do not have near enough lines. If a switch hitter comes up, do not be surprised if he is called a unicorn because you do not see many of them anymore. I think I’ve heard this dialogue 50 times already.
Some modes also did not get much sophistication. Franchise status is largely unchanged, offering slightly customized trading block logic, payrolls based on 40-man lists, and budget and contract improvements. Road to the Show is a repeat of last year, but still delivers plenty of fun and the deeply connected gaming experience to the Diamond Dynasty.
Players looking for new meaty seasonal experiences will find them in the greatly improved March-October mode. When the focus shifts away from “win now”, you can take your team through several seasons, enjoy beautifully streamlined drafts and team building, and focus on the efforts of individual players. I was amazed at how much it scratched my Franchise state.
One week after launch, MLB The Show 22’s online performance is appalling, delivering periodic latency and hard crashes (sometimes without XP rewards). Online stability remains a major gap in MLB The Show’s annual turn. While the new Switch iteration offers all the content from the PlayStation and Xbox versions, it suffers from framerate stuttering and considerable graphical flicker. It’s still playable and fun, but does not carry the big timber from its console brothers and feels like it’s barely holding on.
MLB The Show 22 does not provide an all-star performance this year, but continues to be consistent in all gaming options and finds new ways to make you want to spend time on the ball field. Playing with friends in co-op games is the eye-catching feature if you can use it, but the game on the court and March to October also impresses.