A few weeks ago, the spring’s annual crack of bats was in doubt as MLB’s lockout pulled out. The players and the league eventually reached agreement and the season was a bit delayed but no matches will be lost. As of this writing, we are only a week from the first pitch being thrown on April 7th. Sony’s MLB The Show series usually hits a few weeks before the MLB season starts, but this year’s episode hits the streets just two days before April 5 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X / S, Xbox One and for the first time on Switch.
I just got my fingers in the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Switch versions and I will be updating this story over the course of the day and weekend with the first impressions of my time on the diamond. Sony says punching, pitching and fielding have been improved and the audio comments come from another team. Players can also dive into a new online collaborative mode and can expect improvements in all of the series’ core gameplay options, including Franchise, Road to the Show and Diamond Dynasty.
I begin my impressions with the PlayStation 5 version. The first thing you want to see is a short video of Shohei Ohtani reveals more of his path to baseball. Then for returning players, you will receive some rewards for coming back for another season. Here is what I received:
Before you reach the main menu, select your favorite team and then have the opportunity to go into a training game to choose which gameplay styles work for you. I recommend going through this process to get a handle on the gameplay again and figure out which pitching and batting systems you want to use.
The new online co-op mode is in front and in the middle of the main menu and invites players to play 2v2 or 3v3. This will be my first game track. You can see what this mode has to offer in the trailer below:
When you enter the Diamond Dynasty before you can see anything, you must first complete five missions. As always, the game gives you a standard team to work with. Here is my:
The first mission takes you to the New York Yankees at the bottom of the ninth. You are at the dish with runners on first and second. In my case, I managed to send the first pitch over the right field wall to win the game and complete the mission. I received two cards as a reward: one is Vinny Castilla (72).
Since people who pre-ordered the game get a four-day lead on playing, I had no trouble finding a teammate for my first collaborative game. We were very outcompeted in terms of lineup. Before the action starts, both players select a handful of cards from their collections that they need to use during the game (meaning you can use some legends that you never earn on your own). Our opponents must have opened a few packages to get Fernado Tatis Jr., Rickey Henderson, Joe Mauer, Giancarlo Stanton, and more overwhelming force in their lineup.
Matchmaking worked quickly, beating me up with my teammate in seconds and finding opponents within 30 to 40. As you might expect, in a 2-on-2 game, you and your teammate take turns. If someone gets on base, the player who does not hit becomes base runner. For the fielding pitcher, one player in an entire inning and also controls the pitcher and catcher for that entire inning, which means that this player handles steals and most bundles. The other players. Any player can enter the pause menu to activate the bullpen. If you fielder, your view is behind the pitcher until the ball is put into play – allowing you to get a good look at the pitch positions (you just can not see your teammate’s meters).
We experienced a bit of a delay in our game, but it was mostly slippery. We ended up getting 12 hits for their five, but two of their five were home runs. We left the bases filled twice in our nine-inding match. A scoring chance was crushed by a groundball that was hit up the middle in a shift. The final score was 2-0. We played our hearts out, but it was not enough.
The gameplay was nice and smooth, but I did not see much that was visually different than last year. That said, it’s still a hell of a game. Every fielding animation suited the moment, player speeds seemed right both on the base paths and in the field, and the pitching / batting battle was as exciting as ever. I like that you can see the PCI of your teammate to see how close they were to getting one.
The video above shows one of the packages I opened. I still have no 90-plus players, but I’m only 4,500 studs shy of a Big Dog package, which gives me a Diamond player who is rarely 90 overall and base 85-plus. I dig the card designers this year, especially those associated with the timed Faces of the Franchise program, which ends in 28 days. Faces of the Franchise features daily moments, featured program moments, Legends and Flashback missions, and one last boss showdown. XP for this kamppas-like path can also come from standard games, collections, and exchanges.
The only other program listed at launch gives you a Babe Ruth card at the end. This challenge simply requires you to complete a mini-season game and calculate a number of basic baseball achievements, such as to get five hits.
Diamond Dynasty’s menus and game options are again a bit overwhelming and difficult to understand at first glance, but provide plenty of exciting ways for players to earn rewards and spend plenty of time on.
I took a look at a few lists and they are all as current as you would hope. Carlos Correa is on the Minnesota Twins and Marcus Stroman has his Cubs’ needle stripes on. Beginners who move up from minors and out of the league like Seiya Suzuki are not yet in the game, and must first play five innings before they can be added (or be on any merchandise). With that in mind, it may be a good idea to postpone until the start of the real MLB season before starting Franchise mode or any list-based activity. The best road at this point is the Diamond Dynasty.
And now for some bad news: MLB The Show 22 is a graphic mess on the Switch. These impressions are performed on a Switch OLED in handheld mode. As far as I could see, all the content is the same as the Xbox and PlayStation iterations, but the game on the track has a hard time running and it gets lowered by both a rumbling frame rate and pronounced visual flicker. When the ball is put into play, I am often distracted by a graphic anomaly in the background, such as the top of the fence having a stroboscopic lighting effect when the texture jumps in and out. Fortunately, batting and pitching are not affected by significant frame rate drops – meaning it plays well – but the pitcher animation looks almost digitized. The most noticeable decreases in frame rate occur in emission moments, such as zooming in on the jug after an out.
As of this writing, I do not have any patches to download (and I do not know if there are any), but would like to note that I am currently unable to connect to the game’s servers. I can only play offline modes like Exhibition, Road to the Show and Franchise.
I will be playing more of the Switch version in the coming days, but will switch back to PlayStation 5 to dive deeper into Diamond Dynasty, Franchise Mode and Road to the Show. One thing I’m starting to notice by alternating between this and last year’s match is that the ball seems to have more weight now. It’s hard to say how much it affects the game, but getting weak wood on a ball feels a little different.
I’ve always been a fan of Diamond Dynasty’s shorter three-inding games, and the new Mini Seasons mode is the best implementation to date, offering great competition against CPU-controlled teams and great rewards. I’m 21 games inside my first season and I’m currently only one game over 0.500, but would still make it into the four-team playoffs if the season ended here. If I win the championship, I will receive an Evan Longoria card (89) as well as a diamond championship package.
On the court in these games, I see some clever fielding animations that add to the player’s momentum. CPU opponents with All-Star difficulty can still make flawless games more often than they probably should, but I see a fair number of bubbles, almost always for a player with a lower fielding rating. Overall, the game is nicely balanced and I feel like I see the right results for swing timing and at what angle I get in touch with the ball. Again, there seems to be more weight in it, giving grounders that are easier to read and more accurate paths away from the wall. Fielding was great last year, and this year’s edition is right there, maybe a little better through the new animations that Sony has sewn into the mix.
Collecting maps has also been rewarding and has provided a steady stream of maps for completed missions. Each Diamond Dynasty mode offers a variety of tasks, some of which can be completed within minutes if you are in the process of playing your game.
I still have not spent any time in Road to the Show, but messed around with Franchise mode. Aside from improved trading logic and options, I do not see much here that is different and I doubt I would be able to tell much as it has not been a big move for me in the last few installments.
On day six, I hope the servers hold up better so I can spend more time in multiplayer. I also want to dive into Conquet to see its rewards.