Each year as the winter chill begins to subside and the temperatures outside slowly begin creeping upwards, you can always count on baseball to be ready to roll in early spring. Well, maybe in most years this would be true, but for the 2022 Major League Baseball season, a cloud of uncertainty hung over the proceedings as the team owners locked out the players in a labor dispute. This dispute was ultimately settled sometime in March, but Opening Day had to be pushed back a bit and baseball fans had to once again sit through play stoppage following the 1993-1994 player strike. Enter Sony’s MLB The Show series, offering fans a welcome diversion from the endless nonsense surrounding the real-life game.
Maintaining the status quo
MLB The Show as it is known in its current form has been around since The Show 16 was released on PlayStation 4. In the time between that release and now, the series has enjoyed a run at the top of the professional sports simulation mountain. Where competitors such as Madden NFL and NBA 2K were writing the book on lackluster annual updates and losing focus on core modes, The Show managed to offer a better overall package. It felt more relevant to the sport it mimics and offered just about everything a baseball fan could want.
Last year, a huge announcement was made that SIE San Diego, the team behind The Show franchise, would be expanding development to platforms outside the Sony ecosystem. MLB The Show 21 launched for both PlayStation and Xbox consoles, expanding the total player base and offering millions of console owners a chance to play a legit MLB simulation. Due to a development cycle that landed in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and an expanded scope to include the series’ first foray out of the PlayStation universe, The Show 21 was largely the same as its predecessor but was easy to forgive on account of the new platforms and circumstances.
For the 2022 edition of the Show, the marquee feature would have to be expansion onto Nintendo’s Switch console. Much like Xbox owners last season, Switch fans finally get a full-blown professional baseball simulator. In the most surprising news, the Switch build of The Show 22 is mostly feature-complete compared to its bigger siblings. It does lack the Stadium Creation suite found in the PS5 and Series S|X versions and the visual presentation has loads of compromises, but SIE San Diego deserves a pat on the back for their maiden Switch outing. The handheld version even offers cross-play support with owners of the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game, but not with the newer consoles.
The rest of the changes and additions to the game feel more like maintenance, bug fixes, or minor alterations. Friends can now play online in cooperative fashion in multiple modes, the Road to October mode now allows progression beyond the initial season, you may now combine card collections in Diamond Dynasty, and various new animations, adjustments, and enhancements have been peppered throughout the package. It is fair to say that this is the best the franchise has ever played and likely the most feature-packed the software has ever been.
SIE San Diego also made the call to drop the voice of MLB The Show, Matt Vasgersian, from commentary duties. Vasgersian handled the job all the way back to 2006 and has been replaced by the team of Jon "Boog" Sciambi and Chris Singleton. The pair does an admirable job with what they are given and hearing new quips has been rather enjoyable. With that being said, the total number of lines feels really low and you’ll hear expressions over and over, particularly in the Face of the Franchise Programs with historic challenges. I’m sure this switch to a new commentary team was loads of work, but the end result feels like it is less than what we had before.
I didn’t spend much time with Diamond Dynasty mode because all card-collecting minigames excel at making me feel bad about playing video games. Much like previous seasons, it does feel like most of the focus has gone into this mode and the Franchise Mode has been left nearly undisturbed. This isn’t at all unique to The Show and all sports games are like this now, but it gets disappointing to get excited at the chance that my favorite mode in all sports games may finally get some attention and then fall back down to reality once the game is in-hand. I also noticed that you cannot import data from last year's game into Face of the Franchise (for the second year in a row now). This is likely due to progression being tied to random items like gloves and bats rather than player ability advancement.
While MLB The Show 22 is available on PS5 and Xbox Series S|X, it doesn’t look anything like a next-generation product. Minor details get improvements here and there, but it still looks like a 4K version of the same game that once straddled the line between PS3 and PS4 generations. Even more perplexing, this lack of visual upgrades for new consoles comes along with a framerate that is still choppy. While virtually all fielding scenarios seem to run at a nearly locked 60fps, I still see hitches and dips during the pitcher/batter view, though it rarely, if ever, directly affects control input. Camera cuts to batters and fielders between pitches still have big-time framerate spikes, resulting in a visual presentation that feels much more disjointed than it should for a last-gen game running on such powerful hardware. The only real feeling of an upgrade comes in the Stadium Creator where a greater memory limit allows for much more detailed creations than last year.
On the Switch, the game operates with an unlocked framerate. For the most part, batting, pitching, and fielding are smooth enough to be enjoyable, though it suffers from the same dips during camera cuts as the PS5 version. Most of the graphical bells and whistles have been removed to get the game running on the aging Switch. The resolution is very low, leading to lots of shimmering and a lack of detail. Lower-quality player models are on display, but they aren’t far off from the PS4 version. There are no shadows or self-shading on players, so all of them look like they were pasted into the action rather than appearing to be in the game world. It also seems like the field of view has been drastically cut down to save on performance. Perhaps cutting back even further on the graphical effects and settling for a 30fps lock would have been preferable in this case. Still, the game works and is playable, which is the biggest coup for the series this year.
Not a five-tool player
Last season, I was disappointed with the PS5/Series X versions of The Show as I was hoping for a step into the next console generation of visuals, animations, and physics. Expansion into the Xbox ecosystem and logistical issues due to COVID-19 necessitated a shorter and likely less-involved upgrade to the game. To get nearly the same experience for the second-straight year is a legit bummer. This is still the best professional sports sim you can get on any hardware and if you are a baseball fan that hasn’t played The Show in recent years, this is an experience to look out for. For others who have been waiting years for something new, this one sadly isn’t it. As a PC version of this game eludes us once anew, I will again be hoping that next year is when SIE San Diego opts to redefine video game baseball for the next generation. 7/10 drives into deep left field by Castellanos
This review is based on the PS5 and Nintendo Switch versions of the game. The game keys were provided by the publisher for review consideration. MLB The Show 22 is available now for PS5, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.
MLB The Show 22
- Switch port is solid & has cross-play with PS4/Xbox One
- New animations and bug fixes
- Expansion of Diamond Dynasty
- Dated visual presentation with frame rate drops
- Almost no updates for Franchise Mode
- New commentary arguably worse than what it replaced