As far as baseball games go, Sony San Diego Studio’s MLB The Show series has been the only viable option for over a decade. 2K’s baseball games crashed and burn as the company focused more on million-dollar contests than making a great game, EA was forced out of the genre due to 2K’s third-party exclusivity and then never bothered to come back once it was over, and the reanimated corpse of the R.B.I. Baseball series was finally been put to rest after years of mediocre offerings. Whether it’s due to the lack of competition causing stagnation or lingering effects of the pandemic slowing down development, there isn’t much new to experience in MLB The Show 22. While that’s an issue, the lack of any alternative proves it to largely be a moot point.
The good news is that the MLB The Show series has as good of a core as any sports game. Despite the lack of any true competitors being a decade-old problem at this point, San Diego Studio has always looked to improve and that means the actual baseball plays incredibly and is polished to an almost absurd degree.
In fact, there has been so much iteration over the years that there is almost an overwhelming amount of control options at players’ disposal. During a conversation with a friend, I found out that our pitching and batting schemes are totally different, with them preferring analog-based control schemes while I went for button-based ones. Some of the newer additions, such as pinpoint pitching that was added in MLB The Show 21, are a bit too convoluted to be enjoyable, but every baseball fan will find something that they like in its array of options.
However, there aren’t many new things this year. Online cooperative play is the biggest addition and a pretty neat mode that comes in two-on-two and three-on-three varieties. It’s a bit wild that a first-party Sony game can have Xbox and Nintendo Switch players on it, but cross-play is a great feature to have as it deepens the available pool of players. Baseball is inherently not the most thrilling cooperative sport, which is a problem especially if your team is on offense and you’re just watching your teammates bat as you sit in the dugout. It’s still a good addition and it’ll be interesting to see how talented players learn to gel together and come up with multiplayer-focused strategies, even if isn’t the most attractive mode in the game.
The Diamond Dynasty mode, which is Sony’s less microtransaction-y (yet still ready to offer you credits for cash at every corner) take on EA’s Ultimate Team offerings, is also back with a slew of upgrades. It’s still the same at its core, as you’ll assemble a team out of players you unlock in card packs, but there’s now a mini-season mode to play solo that features an eight-team league. It’s a solid bite-sized way to add more variety, but these types of modes are always too much of a slog since you have to constantly grind to earn better cards and hope you get something good in each pack.
Other small tweaks can be found in the Road to the Show mode, its main single-player offering, which now has mid-season missions to further flesh out progression. Players can also create multiple ballplayers rather than one, which allows for more experimentation with playstyles rather than being locked into just one. None of these additions are game-changers, but they’re solid enough tweaks if you’re already deep into these modes and The Show‘s ecosystem.
Other than that, it’s a pretty light year for new content. There is a stadium creator mode but the Field of Dreams is already in the game, so what more could you want in terms of stadium selection? Like previous years, there is a nice selection of baseball legends in the game, but they’re stuck on fake all-star teams or Diamond Dynasty cards that are incredibly rare. It would’ve been nice if MLB The Show was able to rival the NBA 2K series in terms of having dozens of classic baseball teams available to play but that hasn’t come to fruition yet and doesn’t seem like a priority, sadly, which is a shame considering how rich baseball’s history is.
One of the interesting byproducts of the series going multiplatform has been seeing the trophies become increasingly easier to obtain compared to when it was locked to Sony systems. I managed to achieve the Platinum trophy in less than a day of play, which makes this the series’ simplest trophy set yet. Whether that’s a positive, a negative, or even worth discussing depends on your thoughts on the value of these digital trinkets, but the list was largely uninspired and there wasn’t any real feeling of accomplishment when it popped. Anyone who looks at trophies or achievements as a way to extend their time with a sports game — a genre that benefits from long-term goals — like this will be disappointed, even if it makes for a good rental and easy Platinum or full 1,000 Gamerscore.
Unless you’re a baseball fanatic that needs the most updated rosters, it’s hard to recommend MLB The Show 22 at full price if you bought last year’s game. This is the second year in a row that Sony’s series has largely stayed stagnant, with the focus seemingly going toward multiplatform ports and getting cross-play running, and there are no new features that make this stand out in any way from the past iterations. Of course, this conversation is largely irrelevant if you’re an Xbox Game Pass subscriber as you can skip paying $69.99 like owners of Sony’s current console have to do, so sometimes it pays to play first-party games on a competitor’s system.
It seemed inevitable that stagnation would hit a series with yearly releases and MLB The Show 22 shows that Sony San Diego isn’t exempt from that. However, stagnation is far from a deal-breaker when a series is already this good and polished, it just makes it harder to justify a nearly $70 purchase on a yearly basis. Hopefully, the series will get back to its usual ambition as things return to a state of normalcy, but baseball fans are still left with an excellent playing game that feels a bit too familiar.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 7.5 equates to “Good.” A successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.