MLB The Show 22 is a knowledgeable veteran, a game that continues to do well on the field, despite some ways it feels like they’re falling behind the times. Developer Sony San Diego has once again found new ways to capture the realism of the game and add even more excitement to an already spectacular batting and pitching battle. Considering how much content is out there, not every genre gets the attention we want, but Sony creates excellent new experiences for them.
Down a run in the bottom of the ninth, you’re on the bench, unable to do anything other than chew your nails and amuse your partner at the plate. In years past, at this very moment, you’d be in the batter’s box swinging for the fence, but now it’s your friend’s turn. Even without the wood in your hand, sitting in the dugout as your friend tries to knock you out of the park is surprisingly intense. The experience unfolds within the Diamond Dynasty in a wonderfully designed cooperative mode. Through this new game opportunity, MLB The Show gives the thrill of being on a team, giving you a chance to discuss strategies, execute hits and runs together, and hopefully, when your friend walks- Off crushes the home run then screams in celebration.
Cooperative play is great fun but surprisingly sparse in matchmaking options, allowing for just 2v2 and 3v3 matchups within the desired pitching and fielding difficulty groups – that’s it. Given that baseball is a nine-person game, it is disappointing that higher player numbers are not supported, but lower numbers create more gameplay opportunities for each player. I applaud Sony’s decision to alternate the bat from player to player, which means you can’t just send your best friend to the plate in critical situations – it’s always next in the order. I also like how the cooperative play encourages spending time in the other Diamond Dynasty modes to unlock better cards through card collection, as the players depicted on them are the ones you can send into the arena.
Chasing down diamond-ranked elite players is still a grind in Diamond Dynasty, but I didn’t feel strong enough to spend real money buying cards as I could in previous years. Most of the mods offer excellent rewards that help build a roster quickly. Most early recruits will be of the silver and gold variety, but you’ll find some diamond-ranked stars soon.
Victory is a satisfying way to play to collect and level up cards. Thanks to AI rebalancing, this mode’s concise three-innings format is better than ever. Conquest’s computer opponents now put in a strategic clinch, diving into the bullpen, using pinch runners, using runner overs, and pitching for double plays. Balance also affects your game, as pitchers get tired very quickly – sometimes comically, after just a pitch or two. These are welcome changes that remove some of the repetition in the gameplay motions.
If you love the three-inning format, Sony added another excellent mode for quick play: The aptly named Mini Season offers three-inning games and a shorter 28-game season that you can get through over the weekend. . It’s an excellent addition that offers a decent selection of revolving missions, but can be a bit frustrating at the beginning of your show play, as you face squads assembled by real show players as AI teams, Which means you can meet an All-Diamond team while you’re still sending out gold and silver players. I developed a fun routine of bouncing between mini-seasons and conquests, a path that rewarded me with playing cards and boosted my rank and accelerated experience for players.
As far as action on the field is concerned, MLB The Show 22 is once again a showpiece. Building on an already great foundation, Sony is finding ways to strengthen the drama, add more realism, and reduce repeated moments. Variety is showcased within new fielding animations for all types of hits, the way players charge balls, and new home run animations. Pitch release points are also easier to read, and the ball weighs a bit more, meaning you’ll see more realistic ground ball hops and flight trajectories off the bat.
The play experience remains remarkably fluid, but don’t be surprised if you run into more batters than in previous iterations. There is a more obvious penalty for a lack of pinpoint precision, causing the ball to move out of the strike zone. As soon as a pitcher runs out of gas, Sony employs you later in the inning, and you’ll likely rely more on bullpen arms, a good way to keep you on your toes and turn things around.
Taking several steps forward, Show 22 comes a little short in many areas. Repetition is a common theme in the commentary booth, with the addition of two new voices: John Cianby and Chris Singleton. They provide great insight into the game and play well to each other but they don’t have nearly enough lines. If a switch hitter comes along, don’t be surprised if it’s called a unicorn because you don’t see many of them anymore. I believe I have already heard this dialogue 50 times.
Some of the modes also didn’t get much refinement. The Franchise Mode is largely unchanged, offering slightly modified trade block logic, payroll based on a 40-man roster, and budget and contract improvements. Road to the Show is a repeat performer from last year, but still provides a lot of fun and a deeply connected player experience for Diamond Dynasty.
Players looking for new soulful season-based experiences will find them much better in March to October mode. With the focus off “win now”, you can take your team through multiple seasons, enjoy well-organized drafting and team building, and focus on individual player efforts. I was surprised by how much it took my franchise mode itch away.
A week after launch, MLB The Show 22’s online performance is unstable, providing periodic latency and hard crashes (sometimes without XP rewards). Online stability remains a huge hole in the annual swing of MLB shows. While the new Switch iteration offers all the content of the PlayStation and Xbox versions, it suffers from framerate stutter and significant graphical flicker. It’s still playable and fun but doesn’t have the big wood of its console brethren and seems to be barely catching on.
MLB The Show 22 hasn’t had an All-Star performance this year, but remains consistent in all manner of games and finds new ways to make you spend time at the ballpark. Playing with friends is the standout feature in cooperative play if you can get used to it, but on-field play and March through October also impress.