Coming into this year, MLB The Show 22 had a sturdy foundation laid out for it. Last year’s release, MLB the Show 21, was an incredibly solid sports title that compares well to its colleagues. A lack of serious updates was starting to run a bit thin, but this was the debut of the next-gen version. Surely things could be forgiven, right?
Well, with MLB The Show 22, I ask that question once again. Like last year, it’s an incredibly solid and enjoyable baseball video game. Also like last year, it lacks any serious updates or enhancements. And also just like last year, it brings a lot of behind-the-scenes features, specifically cross-save and crossplay between PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch, where the series is making its debut for the first time this year.
This begs the question: at what point do we begin to realize diminishing returns with a sports game?
Annual releases have come under fire in the gaming world. The veil has been lifted from the Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed yearly launches. People have realized that paying full price for a game that doesn’t grow enough on a title that was released some 50 weeks prior is a waste of time and money. In the world of sports games, however, that’s the standard. With the dawn of a new league, last year’s games are obsolete. Trevor Story isn’t on the Rockies, anymore. Carlos Correra left the Astros.
Roster turnover is very real, but couldn’t this just be released as a DLC patch? It can, and arguably was when ESPN NFL 2K5 launched for the unheard-of price of $19.99. Electric Arts, who developed the competing Madden NFL franchise, would respond by purchasing the exclusive NFL rights later that year.
MLB The Show 22 is still a great game, but its showing signs of wearing thin
MLB The Show 22 is an interesting case in this scenario of “am I getting full value for this release?” If you’re a Switch owner, this is the first time you’ve ever had the ability to purchase the game, so there’s nothing really to compare to other than itself. Reportedly (I’ve only played on Xbox), the Switch version is as good as you’d expect from the limited hardware; it’s a solid way to play a game of baseball, but the experience is better on Xbox Series X|S or PS5.
If you’re an Xbox owner like myself, the title is available in Game Pass, where I’ve already more than made my money back and have mostly enjoyed my time with the game. PlayStation owners don’t have that option; they’re locked into paying up to $69.99 for the game.
You can see the dilemma here and why your opinion of the game may be varied; we’re essentially talking about three different experiences across three platforms: one hampered by outdated hardware, one that’s available for essentially $14.99, and one that’s upwards of $70. If you add in the fact that the game’s biggest updates include a new commentary team, updated in-game presentation, refinements to existing systems, and online co-op, you start to understand the conundrum.
The problem is only exacerbated when you consider that MLB The Show 22 is, in a vacuum, still one of the best sports games on the market. This means that we have to compare The Show 22 to, well, The Show 21. In that particular head-to-head matchup, it’s a mixed bag.
When a game’s highlighted feature is also one of its more aggravating, we have a problem. The commentary duo of Jon Sciambi and Chris Singleton are normally entertaining and enjoyable. When they repeat the same line ad nauseam, it makes you want to pull your hair out. Some of the lines are even puzzling; why does it matter that my Road to the Show player doesn’t use batting gloves?
I didn’t like it the first time and I for sure don’t like it the 100th time I hear it. I know stats are all that, but if I have to hear Jon ask Chris what the Statcast on a home run ball is one more time, I’m going to lose it. It’s a shame because I love both Sciambi and Singleton. I think they’re great at what they do. Their first year on the job, however, was never going to highlight their strengths.
Another key highlighted feature, however, is an absolute home run. The March to October mode has been expanded to carry over your progress year over year. It’s a lighter version of the game’s Franchise mode. Instead of playing out each and every game during a season, you can have the same control as in Franchise while also playing out just the key moments during a season. It’s a subtle change that goes a long way, leaning into what has worked for the franchise and expanding on it instead of changing things up. It has me playing March to October more than I have before.
These past two paragraphs are the perfect example of why it’s so difficult to rate MLB The Show 22. The highs are extremely high and the lows are absolutely low. I’m going to go with my gut and say that the commentary switch in particular wasn’t a change for the sake of change. Matt Vasgersian is at his best when he’s able to react in real-time. That’s something that doesn’t translate well in a video game. While there are some odd line transitions with Sciambi, it’s an update that I honestly prefer.
I just wish there was more depth with the commentary cues, but that’ll come with time.
Not everything new in MLB The Show 22 works as well as it could have, but it’s still a fun time
It would have been easy for Sony and San Diego Studio to rest on their laurels and just release MLB The Show 22 with a fresh coat of paint and call it a day. You can argue that they did when it comes to the Road to the Show feature. Last year’s selling point of being a two-way player in the vein of cover athlete Shohei Ohtani is once again this year’s selling point.
One change with Road to the Show this year, though, is the fact that things are clicking at a better rate for me as a player. I’m not sure if it’s some behind-the-scenes tweaks or just a better experience, but I’m having a better time playing the game compared to the frustrations I encountered last year.
Except when my third base coach refuses to make an obvious call about whether I should round for home or hold up. That alone is making me and my .600 batting average demand organization changes.
So what does all of these mean for MLB The Show 22? Does it remain the best sports game on the market? Is it a game worth picking up? First and foremost, yes, it is still the best sports game out there. But again, we have to address the elephant in the room about whether or not it’s worth picking up.
Playing on Xbox, I feel like I’ve definitely gotten over $14.99 in value from playing the game as a day one Game Pass title. On Switch, I’d be frustrated yet happy I get to play a baseball simulator wherever I want. Feel free to knock a point off the final score if you’re into that sort of thing.
On PlayStation, it’s a mixed bag. There was a period of time when I owned a PS4 simply to play this franchise. I think the quality is that high and I just happen to love baseball that much. In 2022, though? I find it difficult to pay full price for MLB The Show 22.
Rounding third and heading for home
It’s still a great game, featuring some tweaks and refinements from last year’s version. But I’m not sure if those tweaks and refinements are worth paying full price for. We’re due for a major overhaul in the franchise to truly take it to the next level. I hope that arrives next year.