MLB The Show 22 is a savvy veteran, a game that continues to perform well on the field, despite some modes that seem to be behind the times. Developer Sony San Diego is once again finding new ways to capture the realism of the sport and add even more excitement to the already fantastic batting and throwing battle. Given the amount of content here, not all modes have received the attention we want, but Sony is making up for it with some great new experiences.
Down by a run in the bottom of the ninth, you’re on the bench, unable to do anything but bite your nails and cheer on your teammate at home plate. In years past, right now you’d be in the batter’s box swinging for the fences, but now it’s your friend’s turn. Even without firewood in hand, sitting in the dugout as your friend tries to knock one out of the park is surprisingly intense. This experience takes place in a beautifully crafted co-op mode within Diamond Dynasty. Through this new avenue of play, MLB The Show nails the thrill of being on a team, giving you the chance to discuss strategies, execute shots and runs together, and hopefully scream with delight when your buddy hits a home run.
Co-op play is great fun but surprisingly few matchmaking options, only allowing 2v2 and 3v3 matchups in desired pitch and terrain difficulty groups – that’s it. Since baseball is a nine-player game, it’s disappointing that the higher player count isn’t supported, but the lower count creates more game opportunities for each player. I applaud Sony’s decision to alternate bats from player to player, which means you can’t send your best friend to the plate in critical situations – it’s always who the next in order. I also like how the co-op play encourages spending time in other Diamond Dynasty modes to unlock better cards through card collecting, since the players there are the ones you can send into the field.
Hunting diamond-rated elite players is always a chore in Diamond Dynasty, but I didn’t feel as drawn to spending real money buying card packs as much as I have lately. years. Most modes offer great rewards that help build the roster quickly. Most early recruits will be of the silver and gold variety, but you’ll get a few diamond-rated stars early on.
Conquest remains a satisfying avenue of play for card collecting and leveling. This mode’s short three-round format is better than ever thanks to AI rebalancing. Conquest’s computer opponents have now set up a strategic clinic, diving into the bullpen, using pinch runners, bunting runners and throwing double plays. Balancing also affects your game, as pitchers start to tire much faster – sometimes comically after just a throw or two. These are welcome changes that remove some of the repetition in gameplay moves.
If you like the three-round format, Sony has added another great mode for quick play: the aptly-named Mini-Season features three-round matches and a short 28-match season that you can complete by a weekend. It’s a great addition that offers a nice selection of rotating missions, but can be a little frustrating at the start of your Show game, as the AI teams you face replicate teams made up of real Show players, which which means you might encounter an all-Diamond team while you’re still sending Gold and Silver players. I developed a fun routine of bouncing between Mini Season and Conquest, a path that rewarded me with card packs and quick experience boosts for my rank and players.
As for on-field action, MLB The Show 22 is once again a centerpiece of the iteration. Building on an already excellent foundation, Sony continues to find ways to tighten up the game, add more realism and reduce repeat moments. Variety is showcased in new pitch animations for all base hit types, the way players load balls, and new home run animations. It’s also easier to read pitch launch points, and the ball has a bit more weight, which means you’ll see more realistic ground ball jumps and flight paths right off the bat.
The feel of the game remains remarkably smooth, but don’t be surprised if you walk around more hitters than in previous iterations. There is a more pronounced penalty for lack of pinpoint accuracy, driving the ball out of the strike zone. When a pitcher runs out of gas, Sony makes you work in later innings, and you’ll probably rely more on bullpen arms, a nice little way to keep you on your toes and turn things around. .
While making plenty of progress, The Show 22 falls short in several areas. Repetition is a common theme in the commentary booth, featuring two new voices: Jon Sciambi and Chris Singleton. They provide great insight into the sport and play well with each other, but lack 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 think I’ve heard this dialogue 50 times already.
Some modes also haven’t received much refinement. Franchise mode is largely unchanged, offering slightly tweaked trade block logic, 40-person roster-based payroll, and budget and contract improvements. Road to the Show is a recurring performer from last year, but still delivers a lot of fun and the player experience deeply connected to Diamond Dynasty.
Players looking for meaty new experiences based on the season will find them in the vastly improved March-October mode. With a focus on “winning now,” you can take your team through multiple seasons, enjoy well-streamlined drafting and teamwork, and focus on individual player efforts. I was surprised at how much it scratched my Franchise Mode itch.
A week after launch, MLB The Show 22’s online performance is shaky, delivering periodic lag and hard crashes (sometimes without XP rewards). Online stability continues to be a huge hole in MLB The Show’s annual swing. While the new Switch iteration offers all the content of the PlayStation and Xbox versions, it suffers from frame rate stutter and severe graphical flickering. It’s still playable and fun, but lacks the heavy woodwork of its console brethren and feels like it barely holds up.
MLB The Show 22 doesn’t turn in an all-star performance this year, but continues to be consistent in all avenues of play and find new ways to make you want to hang out at the ballpark. Playing with friends in co-op mode is the standout feature if you can use it, but field play and March-October also impress.