Weeks ago, the annual spring bat crack was thrown into question as MLB’s lockdown dragged on. The players and the league finally reached an agreement and the season was slightly delayed, but no game will be lost. As of this writing, we’re only a week away from the first pitch on April 7th. Sony’s MLB series The Show usually arrives a few weeks before the start of the MLB season, but this year’s installment hits the streets two days before April 5 on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and, for the first time, on Switch.
I just got my hands on the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and Switch versions, and I’ll be updating this story throughout the day and weekend with first impressions from my time on the Diamond. Sony says the hits, throws and lineouts are improved and the audio commentary is from a different team. Players can also dive into a new online co-op mode and can expect improvements across all of the series’ major avenues of play, including Franchise, Road to the Show, and Diamond Dynasty.
I’m starting my impressions with the PlayStation 5 version. The first thing you’ll see is a short video of Shohei Ohtani reveals more of his path to baseball. After that, for returning players, you will receive rewards for returning for another season. Here is what I received:
Before reaching the main menu, you select your favorite team and then you have the option to enter a practice game to select the styles of play that suit you. I recommend going through this process to reacquaint yourself with the gameplay and to figure out which throwing and kicking systems you want to use.
The new online co-op mode is at the center of the main menu, inviting players to play 2v2 or 3v3. This will be my first gameplay track. You can see what this mode has to offer in the trailer below:
When you enter Diamond Dynasty, before you can see anything, you must first complete five missions. As always, the game gives you a default team to work with. Here is mine:
The first mission pits you against the New York Yankees in the bottom of the ninth. You’re flat with runners on first and second. In my case, I managed to send the first pitch over the right field wall to win the game and complete the mission. I received two cards as a reward: one of which is Vinny Castilla (72).
Since people who pre-ordered the game are four days ahead of the game, I had no problem finding a teammate for my first co-op game. We were way overwhelmed in terms of composition. Before the action begins, both players select a handful of cards from their collections to use during this game (meaning you can use legends that you never earn on your own). Our opponents had to open a few packs to get Fernado Tatis Jr., Rickey Henderson, Joe Mauer, Giancarlo Stanton, and more jaw-dropping power in their lineup.
Matchmaking worked quickly, pairing me with my teammate in seconds and finding opponents within 30-40. As you’d expect, in a 2v2 game you and your teammate alternate at bats. If someone arrives on base, the player who does not hit becomes the baserunner. For fielding, a player pitches for an entire inning and also controls the pitcher and catcher for that entire inning, meaning that player handles steals and most bunts. The fields of other players. Any player can enter the pause menu to activate the bullpen. If you’re playing on the field, your view is behind the thrower until the ball is put in play, allowing you to see the pitches well (you just don’t see your teammate’s counters).
We experienced a bit of lag in our game, but it was mostly smooth. We ended up going 12 hits against their five, but two of their five were homers. We left the bases loaded twice in our nine-inning game. A scoring chance was crushed by a ground ball that was hit down the middle in a shift. The final score was 2-0. We played our hearts out, but it wasn’t enough.
Gameplay was nice and smooth, but I didn’t see much different visually from last year. That said, it’s still a hell of a game. Every pitch animation matched the moment, player speeds felt correct both on base paths and on the pitch, and the pitching/batting battle was as exciting as ever. I like that you can see your teammate’s PCI to see how close they are to having one.
The video above shows one of the packs I opened. I still don’t have players over 90, but I’m only 4,500 stallions away from a Big Dog pack, which gives me a Diamond player who is rare 90 overall and base 85-plus. I’m digging card designs this year, especially those related to the franchise’s Faces timed program which ends in 28 days. Faces of the Franchise features Daily Moments, Featured Program Moments, Legends and Flashback missions, and a final boss showdown. XP for this Battle Pass-like path can also come from standard games, collections, and trades.
The only other program listed at launch gives you a Babe Ruth card at its end. This challenge simply asks you to complete a mini-season game and tally up a number of basic baseball achievements, like getting five hits.
Diamond Dynasty’s menus and gameplay avenues are again a bit overwhelming and difficult to understand at first glance, but offer many exciting avenues for players to earn rewards and spend plenty of time.
I’ve taken a look at a few listings and they’re all as current as you’d hope. carlos Correa is on the Minnesota Twins and Marcus Stroman wears his Cubs stripes. Rookies who are promoted from minors and non-league signings like Seiya Suzuki are not yet in the game and must first play five innings before they can be added (or be on any merchandise). With that in mind, you might want to wait until the real MLB season begins before starting Franchise Mode or any roster-based activities. The best avenue in play at this point is Diamond Dynasty.
And now for some bad news: MLB The Show 22 is a graphical mess on Switch. These impressions are made on an OLED Switch in portable mode. From what I could tell, all of the content is the same as the Xbox and PlayStation iterations, but the game on the ground struggles, being reduced by both a stifling framerate and pronounced visual flicker. . When the ball is in play, I’m often distracted by a graphical anomaly in the background, such as the top of the fence having a strobe light effect as the texture pops in and out. Thankfully stick and pitch are unaffected by significant frame rate drops – meaning it plays well – but the launcher animation looks almost digitized. The most noticeable frame rate drops occur during broadcast moments, such as zooming in on the launcher after a release.
As of this writing, I don’t have any patches to download (and don’t know if there are), but I’ll note that I can’t currently connect to the game’s servers. I can’t play as well as offline modes like Exhibition, Road to the Show and Franchise.
I’ll be playing the Switch version more in the days to come, but I’m returning to the PlayStation 5 to dive deeper into Diamond Dynasty, Franchise mode, and Road to the Show. One thing I’m starting to notice as I alternate between this game and last year’s game is that the ball seems to have more weight now. It’s hard to say how much this affects the game, but getting weak wood on a ball is a little different.
I’ve always been a fan of Diamond Dynasty’s shorter three-round games, and the new Mini Seasons mode is the best implementation yet, offering great competition against CPU-controlled teams and some nice rewards. I’m 21 games into my freshman season and currently one game over .500, but I would make the four-team playoffs if the season ends here. If I win the championship, I get an Evan Longoria (89) card and a Diamond Championship Bundle.
On the pitch in these games, I see smooth pitch animations that take player momentum into account. CPU opponents on All-Star difficulty can still make clean plays more often than they probably should, but I see a fair amount of bobbles, almost always for a player with a lower field rating. Overall the game is well balanced and I feel like I’m seeing the right results for swing timing and at what angle I make contact with the ball. Again, there seems to be more weight, making the grounders easier to read and more accurate trajectories off the wall. The fielding was excellent last year, and this year’s edition is right there, perhaps a little better thanks to the new animations Sony has stitched into the mix.
Card collecting has also been rewarding, providing a steady stream of cards for completed missions. Each Diamond Dynasty mode features a host of tasks, some of which can be completed in minutes if you’re on your game.
I still haven’t spent any time in Road to the Show, but I’ve played around with Franchise mode. Other than improved logic and trade options, I don’t see much different here, and I doubt I’d be able to say much given that it hasn’t been a huge draw for me at the course of the last payments.
For day six, I hope the servers hold up better so I can spend more time in multiplayer. I will also dive into Le Conquet to discover its rewards.