22nd MLB The Show
- Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Series S
- San Diego Studio is the developer, and Sony Interactive Entertainment is the publisher.
- The date of release is set for April 5, 2022.
I swear it’s been a year since “MLB The Show 21” came out, but judging by “MLB The Show 22,” I wouldn’t know. On the box art for the baseball game, the year has changed, and Shohei Ohtani has taken the place of Fernando Tatis Jr. Nonetheless.
The Show is still the best baseball simulator available, and “MLB The Show 22” is now available for all three major consoles — PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. It is, without a doubt, the most important game for any baseball fan who wants to play “America’s pastime” in video game format.
There are plenty of reasons to buy the new game if you’re a baseball fan who hasn’t seen The Show or purchased an installment of the annualized franchise in the last three years. If you already own “The Show 20” or “21,” however, I see no reason why you should feel obligated to purchase this year’s entry.
This is not a criticism of San Diego Studios, the creators of “The Show.” You can’t blame them for sticking to a profitable business model. Even yet, it’s surprising that, although major video game franchises such as Halo and Call of Duty have hopped on the live service bandwagon, sports games — which are actually predicated on new seasonal material — haven’t.
If you own the previous year’s edition, games like “The Show 22” — or “Madden 22,” “FIFA 22,” or “Insert Sports Game Franchise Here 22” — simply cannot give enough value to justify a $60 investment. But, if I paid $60 for the game once, would I spend another $60 on roster changes and cosmetics like vintage or themed outfits or customized cleats every year? Absolutely.
Without such a transformation in the sports game model, we’re back to square one: a “new” game with nearly identical primary features, excellent but ultimately incremental tweaks advertised as highlights of the new game when most would be better suited to the bottom of a patch notes list.
Between “The Show 21” and “The Show 22,” there are numerous similar upgrades. Fielding has been added to the game’s unique practice mode by San Diego Studios. When hitters attempt to hit pitches thrown outside the strike zone, the plate coverage indicator (PCI) now shrinks to more properly reflect the difficulties of hitting such pitches in real life.
Similarly, pitch types that are designed to be thrown in specific areas (like sinkers or split-finger fastballs, which are most effective when thrown near the bottom of the strike zone) have less accuracy when targeted in unrealistic locations.
If a pitcher appears to be focusing on a specific section of the strike zone, batters can now use “PCI Anchors” to pin their focus (read: hitting cursor). Fielding animations have been updated, and excellent outfield throws to put the player receiving such throws in a better position to make a tag.
All of those changes are smart and nice, and they’re things I would never have noticed if they hadn’t been discussed in an hour-long stream spotlighting the new features of “The Show 22’s” gameplay.
To be honest, there are two primary reasons to purchase “The Show 22.” The first is for Switch users who will be able to play the series for the first time. If you haven’t played this game before because it was a PlayStation exclusive until last season, when it was released on Xbox, it’s a must-have for baseball lovers.
However, while the Switch version is playable, it has a substantially lower frame rate, notably in cutscenes, and mobile-tier visuals — particularly from the batter’s perspective when he looks out at the stadium backdrops. The Stadium Creator option does not appear to be included in the Switch version, which is probably for the best considering the aesthetics.
The inclusion of co-op play, which allows up to three players to team up, is the second distinguishing element of “The Show 22.” In theory, it appears to be a fun new element, similar to those found in FIFA or Madden. However, rather than playing the game together, you’re simply dividing your playing time.
Baseball is a team sport, but each player’s actions are unique. In co-op mode, players take turns controlling the batter at the plate, which means that unless a runner is on base, the other player is twiddling their thumbs. It’s the same on the field.
Until the ball is hit, only the pitcher has any significant impact. After that, it’s on to the fielder. (As runners scramble around the bases, the player controlling the pitcher also controls the catcher, while the other player controls the other fielders, which takes some getting accustomed to.)
In contrast to FIFA or NBA 2K, where teammates can make opportune cuts to receive passes or deny players the ball on defense, there is no advantage to co-op teamwork in this game. You’re not adding another player to “The Show’s” co-op mode; instead, you’re having your own game. Add in the fact that you can only play co-op with other live players, and I’m not sure I’d choose this option over playing with my buddies one-on-one.
If you already own “The Show 21,” there are few compelling reasons to buy the new game unless the co-op mode satisfies a special itch for gamers or you own a Switch. With the return of the stadium creator and precise contact at the plate causing a super-satisfying crack and vibration through the PS5’s DualSense controller, the next-generation features are the same as the previous season.
The Road to the Show, which places custom-built players on the fast track to the big leagues, is a near-rerun of previous seasons, with the same scenarios in which “the manager talks to the player” about his alarmingly high strikeout rate (which are really not that alarming given their rise in the real-world MLB).
Everything about the reruns is fine. It’s why people used to buy and enjoy “The Show.” That is why they continue to play and like it. However, it is a terrible justification to invest in the latest edition.
And there are certain annoying characteristics in “The Show 22” that have carried over from year to year. Given the lack of two real-world features (no depth perception from a TV screen and no apparent seams/spin) that aid detects specific pitches, it’s still difficult to hit consistently.
In “Elden Ring,” dealing with change-ups is just as difficult as dealing with even the most unjust of opponents. But, for the most part, “The Show’s” major flaws can be traced back to baseball, which is both a magnificent and completely unfair sport. While the above may appear to be unfair in the context of a video game, it is ultimately fair in the context of the sport it is simulating.
It’s maddening when you finally connect for perfect contact after a homestand of flailing at breaking balls, only to line out to the shortstop. It’s also frustrating when you put a slider on the plate’s corner and it’s referred to be a ball. But that’s baseball. That occurs.
While your player may appear to be struggling when batting.245, it is actually about typical for a modern major leaguer. You’ll probably want to change the game’s simulation level to casual if you want to mash every at-bat like someone who writes their name with “H.O.F.” at the end. To help new or lower-skill players, the developers created two additional lower-level difficulty levels (Amateur and Minors).
There are a few more nitpicks to be made. The menus can be difficult to use, and some information (such as the current pitcher’s exhaustion level) is missing from displays where it would be most useful (when making bullpen decisions). Even when the throwing meter is in the green, it’s still too simple for a fielder to make a terrible throw.
Newcomers will, for the most part, find something to enjoy about the series, while fans of previous editions of “MLB The Show” will discover a lot of what they know and love. In fact, the biggest issue is that they’ll probably find a little too much of it.