MLB The Show 22 is a seasoned veteran, and one that continues to do well on the court, although some modes feel like they’re behind the times. Developer Sony San Diego is once again discovering new ways to capture the realism of sports and add even more excitement to the already great batting and pitching battle. Given the amount of content here, not every mode has gotten the attention we want, but Sony makes up for them with excellent new experiences.
Rounding down the bottom of the nine, you’re on the bench, unable to do anything other than chew your nails and cheer on your teammate on the board. In years past, at this moment, you’ve been in a box-swinging hitter looking for fences, but now it’s your friend’s turn. Even without the wood in your hand, sitting in the dugout while your friend tries to get one out of the park is surprisingly intense. This experience unfolds in an exquisitely designed co-op mode within Diamond Dynasty. With this new gameplay, MLB The Show brings to life the excitement of being on a team, giving you the opportunity to discuss strategies, execute hitting and running together, and hopefully, screaming in celebration when your friend crushes a home run.
Co-op is great fun but surprisingly scattered in matchmaking options, allowing only 2v2 and 3v3 matches within the desired difficulty combinations on the court and field – that’s it. Since baseball is made up of nine people, it is disappointing that a higher number of players is not supported, but a lower number creates more playing opportunities for each player. I applaud Sony’s decision to rotate the bat from player to player, which means you can’t send your best friend to the board in critical situations – it’s always next in line. I also love how co-op play encourages spending time in the other Diamond Dynasty modes to unlock better cards by collecting cards, as the players featured in them are the ones you can send into the field.
Chasing down elite diamond-ranked players is still a mill in Diamond Dynasty, but I haven’t felt the pull of spending real money buying packs of cards as much as I’ve in years past. Most modes offer excellent bonuses that help build the list quickly. Most of the early recruits will be of a variety of silver and gold, but you’ll get a few stars rated with diamonds early on.
Conquest remains a satisfying way to collect and level cards. The shortened 3-band format for this mode is better than ever thanks to AI rebalancing. Computer opponents in Conquest now set up a strategy clinic, dive into the pit bull, use pinch runners, shoot bunting at runners, and compete in double play. Balancing also affects your game, as shooters start to get tired faster – sometimes comically after just one or two shots. These are welcome changes that remove some redundancy in gameplay motions.
If you like the three-turn format, Sony has added another excellent quick-play mode: the aptly named mini-season offers 3-round games and a short season of 28 games that you can grab in the weekend. It’s an excellent add-on that offers a great selection of rotating missions but can be a bit frustrating early on in your show, as the AI teams you face are identical teams assembled by real show players, meaning you can meet an all-diamond team while you’re at it. He still sends gold and silver players. I developed a fun routine to jump between the Mini Season and Conquest, a path that rewards me with packs of cards and quick EXP boosts for my rankings and players.
As for movement on the field, MLB The Show 22 is once again a masterpiece of iteration. Building on an already great foundation, Sony continues to look for ways to tighten up the game, add more realism, and reduce repetitive moments. Diversity is shown in new field animations for all types of hits, the ways players charge balls, and new house-run animations. The pitch edit points are also easier to read, and the ball has a slightly more weight, which means you’ll see more realistic ball jumps and flight paths right off the bat.
The feel of the play remains remarkably smooth, but don’t be surprised if you walk more beats than you did in previous iterations. There is a more pronounced penalty for loss of pinpoint accuracy, which results in the ball being thrown out of the strike area. With the jug running out of gas, Sony makes you work in later roles, and you’ll likely rely on bullseyes more, which is a nice little way to keep you on your toes and change things up.
While taking many steps forward, The Show 22 comes up a bit short in several areas. Repetition is a popular topic on the comment booth, and it’s comprised of two new voices: John Ciampi and Chris Singleton. They give insight into the sport and play well with each other but have almost not enough streaks. If the hitter key appears, 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.
Also, some poses didn’t receive much refinement. The franchise’s situation is largely unchanged, offering slightly modified trade-block logic, payroll based on 40-man rosters, budget and contract improvements. Road to the Show is a recurring show from last year but still offers plenty of fun and a player experience deeply connected to Diamond Dynasty.
Players looking for new season-based experiences will find it in the greatly improved mode from March to October. With the focus shifted away from “Winning Now,” you can take your team through multiple seasons, enjoy well-simplified crafting and team building, and focus on individual player efforts. I was surprised at how scratchy my franchise status was.
A week after launch, MLB The Show 22 online performance is shaky, resulting in periodic latency and difficult crashes (sometimes without XP rewards). Online stability is still a huge gap in MLB The Show’s annual swing. While the new Switch iteration delivers all the content of the PlayStation and Xbox versions, it does suffer from stuttering frames and significant graphic flicker. It’s still playable and fun but doesn’t hold the big woods of its console brethren and feels like it’s barely holding on.
MLB The Show 22 doesn’t have a star-studded performance this year, but it continues to be consistent across all areas of play and finds new ways to make you want to spend time on the court. Playing with friends in co-op is the standout feature if you can use it, but playing on the field and from March to October is also impressive.