Fifteen installments of MLB The Show culminate into arguably the greatest MLB game I have ever played.

I was twelve years old when I first played MLB 06: The Show on my PlayStation Portable. This was in the time when there were only two simulation MLB games on the market. First there was the MLB The Show series from Sony San Diego Studios which was a spiritual successor to the 989 Baseball games. Then there was the MLB 2k series from Take-Two Interactive. MLB The Show was top notch baseball at its best while MLB 2k just existed. While there may not be any MLB games being played currently on the outside, they are being played in the form of MLB 20: The Show. In this review I will be going over the revamped March to October game mode and overall gameplay changes while Graydon Webb will be going over Diamond Dynasty and Road to the Show. For the updates made to Franchise mode in MLB 20 you can check the news story I wrote about the game from a couple months ago here.

“Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms … the game of ball is glorious.” – Walt Whitman

MLB 20 is the greatest MLB video game I have ever played and I am not saying that hyperbolically as this year’s installment feels like a love letter to the game of Baseball. Every little thing in this game makes you feel like you are experiencing the sport. One of the “smaller” things that had been missing from previous MLB games was the sound of the bat connecting with the ball. It just sounded off and not like an actual bat hitting a baseball. The first game I played in MLB 20, I noticed the effect was now more of a cracking sound and after many hours the sound fits perfectly and feels a bit like it had always been there. The other big thing gameplay-wise is the “Perfect/Perfect” batting mechanic. This is all timing based so, for example, you have Mike Trout up and he absolutely crushes the ball for a homer you will see “Perfect Flyball”. This will be prevalent no matter what difficulty you are playing on and there are variants on what kind of hits you can get.

“I never threw an illegal pitch. The trouble is, once in a while I toss one that ain’t never been seen by this generation.” – Satchel Paige

One of the big things San Diego Studios drove home during the MLB 20 Dev streams is the fact that when you are on defense is that stats matter. So if you are pitching and press R3 you will bring up a static image of the field and it shows every position player and their defensive stats. When you are in the outfield and a ball gets hit to you your outfielder will automatically get a running start on the ball. If your fielder is more of an offense player he will struggle compared to those five tool players such as Charlie Blackmon, George Springer, and others. Something I’ve noticed throughout the game is an increase in errors and wouldn’t you know, it is stat related.

“Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he’s losing; nobody wants you to quit when you’re ahead.” – Jackie Robinson

March To October compared to its introduction in MLB 19 is a completely different game mode. Gone are the days of mundane goals in a mode that is completely ruthless and welcome the days of magical moments. Multiple things have been added to March to October in this year’s edition of The Show that were greatly needed last year. These include a new call-up system, a transaction page, and new player-lock games. When you have a player or three that is tearing things up down in Triple-A you have the option to call them up at the obvious cost of sending down a player who is underperforming at the MLB level. If you call up a fielder you will then go into a player-locked game as said player to increase their momentum, the same applies to receiving a fielder in a trade. Also included in the transaction page is the option to shop players or the opposite and select certain players who are “untouchables” when it comes to trades and keeping essential players on your team. There were moments in my Indians playthrough where it felt like I was the 98 Yankees. I never thought I’d say this but I enjoyed March to October more than Franchise mode in MLB 20. It was addicting, enjoyable, and rewarding.

Allan’s Score: 5 out of 5

Road to the Show

Last year, I had an absolute blast as a newcomer to Road to the Show mode. MLB 19 introduced a role-playing-esque perks system, which allowed players to select from various dialogue options when talking to other players and coaches. Each text thread helped to level up your attributes – Captain, Heart and Soul, Lightning Rod, and Maverick – which earned you in-game perks ranging from extra focus when down in counts, to stronger contact or power swings when outside or inside the box. These perks mesh so well with gameplay, and help make customizing your player an even more intuitive experience.

I was glad to see the aforementioned perks return in MLB The Show 20. I was also excited to see “G-Man Plush” make his triumphant return to the game, now as a player on the New York Mets. His second season as a major league player sees Plush working harder than ever before – and looking better than ever before. Aside from the inclusion of newer, more realistic animations – as always – fielding, hitting, and running just feel better in general this time around. The fielding system is fairly similar to last year, with rapid-fire reflexes needed to pull off the riskiest double plays and fly-ball catches. Yet somehow, the developers were able to make these frantic moments feel even more satisfying in MLB The Show 20.

What I found to be the most rewarding about Road to the Show was the inclusion of player interaction on the field. Whereas narrative progression in the form of making friends and enemies was only delegated to scenes of dialogue and training between games last year, in MLB 20, nearly every play in-game can further strengthen or hurt your relationship with team members and opponents. Nothing feels better than aiming a throw to first, watching the ball hit that glove with milliseconds to spare, and not only seeing your fielding stats improve, but also your bond with the first baseman. There’s something so enjoyable and strangely intimate about seeing your Road to the Show character’s friendship improve with his teammates. While there may not have been too many changes to the formula this year, Road to the Show continues to be a fantastic mode to get lost in, and it’s the perfect representation that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Diamond Dynasty

Just like back in 2019, I find myself learning more and more about the MLB The Show franchise with every installment. I have never once touched the Diamond Dynasty mode of any MLB game, as the deeper structures of sports games tend to terrify me. I’m more of a “hit the ball and run” kind of player, unlike Allan who enjoys getting to fulfill his management dreams and focus on players’ stats to build the perfect team. That stuff freaks me out. But alas, I decided to try my hand this year with Diamond Dynasty, more specifically, two new modes for this year’s outing: Battle Royale and Showdown.

I consider myself a pretty solid baseball fan. Granted, I mostly pay attention to my hometown team and I’ve only been really paying attention for like four years now, but I appreciate the game’s longstanding history as “America’s favorite pastime,” and I never shy away from learning about its rich history. Thankfully, that’s what the Battle Royale mode is all about in MLB 20. Now, I know a Battle Royale mode in a baseball game seems conceptually insane, and that was my exact thought when the alpha rolled out. Fortunately, its presentation is a lot easier to comprehend, and genuinely makes for some fun gameplay. Essentially, players are given 25 rounds to form a team, with each position offering four players across history – in the form of baseball cards – to choose from. Comparing stats is the main objective in order to build the strongest lineup. After 25 rounds, players meet through matchmaking, and play a few innings online to determine which team is the best. Upon winning, everyone goes home with a consolation prize – a pack of cards containing more players for your overall Diamond Dynasty team – while the winner leaves with three. Battle Royale doubled as a history lesson for me, personally, as I learned a lot about players of the past while building my team of the future. It also taught me a lot about how bad I am at The Show. But hey, I had fun!

Showdown in MLB The Show 20 feels like a minigame in itself, and delivers a whole new experience to the overall baseball franchise. The premise is to beat a certain number of missions – or games – on the path to the final showdown. The mode is broken down into multiple different strands, with each strand assigning the player missions like “tally two hits and score a run without striking out two times in the inning.” Missions range from very easy to extremely hard, and completion will grant the player a win. Achieving the required number of wins grants access to the final showdown which, to be fair, can be skipped to at any time, but the incentive of playing and winning missions is to earn new players and perks. That’s right, Showdown is played with a custom team that you create, with the help of some perks gained along the path. Showdown feels like every aspect of MLB The Show 20 – from Road to the Show’s perks, to Battle Royale’s team customization, to the short bursts of March to October – rolled up into one big board game. The final showdown at the end of every strand is always fairly difficult, and typically revolves around achieving a goal, up against an unrelenting pitcher and a minimal supply of outs allowed. Showdown is a grueling-yet-satisfying challenge, and it toyed with me as I fought to put the controller down. This mode can keep you busy for quite some time, if you let it, and you’ll certainly enjoy the ride. I can see myself getting used to Diamond Dynasty and its annual improvements as the years go on.

Graydon’s Score: 4 out of 5

Final VGU Grade:

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Gotta ac-CENTU-Ate the positives.

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