MLB 22 The Show Returns to Its Proper Place as The Premiere Sports Title

In last year’s Co-Op review of MLB The Show 21, myself and Graydon Webb weren’t really fans of the game as much as other outlets. I personally disliked it after the strongest showing of the series by far having been MLB 20. Well, it’s that time again for another MLB The Show Co-Op review from myself, Allan Muir, and Graydon Webb. I will be covering the March to October & Franchise modes while Graydon will be covering the Road to the Show & Diamond Dynasty modes. Also, Graydon will be covering the Xbox Series X version of the game while I am covering the PlayStation 5 version which means there won’t be any discussion regarding the Nintendo Switch version of the game. So, does MLB The Show 22 make up for the shortcomings of its predecessor? Read on to find out…

Franchise Mode

In my “MLB 22: What’s New?” piece I talked about how San Diego Studio had re-adjusted the trading metric to avoid the common meme that seemed to take off in MLB 21 where you could get Juan Soto, arguably the greatest batter in the game over the past two years, (aside from Mike Trout), for basically nothing. As much as I had hoped that it would not be the case this year, it turns out I was wrong. During my Cubs franchise playthrough, I realized I could bring Javier Baez back to Wrigleyville in exchange for Andrelton Simmons and a couple of D-rated prospects, and Simmons was rated as a B while Baez is rated much higher. I never decided to go through with the trade as it felt like I would be gaming the system (no pun intended). In another case of this, I was able to acquire Kris Bryant from the Rockies in exchange for Justin Upton and a D-rated prospect. Said trade is egregious as Upton was recently released by the Angels. I would have appreciated it if the trading system took factors such as rating, stats, and remaining contract length into consideration regarding trades. 

There’s really nothing much else to say regarding Franchise mode beyond the trading system as I feel that it has been largely ignored by SDS in favor of March to October and Diamond Dynasty as the latter is what brings in the multiplayer market that brings in the money.

Presentation Is Key

Allan: As I mentioned in the MLB 22: What’s New article, the presentation was going to be getting a much-needed refresher in the form of being modeled after Regional Sports Networks with similar graphics. For example, by adding descriptors for when a home run gets hit by a Yankee hitter; the presentation box will say the phrase that is synonymous with that team.  I really liked the change from the very bland themes used in the previous games and now that I’ve been playing more of the game, I am actually liking more of it. Another addition presentation-wise is the “fan cam” which is a transition between innings as you are in the camera perspective of someone watching the game. You can move the right analog stick around and see the fans around you and while it doesn’t really add much to the experience, it adds plenty of immersion.

When it comes to the new play-by-play team, I finally felt like I was playing what an interactive baseball game should be. Gone are the days when I would want to stop playing the game after a bad call by Dan Plesac would make me feel like I sucked at the game. With the introduction of Jon Sciambi and Chris Singleton as play-by-play and color commentator respectively I am having a fantastic time with MLB 22. Things feel professional, serious, and as if I am playing an ESPN broadcast of a Major League Baseball game.

Graydon: Allan pretty much summed up the presentation perfectly, but I’ll add my two cents from the perspective of someone who doesn’t dive so deep into the secrets of the game. As I mentioned in our personal group chat shortly after trying MLB 22 for the first time, something about this game does feel so much better than the last two installments, though I can’t really put my finger on why. Maybe it’s the new announcers, maybe it is the addition of little updates here and there to the way the stadiums and fans display what makes them special. But all in all, MLB 22 feels like a nice warm hug for any baseball fan. I imagine this is what Madden felt like back in its heyday; the perfect way to play baseball on a console.

Graphical Enhancements

Allan: MLB 22 looks much better than MLB 21 in the graphics department. I had noticed texture issues regarding hairstyles looking poorly done or just generally messy in last year’s game. There is also something wonderful about how SDS portrays the faces in this game when compared to other annualized sports games. The 2K Sports games most notably NBA 2K and more recently WWE 2k22 have great facial capture as well but those games tend to go for the hyper-realistic/uncanny valley compared to the style MLB has. When I was doing some moments missions, I was put in the cleats of older players such as Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, and Ken Griffey Jr., and my god it looked like them despite said players being north of 50 days. Part of me longs for this technology to be used by Visual Concepts for the next WWE game. Don’t get me wrong, the faces for the wrestlers in WWE 2k22 look fine, but there are some that look terrible.

As with most sports games when you take a created character whether it is Road to the Show or more likely Franchise mode you will definitely be able to see which was created by San Diego Studios and which was created by a community member. That being said, there are certain creators in the MLB The Show community who are above and beyond when it comes to creating players who aren’t in the game. Dr. Sublime specifically is a bonafide genius when it comes to re-creating players.

Graydon: As console generations go on, we’ve begun to see the changes in graphical quality feel more and more minuscule. However, MLB 22 does feel more polished than previous installments. Most notably to me was the fluidity of character movements – especially when swinging a bat – that really felt like an eye-catching improvement. We keep getting closer and closer to the death of uncanny valley, ensuring character models, lighting, and overhead shots get the spotlight they deserve. MLB 22 updates not only the aforementioned qualities, but also it’s color vibrancy – most notably when seeing a difference between rainy, foggy, and overcast days – and that’s pretty remarkable to lay your eyes on.

Marching to October In MLB The Show 22

March to October has never been better than it is this time around in MLB 22. During my playthrough of the mode as the Dodgers, I realized that this is what Franchise mode should be. By that I mean it should be an abridged and fun experience as I had with March to October when compared to Franchise mode. To be fair to the Franchise fans there is an affinity to creating your own dynasty with the team(s) you want to mold into champions. Playing as a team on the level as the Dodgers doesn’t exactly break the game, as the players you choose to acquire through trades can have a bigger net loss than anything as great as a said team. I chose to acquire Sean Manaea and Dominic Smith and they turned out to be non-factors. That being said, when you are playing as a player many times over the course of the season, they can turn out to be clutch. For me, that player was Max Muncy as every time I managed to pull off a come from behind win Max Muncy was involved in one way or another.

As usual with March to October, you are put into situations that if you produce results will give you momentum that will lead you towards the postseason which, when you think about it is the main goal all along. If you are unable to complete the objective and/or lose, you will get negative momentum and lose depending on how much you fail. At the last point I played the mode I finished the season with 123 wins and 59 losses which is mind baffling as I couldn’t get anywhere close with MLB 21. The playoffs are where things will slow down compared to the season as you will play most-every game in the series. Depending on how you do based on the chosen difficulty mode you will get rewards a-plenty that will pay off if you choose to go towards Road to the Show or Diamond Dynasty.

I personally enjoyed the changes made to March to October and surprisingly I think it’s a better Franchise mode than Franchise mode proper.

Credit: San Diego Studio

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

I would be lying if I said that Road to the Show in MLB 22 feels “fresh.” The best thing about this game mode each year is that it follows the “if it ain’t broke, don’t touch it” method of game development. That being said, where Road to the Show felt exciting and new a few years ago… things have gotten stale as of late.

It is always a delightful romp, getting to create a star athlete from the ground up and sending him hurtling into the abyss that is Major League Baseball. Perhaps the most unfortunate thing is for the past three years – at least – I’ve been welcomed with a character creation screen, as San Diego Studio still cannot grasp the idea of data transfer for Road to the Show. I get pretty tired of making a character, choosing his victory dance, and making him look as accurate to me as possible every year. But I digress, in 2022 I’ve taken on the moniker “Pretty Boy Choo-Choo,” playing for Pittsburgh, of all places.

What took me by surprise, at first, was the introduction of new announcer voices, which I had forgotten was one of MLB 22’s biggest additions. But once I finished mourning the loss of our dear Matt Vasgersian, I moved on to… the same old stuff I’ve been doing for years now. Road to the Show does not feel new at all, this time around. It follows the same tired formula of choosing pointless dialogue options in the very brief interactions with your agent and coaches, playing – or just skipping altogether – mindless mini-games that feel like fodder on the route to upgrading your skills and making “connections” with other players that don’t actually add to the experience much. At this point, I’d rather have the messy skill tree back from MLB 20, as it at least gave me some false sense of interactivity. In the end, I barely feel like I know my character or my team, and I’m left with nothing more than a short burst of fun baseball gameplay with no lasting effects. Road to the Show desperately needs a makeover, and fast.

Don’t even get me started on those f***ing podcast segments. They’re so redundant and poorly acted. If I have to watch Ben Gellman nod his head any longer, I will punch my television screen.

Diamond Dynasty In MLB 22
Credit: San Diego Studio

Diamond in the Rough

Even after playing nearly five consecutive MLB The Show installments, I still wouldn’t consider myself a diehard of the franchise like Allan before me. Some people let themselves really fall into the game, and I tend to look at it more from a standpoint of “what kind of fun can this provide me in a short amount of time?” Despite this rather ignorant way of viewing life, I was able to find some lasting joy with Diamond Dynasty that really freshened my experience!

As with last year, Diamond Dynasty tasks you with creating your own all-star team of major league athletes, upgrading them, and managing the team like a true Tommy Lasorda. You earn new players by opening card packs, which are purchasable with stubs, which are earnable by completing tasks within Diamond Dynasty’s various game modes. In 2021, I had a fun time figuring out the board game-esque Conquest mode. But in MLB 22, I found myself getting lost in the Showdown missions: bite-sized pieces of baseball history, complete with legends I know and love.

In the mission that I played, I was told to create a new team out of a 9-round draft and pick 2 perks. These perks offered boosts like “increased velocity with no outs,” and “opponents will not lead off.” I amassed a fantastic crew including the likes of Kike Hernandez and Josh Donaldson, and together we played through famous moments in MLB history, finishing quests to move ever further toward the big boss: Shohei Ohtani. Missions gave me not only the satisfaction I crave in smaller portions, but with a buy-in of 500 stubs, I felt like I had more to lose than, say, March to October. I liked my team because I made my team, and we fought our way to victory and earned our stubs back – plus profit. It’s a fun distraction when you’re not looking to dive into a long game but still want to feel like part of the action.

Diamond Dynasty offers plenty of fun, especially for more casual players like myself. All the modes expertly blend the ease of mini-games with the commitment of a campaign, delivering an entertaining package that spices up the monotony of The Show’s rather archaic system. I must say, it was a shame I never got a chance to try the “Mini Seasons” mode, as the online never worked for some reason. Thankfully, I can see Showdown keeping my interest for quite some time, and eventually, I’ll get back to upgrading the VGU.TV Danglers.

Oh, did I not mention that’s my team name?

Credit: San Diego Studio

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Graydon: For what The Show has been lacking in substantial upgrades through the years, there’s always something new regarding the gameplay. MLB 22 does not shy away from changes either, immediately welcoming the player with multiple options of gameplay right from the get. I chose my usual preferences for fielding, batting, and pitching, but from what I saw on offer, there’s a playstyle for every type of baseball fan.

In terms of how “the baseball” plays, well, it’s standard fare. I’m sure Allan will mention it, but once again, perfect hits do feel so good. The crack of the bat when you swing a home run and watch as your player saunters toward first base is always so satisfying. It’s little touches like this that make the game feel like more than just a routinely churned-out installment. They even made the quick-throw system (you know, aiming for the bullseye?) in Road to the Show much stricter, so if you’re not right on the ball – pun intended – you’ll be missing a lot of double plays. I thoroughly enjoyed this challenge, though, as it made me feel like skill was finally a factor in RttS.

My only real issue with the gameplay was that stealing bases still feels impossible, and no amount of training seemingly improves it. In one game, I found my character leading off so far he’d get tagged out over and over, and I could do nothing to stop this. It’s a broken system and I still have never stolen a base successfully. Why, San Diego? Why do you hate Pretty Boy Choo-Choo?

Allan: To me, the gameplay improvements in MLB 22 are more subtle than anything else. When I hit my first in-game home run as Ben Rortdvedt I was genuinely confused at first at whether or not it was a foul ball. Jon Sciambi’s announcing added to this by not actually saying something for the first few seconds of the initial homer. When it is a no-doubt home run it is really impressive with how cinematic everything gets. When it comes to batting in this year’s version of The Show, gone are the generic follow-through that almost every hitter had in MLB 21 and now there’s a little thing called variety that was really necessary.

Graydon is correct with his assessment of perfect/perfect hits. With it being a timing-based achievement for each at-bat it is still one of the best things introduced in a sports game. Maybe a little too good if I can be honest about it as I am mentally unable to play older versions of MLB The Show due to the feature not being present in the game. I also agree that stealing bases feels more difficult than it was in previous installments of The Show. This could just be my dulled senses but whenever the opposing team steals a bag I am caught completely unaware.

It could just be the fact that I’ve been playing these games since the beginning but in my first two Road to the Show games, I pitched back-to-back no-hitters. While this was certainly entertaining, it was a bit too easy and the lack of a challenge left me conflicted.

The Verdict

MLB 22 is a return to form compared to last year’s installment and is a game that I feel lives up to the moniker I give it as “the most consistent annual sports game”. With the new additions such as Jon “Boog” Sciambi and Chris Singleton in the broadcast booth, the immersive elements such as the Regional Sports Network themes, satisfying and addictive gameplay, the always-evolving Diamond Dynasty, and the changes made to March to October there is a lot to love in this product. Unfortunately, the lack of anything substantial in Franchise mode, the monotony of Road to the Show, and some minor issues keep this game from being the postseason contender we all want it to be.

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