As the old adage goes, the show must go on. Despite the fact that Sony San Diego is releasing MLB The Show 21 on Microsoft’s consoles for the first time ever, the main attraction on the PlayStation 5 manages to take things to yet another impressive level on the mound. With more emphasis on easing players into the variety of game modes available, MLB The Show 21 manages to be an enticing and substantial package for series veterans as well.
Jumping into the game for the first time, players will be able to choose between Casual, Simulation, and Competitive modes. There is room for you to customise the challenge you will face during your time with MLB The Show 21, which is highly recommended for newcomers to the series.
Sony San Diego has helpfully included many tutorial cards that will always be there to guide you, with the different controls and game modes being broken down into more digestible chunks. Once you have polished your foundation, moving up into Simulation mode will allow you to appreciate the nuances of the game even better.
The AI will put up more of a fight, and features such as zone-based hitting and Pinpoint Pitching will give you the opportunity to find your legs in the game. By mastering these new systems, you will only get better and enjoy MLB The Show 21 more.
The headlining feature this year is that of the Stadium Creator, where players can let their creativity take flight just like a well-hit home run. There is certainly depth to the creation process – almost everything you care about in a stadium can be altered. Seating arrangements, walls, even the backdrop of the cities can be changed.
Unfortunately, the process is not helped by intuitive controls, with complex menus miring your progress from an empty lot to an established ballpark. Even more strange is that custom stadiums do not allow for nighttime variants, so if you are used to playing evening games, get ready for a healthy dose of Vitamin D always.
Aside from the new stuff, the core gameplay of MLB The Show 21 continues its dominance. The teams and players get all the love and attention, while the on-field action and simulation are second-to-none. Add to that all the various modes and players are simply spoiled for choice. While there are no new modes to speak of, there are many changes to take note of.
For most players of MLB The Show 21, the Road to the Show mode will take up much of your attention, and rightly so. This year’s version has undergone a facelift of sorts, marking it as the biggest departure compared to the previous iteration.
Created characters are automatically slotted into the two-way configuration, allowing players to both be a hitter as well as a pitcher by default. No more extraneous creation of save files just so you can experience the other half of the game. Of course, the initial stages of the mode will eventually lead you down to the path of specialising, which kind of ruins the purpose of the change in the first place.
This hands-off approach to specialisation extended to the development of your player and their skills. Loadouts are the way to go here, and it can be a hassle trying to manage your gear, abilities, and whatnot constantly. Compared to MLB The Show 20, things are more complicated without being worth the trouble.
As for the narrative parts of Road to the Show, there is still not much to write home about, so to speak. It still comes down to doing well in games and trying to make your player better. The added touch of video commentary on the new consoles is nice, but it is just window dressing at this point.
MLB The Show 21’s other crown jewel is the Diamond Dynasty mode, which is made even more apparent due to its integration into all of the other modes, including Road to the Show.
In fact, to hasten your progress, you might be better off investing your time in Diamond Dynasty. Progress is most significant under Programs, MLB The Show 21’s idea of a battle pass. Completing objectives daily will help you level up and earn rewards, which will go a long way in helping you in Road to the Show.
Overall, the mode is also more forgiving, allowing the importing of your created pro into Diamond Dynasty and enjoying the various game modes such as Showdown, all while making progress with the card collection.
March to October mode remains largely the same, retaining the intensity and high-stakes drama that accompanies the different moments for your chosen team. Do well and the momentum system will reward you as the team plays better, fare poorly and you could be in for a bad time.
For Franchise mode, the custom stadiums and being able to import your Road to the Show character into custom teams definitely spice things up, giving you more of an identity to hold onto throughout the seasons. What is not that good is the fact that you still cannot bring your Franchise team online and play against others, which would have been great for the cross-play functionality.
MLB The Show 21 may be the franchise’s first foray into the new consoles, but the graphics department is lacking. If you have previously enjoyed the series on the PS4 Pro, visuals are sadly very familiar. Animations are reused as well, and the same goes for certain voice lines. This is an annualised sports game, yes, but surely as the first entry for the shiny new consoles, things could have been made even better?
The DualSense controller does provide some interesting situations of immersion, as the controller pulses as the pitcher winds up the pitch, with the crowd cheering and music blasting making full use of 3D audio. The satisfying crack of the bat can be heard from the DualSense as well if you time your hit right, which surely makes it impossible to enjoy MLB The Show without it for future entries.
The long-running baseball series may be a PlayStation icon, but its first step into the Xbox ecosystem meant that the team at Sony San Diego had to accommodate for a new wave of players experiencing it for the first time. Thankfully, just like any other aspect of the game, MLB The Show 21 does a great job in welcoming first-time players, but not neglecting its core audience.
With improvements made in all the aspects of the game, some more significant than the others, players will find the familiarity comfortable. Together with the new Stadium Creator, cross-play functionality, and DualSense implementation, there is enough here to cement MLB The Show 21 as the best baseball game there is.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Not exactly the all-star debut, MLB The Show 21 is still the frontrunner for the best baseball experience on consoles.
Gameplay - 8.5/10
Story - 6/10
Presentation - 7/10
Value - 8.5/10