Simulation sports titles are a dime a dozen, with many of those on an annual circulation. As such, improvements are more often than not relegated to minor upgrades more akin to expansions or live service updates, whereby games receive basic graphical updates and not much else. In some scenarios, graphical fidelity might even drop as publishers change development studios or while developers take the time to get to grips with new console hardware. MLB is one such annual franchise, and is also one of the greats in the sports simulation genre. With MLB The Show 21 squarely behind the backs of players and a shining future to look forward to, San Diego Studio has a lot to live up to… and they mostly manage with MLB The Show 22

While MLB The Show has been a Sony exclusive for quite some time, the game finally arrived to greener pastures (so to speak) in 2021, when MLB The Show 21 released for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. It needs to be said how MLB The Show 22 continues this new tradition, only with the added benefit of being on Xbox Games Pass from the start! This little enhancement allows for even more gamers to play and enjoy what is arguably one of the best sports video games in existence. That is to say, however, as long as they have not already enjoyed what MLB The Show 21 has to offer. The sad reality is how the law of diminishing returns is very real, and it is very prominent in this annual release.

Much like year’s variant of the franchise, MLB The Show 22 once again brings back the iterative ‘Road to the Show‘ game mode. This so-called “campaign mode” begins with a fairly simple character creator, before throwing players directly into the action. The player-character is once again already an established part of the MLB universe and it is their goal to “make it big”, and go from small league champion through to national superstar. One of the key focuses this time around is in the mode’s presentation. Clear effort has been made to make it more accessible toward newer players, or players with less experience in baseball. It must be noted how some knowledge of the sport is still required here, as only basic gameplay is explained with rules and regulations remaining ‘up in the air’ unless one does some extra research. Nonetheless, these changes are most definitely a step in the right direction. There is also a lot more polish this time around. Conversations and player choices feel like they carry weight, with actual conversations and dialogue making the cut – as opposed to simple tick boxes or lists.

Road to the Show follows the same format as well, with an easy to understand seasonal format made to mimic what it must be like to play for clubs and small leagues. Gameplay eventually evolves with the addition of new choices reflecting the player-character’s progression into the larger national leagues. The addition of podcast segments make Road to the Show feel more like players are experiencing a real viewing experience from the outside, mimicking documentary-style shows as they play a part in the overall experience. Road to the Show has always been a personal favourite and it really feels like San Diego Studio finally nailed it with these minor, yet noticeable improvements. There is also the addition of cross-saves, cross-progression and cross-play between consoles – ensuring no matter where gamers play, they can enjoy their character’s hard earned progression.

Another huge addition to MLB The Show 22 comes by way of the sports simulation video game genre’s most rewarding card game. While ‘Diamond Dynasty’ plays exactly the same as it did in the previous title, it now comes with a pretty significant new feature: co-op! While it is quite simple in its execution, co-op mode adds a whole new dimension to the way players can collect and take on challengers from around the world. In this mode, players can combine their collections of cards and create massive player rosters. Two players can then use this single massive roster and go into challenges with much more machismo than before.

March to October, the franchise’s heavily truncated seasons mode, has also received a significant upgrade. Where this mode used to be a simple (and blazingly fast) one-and-done deal, players can now choose to replay it in a continuous fashion, with multiple seasons now seeing the light of day. This allows gamers to oversee their favourite teams and free agents make it all the way through to the World Series. It kind of hearkens back to the single-player focussed campaign modes of other sports titles more so than even Road to the Show, and it will quickly become one of the go-to game modes for fans of MLB The Show. Replayability is key for any sports video game, after all, and this is most certainly the star of the show in this regard. 

While the aforementioned upgrades are most definitely the headliners in MLB The Show 22, it needs to be said how little monetisation there truly is in the game (at launch). The game truly feels fresh and new without any kind of Season-Pass content blasting through loading screens and menu tabs. Diamond Dynasty will always feature some kind of payment system, and the game will naturally see a hefty amount of post-launch content and additions; but not having the usual passes shoved down one’s throat is truly a breath of fresh air. This could be a result of the streamlining San Diego Studio have done to the game. Menus, for instance, are simpler than ever before, and game modes have been simplified and unified into an easy to understand tab. 

With the above in mind, it needs to be said how little “else” the game has going for it. As usual, gameplay feels great and controlling characters on the field is as snappy as ever. Moments where management must take place are also sleek and easy to do. However, when all has been said and done, there is not really nothing new for this annual release! The game looks and feels exactly like its predecessor from only a year ago. With the exception of new teams and player faces [meticulously scanned and inserted into the game], the only additions come down to singular upgrades to established game modes. Players who found excitement in the previous game will feel insurmountable joy with all of the improvements in MLB The Show 22, and new players will undoubtedly have fun exploring the joys of American Baseball, but that is also the extent of it. 

MLB The Show 22 is, rather disappointingly, just another yearly iteration of a franchise title. While the gameplay is stellar and it truly is one of the best sports simulation video game titles currently available, it does little more to excite over the 21 release. Upgrades are minor, to say the least, and graphics remain largely unchanged. As such, and for these reasons specifically, MLB The Show 22 can simply not be regarded as a game that truly sets the bar in any meaningful way. Sure, it improves slightly on the 2021 variant of the franchise, but it largely comes across as more of a 2022 refresh and content update than offering any meaningful and progressive changes.


Verdict:

GOOD

PROSCONS
Diamond Dynasty got co-opNo meaningful additions beyond upgrades
March to October is now much betterLooks and plays the same
Road to the Show finally feels complete

Title reviewed on Xbox Series X with code supplied by Sony Interactive Entertainment.

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Junior Editor at Vamers | View Author Profile

Junior Editor at Vamers. From Superman to Ironman; Bill Rizer to Sam Fisher and everything in-between, Edward loves it all. He is a Bachelor of Arts student and English Major specialising in Language and Literature. He is an avid writer and casual social networker with a flare for all things tech related.