I have long believed that MLB The Show is the best sports game available on the market, and that hasn’t changed with the new version of the game, MLB The Show 21. I got my hands on the game four days early thanks to the pre-order bonus on the special editions of the game and have spent many hours grinding away already.
For the record, I have been playing on the Xbox series X/S version of the game and haven’t touched the Xbox one version. There will be differences between the games, so this review might not be the most helpful if you play on the previous generation of console.
As usual, the gameplay of MLB The Show 21 is rather strong when it is compared to it’s rivals such as Madden, NHL, RBI, and FIFA just to name a couple. There have been a couple of glitches here and there, but they haven’t been enough to derail my experience in my short time with the game.
First and foremost, the game feels organic and like a recreation of the game of baseball instead of an arcade game like some other franchises, especially when you are playing games in the simulation gameplay style. So far, games have been fun and mostly realistic and I have been able to find a decent difficulty that suits me.
I have always seen people upset about their swing being timed well and hard hit result in an out while others might be early and decent contact result in home runs, but this really doesn’t bother me, especially considering I am a simulation style player and that is realistic.
One of the things that has got me down about the gameplay this year is the check swing. In MLB The Show 20, it seemed like any time you even thought about checking your swing, it would be successful. This year on the other hand, it is nearly impossible to check your swing. Even when you are completely confident you didn’t go around, it has been called a strike nearly every time. It’s just one of those things you will have to get used to.
As I am more of a simulation type of player, I haven’t yet jumped into diamond dynasty, the mode that seems to be the most popular amongst hardcore players. I’m not the person to ask about card selection or competitive gameplay, so I won’t try to pretend like I really know what I’m doing there.
For the simulation players, this section is probably the most important to you. I’m going to break this down into each game mode.
Franchise mode has long been neglected in MLB The Show games, and that isn’t really much different this time around. You can still only make trades with three players, you still don’t have as much control over things like scouting as I would like there to be, and there still feels like there are massive holes in the mode.
One of the things that makes this game mode worse this year is the menus. Navigating in this game is exponentially harder than years prior for no reason. Once you get the hang of the menus, it’s not that bad, but it took me a good while to find everything I need.
The mode is still playable and it’s better than some other games like Madden, but it still falls short of any game that pays any kind of attention to franchise mode. Maybe there needs to be a movement like #FixMaddenFranchise to help San Diego Studios care about the franchise lovers again.
RTTS is another mode plagued by the menu navigation. It took me far too long to figure out how to personalize my player to my liking. There just wasn’t a reason to make them so complicated. At first, I was put off by the connection of RTTS and diamond dynasty, but after playing it for some time, I can assure you that it can still be played as a stand-alone mode.
Some of the things I don’t like include removing the prospects games and everything that goes along with it prior to the draft. You are now assigned to a team at random and that takes away from some of the personal connection I have with my team. I don’t like the option to play with multiple builds in the same career mode, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to, so I’m not too worried. I was not happy to see that I had to pitch when it happened, and I thought it was going to zap the enjoyment out of the game for me, but you don’t need to do it again after if you don’t want to.
The added video scenes are pretty cool and add some much needed context to the mode. It’s one of those things that might get annoying and repetitive, but as of yet, I haven’t seen any repeating scenes and they have all been advancing the story. I’m not sure how these would feel in podcast form on previous generation consoles, but it’s still nice to see something new at this point.
These are the two game modes I play. If you play others and want to know about them, please do check elsewhere. I don’t want to speak to modes I don’t play.
I can’t even begin to describe how excited I was to find out that there would be a stadium creator in MLB The Show 21. It was something that I have been wanting for years like most of the community, and it is so incredibly detailed I don’t even know where to begin.
Let’s start with the bad. When you are actually building the stadium, it can be a little over whelming. The good news is that there are options to help you out. There are pre-built stadiums that you can alter to make your own. My biggest complaint so far is the wonky camera controls and the snapping that doesn’t make much sense when it’s actually working. It can be a little finnicky at times, but for a brand new feature, it actually works quite well.
Let’s get to the good, and it heavily out-weighs the bad. There is so much that can be done. If you are building your own stadium from scratch, you can make it whatever you want it to be. You can build a super old school stadium with brick walls, you can build a modern stadium with massive surrounding buildings, or you can build a stadium featuring cows, dinosaurs, snow, and palm trees. Heck, you can get really free with it and combine them all and toss a couple of UFOs in there too.
There are so many different options for things like scoreboards, the batter’s eye, concession stands, light towers, flags, trees, roads, and buildings. You really can build whatever you want for personal use in game modes like franchise, quick play, and the home run derby. For competitive play, you are restricted in the dimensions of you field, but there are more than enough to make you happy.
I am very pleasantly surprised to see how this was implemented. Of course, there are still some things that you can’t do like play in a domed stadium or change things such as the dugout or the netting around the backstop, but those are things that might in the creator next year. For the amount of stuff you can do in the first time this is a thing in my history with the series, I’m very impressed.
The jump between the PS3 and PS4 era were huge and very noticeable to the average player, but the graphical changes between the PS4 and PS5/Xbox Series X/S aren’t as drastic, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. You will need to take a closer look at the fine details to get any sense of improvement.
While there have been some improvements in the caps, jerseys, and faces, the most obvious spot to see improvement visually is the lighting. The shadows are now more realistic looking and give the game a more real feeling. The ballpark has some life now.
While the game is amazing visually, the audio quality in this game is shocking. Let’s start this section by saying that I think this is something that will eventually be fixed with some kind of patch, but the commentary in this game sounds like it was recorded on a tin can. To say that I was disappointed is a massive understatement.
This has never been an issue for me with any other game and I don’t believe it to be an issue with my equipment after I messed with it for quite some time to try to fix it. This is something simply inexcusable. I expected some bugs and issues that would need to be ironed out, but this is not something I was expecting what so ever.
On the next generation consoles, we were sold that games would look and sound better, The sound effects in the game are good and don’t have the tin-like reverb to them, so I can’t understand how something like this made it to publishing. If this is fixed, I can comfortably say there are no complaints in the graphics and audio department, but it needs to be fixed in order for me to get my full enjoyment out of this year’s title.
I have already spent more hours than I am ready to admit playing this game and I have been thoroughly entertained the entire time doing so. If you love the sport of baseball, you are going to love playing this game. Like I said at the top, this is one of the best simulation sports games on the market.
RTTS, MTO, and franchise will keep any simulation player happy. Diamond dynasty and quick play online will keep those more competitive players happy and entertained. There really is something for everyone in this game despite there not being any new game modes this year.
Is MLB The Show 21 Worth the Buy?
MLB The Show 21 is certainly worth the money despite all of the negative things that I have mentioned. The most important part of the game is the gameplay and that has been smooth and really good early on. Again, there are some bugs that need to be sorted out and I trust that they will.
You may have seen people early on in the early access talking about how they lost stubs or didn’t get their pre-order bonus, but I believe that has now been sorted for the most part. If I was given the chance to get a refund and not have the game, I wouldn’t do it. It was been well worth the $100+ Canadian dollars so far.