The end of a console’s lifecycle is always a curious time for many games, including sports titles. Due to the annual nature of them, many games often neglect to include tons of features into a title that might be coming out at the end of a console generation. This isn’t the case when it comes to MLB The Show 20, however, as the latest entry in the popular baseball franchise has ended what is likely to be this console generation with a bang. On top of some improved animations and looks, the game made sure to update itself in a ton of crucial areas before an offseason of change.
The first thing you’ll come to notice in MLB The Show 20 is its overhauled presentation. Once again, the recreation of the game is near-perfect, and not only are the commentators and network broadcasts all represented, but the breaks in between play are all done in a cinematic style, allowing for players to feel like they’re truly part of the game. Instead of standard cuts to the crowd or of a player standing around, The Show 20 has more artistic sweeps across the field, giving some truly impressive scenes as you get ready to take on an opposing pitcher or stare down a batter.
Of course, the biggest changes to MLB The Show 20 are found in its mechanics, which have also been tweaked a lot from the past. One of the major complaints over the years in The Show is how easy and repetitive fielding and hitting had become. SIE San Diego Studio made it a mission to tweak that in the offseason, and what’s come of it is the latest changes to fielder efficiency and a brand new tier of hitting. For fielding, there are a large number of changes to the way you’ll play, mostly for how outfielders react during games.
Thanks to their new reaction time and first step system, outfielders with higher fielding ratings will be able to play line drives and fly balls much better than those who can’t, making the gap in talent that much more obvious depending on which team you play as. Should a play at the plate be needed, players can now throw a perfect ball to home and boost their odds of the ball arriving on time and in an accurate spot, all of which make the game feel even more like its real-life counterpart. On the infield side of things, a more intuitive throw meter has been introduced, meaning you’ll have to react faster during defensive plays in order to get outs.
When it comes to hitting, a brand new perfect/perfect tier has been introduced. In the past, you’d be graded on a scale from Very Early to Good based on how on time your swing was as well as where you contacted the ball. In The Show 20, a new ‘Perfect/Perfect’ grade has been introduced, and should you make perfect contact at the perfect time, you’ll gain a boost to whichever type of hit – ground ball, line drive, etc – you complete. It’s an interesting way to teach players to wait for the perfect opportunity to swing, and I found myself cutting back on trying to hack at pitches that I knew would result in a poor at-bat because of it.
Elsewhere in The Show 20, minor changes have been made to some of the series’ longtime modes. Franchise Mode received a long-overdue addition of custom editing suites, with the Diamond Dynasty logo creator, team name editor, and team color editor all joining the mode. Now, players can not only move their teams, but also create brand new names, logos, and jerseys for them. While the addition of a custom stadium (you can choose from 60 real-life stadiums instead) is not in the game yet, it is a nice step forward for a mode that was starving for customization options. In Road to the Show, a greater emphasis on relationships has been introduced, as players who have better relationships with you can give you slight boosts during in-game scenarios. Likewise, new multi-reward challenges included during games will allow you to level up your perk progression even faster.
A new mode introduced in MLB The Show 19 was March to October, and that quickly became a fan favorite. In The Show 20, the mode receives some more love, with even more compelling situations being added into the game. By far the biggest changes, though, is the ability to finally call up prospects who might be able to help your team, and a much more in-depth trade hub. Last year, March to October’s trade hub was extremely barebones and didn’t do all that much to help you cover your team’s needs. Now, that’s changed, and you have much more control over what exactly you’re looking to do as you aim for a World Series title. For my money, March to October might be the best mode that MLB The Show 20 has to offer, as it’s extremely accessible and doesn’t require too much commitment to jump in and have fun.
When it comes to new game modes, The Show 20 doesn’t disappoint, bringing two new options into the series. After being requested for some time, players can now make their own online custom leagues with friends. Players have the choice to customize everything about a season and play it out with their friends, which is a much-needed addition, as the only other options for playing a friend previously were simple exhibition games using either Diamond Dynasty or normal rosters.
Speaking of Diamond Dynasty, the ever-popular card game mode makes its return and is once again one of the best modes in the game. Building your team is incredibly easy, and unlike other card collecting games in other sports game franchises, Diamond Dynasty rarely feels like you have to spend money in order to have fun, and it’s even received a new game mode in the form of Showdown. In Showdown, players will draft a small team of Diamond Dynasty players and perks that affect in-game scenarios and run through a gauntlet of challenges in order to collect rewards.
The gauntlet runs from simple challenges like getting a hit, to one-time elimination challenges that require you to complete a task within a certain number of outs. Along the way, you’ll continue building your team and earning rewards, with the ultimate goal to be beating your round and earning the top prize. It’s another mode that doesn’t take too much time to invest in but is incredibly fun, and during my brief time with the game I found myself constantly going back to try and build the best team and survive through the gauntlet of moments.
It’s often difficult for sports games to improve upon things with such a short turnaround time in between releases. However, when it comes to MLB The Show 20 and the team at SIE San Diego Studio, that seems to not be the case. Not only did MLB The Show 20 improve upon a ton of much-needed changes, but they also managed to build upon a solid showing last year, and introduce some brand new – and long overdue – game modes in the process. With another console generation close to ending, MLB The Show 20 is poised for incredible success in the future, and starts the decade off with another must-buy game for baseball fans.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of MLB The Show 20 for the PlayStation 4 provided by SIE San Diego Studio and Sony Interactive Entertainment.