PlayStation PlayStation 5

MLB The Show 21 Batters Up Into The Next-Gen

MLB The Show 21 Tatis Jr

MLB The Show 21

Developer: San Diego Studio
Release Date: April 16, 2021
Available as: Physical and Digital

A Baseball Game Made For Fans By Fans

If I had a genre that I would say is my “weakest,” in terms of gaming, it would be “sports” titles like MLB The Show 21. But that alone isn’t enough to explain myself per se. Like NBA 2K, Live, Madden, and recently F1 2021, simulation sports are not my cups of tea.

This is largely due to learning every nuance relating to the sport itself in order to find enjoyment. A monster of a fact that will rear its ugly head when I inevitably have to cover NBA 2K22 as learning the rules of basketball is almost a requirement. Especially when it comes to getting caught in dire scenarios like “standing three seconds in the paint” or “backcourt violations.”

Mets vs Yankees The Show 21
MLB The Show 21 - Sony PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

Baseball is no exception and MLB The Show 21, like most yearly titles, is made to cater to an audience. Players who have played the previous iterations and diehard fans of baseball will certainly get the most mileage as the mechanics will be similar to every other The Show title released prior with some changes thrown in the mix. For a complete newbie to the series, the number of ways to play the game felt overwhelming and I spent most of the recording trying to get my bearings straight.

MLB The Show 21 Offers Many Styles of Gameplay

There are three different ways to pitch, from a traditional “hold button to charge” meter, to a “tap button to throw at the right timing” mode, and a convoluted “use the motion controls to aim the pitch” or whatever it was it requested of me. Batting was a similar story, from a traditional “hit the ball once it reaches the zone of the batting range” to a “screw it hit the ball when it comes in your direction” mode. I found myself having success in hitting the ball with the latter, but I still found myself swinging the ball way too early or way too late.

Mets Baseball Batter Swing
MLB The Show 21 - Sony PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

MLB The Show 21’s gameplay was as frustrating to play as it was to watch for those who will see the accompanying video, I’m sure, which is a shame because the presentation was pretty spot-on. Player models are realistic enough, showing the personalities of the individual players as well as their motions when they pitch, get into stance, and swing the bat. There’s the passive commentary which is a nice touch and the intros for each game is similar to that of watching a broadcast at home. 

Harsh Learning Curve Aside, MLB The Show 21 Is A Marvel

Perhaps thanks to the powers of the PS5, the audience models in MLB The Show 21 look as much detailed as the players themselves, an impressive feat as there are hundreds modeled at any given time. The audience cheers and jeers, getting out of their seats when a big play is happening and celebrating when a successful play is made. At times I felt the audience was more energetic in celebrating a home run more than the players themselves, though that can be struck up to realism as baseball games are like this at times.

MLB The Show 21 The Mets
MLB The Show 21 - Sony PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

The stadiums also appear as close to reality as possible, using Citi Field as a comparison as that’s the stadium I’m most familiar with seeing. The “Mets Apple” that shows itself when a homer is made, the large “Citi” sign that doubles as a scoreboard, it’s all here in the best rendition of it that I’ve ever seen. There are also custom ballparks ranging from university stadiums to outrageous ones like a stadium located in the snowy mountains.

Arcade Sports Fanatics Are ‘Treated’ To A Half-Baked ‘Retro’ Mode

There’s even a bonus “Retro” mode, mimicking the simplistic controls of the older 90s games, complete with over-the-top arcade commentary detailing every strike, ball, and home run. Music also plays consistently, foregoing the ambiance that usually transpires in an actual game. The players move with a nostalgic stiffness that seems jarring when seen in 4K graphics as it is the same engine used in MLB The Show 21 and all. Still, it’s a fun novelty that tends to wear out its welcome fairly quickly.

MLB The Show 21 Retro Mode
MLB The Show 21 - Sony PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

It took me a while to piece the two together, but the intro voice to the retro mode is done by none other than Ken Griffey Jr. Although the team behind MLB The Show 21 does not correlate with the titles, Ken Griffey Jr. had his baseball series back in the 90s which played similar to the retro mode featured here. It’s all smoke and mirrors as you’re quickly reminded that the main meat of the game is in its other modes.

MLB The Show 21 Is Okay For Baseball Fans, But For Everyone Else...

MLB The Show 21 Yankees
MLB The Show 21 - Sony PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

For players who are longtime fans of baseball, they will enjoy the step into the next generation. The haptic feedback reflects off of a runner’s feet on the pavement, the tension of a pitch before releasing from the player’s hand, and other environmental interactions. While visually and audibly, MLB The Show 21 is amazing to look at, the gameplay itself is a frustrating mess. I’m well aware that this is coming from someone who would rather the arcade MLB titles of old that was blessed by the creative minds at Midway. I still would love Never Realm Studios to make an arcade sports game again one of these days.

MLB The Show 21 is available on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S

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