You may not know it, but across the Atlantic, spring and the return of the sun also mark the return of Baseball. The MLB (the professional baseball league in the USA) still resumes its rights at the end of March and ends in October with the World Series which serves as the grand final. Finally « always » … not in this particular year when the season could not resume until this month of April. Particular from a video game point of view also since MLB 21 The Show, developed by a studio bearing the acronym “Playstation Studios”, is also being released for the first time on Xbox Series and Xbox One. So with MLB The Show 21 are we on a strike or a home run?
Take me to the ball game
With MLB The Show we are always on a simulation extremely faithful to the sport and to the Major League Baseball. Whether for teams, stadiums, equipment, bats, gloves, crampons, etc. All licenses are there to immerse you in the professional world of American sport.
You will then find several modes such as immediate kicks off, online modes or challenges but we will retain some here 4 main to introduce the license and even take full advantage of it. Four modes that may require a lot of investment depending on your motivation.
The mode Diamond Dynasty consists of a kind of online Battle Royale where you will have to get 12 victories without losing more than 3 times at the risk of starting all over again to earn rewards. Note that this mode was not available during our first days of testing, we were only able to test it late and it did not convince us too much.
You will have the famous « Road to the Show » which is greatly inspired by the famous my career mode of NBA2K and in which you will start your career in the minor league (MiLB) and you will have to earn your place to move from these small communal stadiums to the big show of the MLB. As in NBA 2K you will be followed by an agent who will help you in your career choices. Your story will be interspersed with actual cutscenes recorded by actual MLB analysts who will podcast video commentary on your recent performances.
The third mode is of course the mode Franchise where you will control a team throughout the season and more. With a baseball season of 162 games, you can imagine how long it takes.
Latest fashion but not the least, the awesome « March to October ». A mode integrated imperfectly in MLB The Show 19, (quite recent therefore) in which you will have the chance to live an entire season from March to October with your favorite team and in a scripted and lean way. You will not experience the matches fully but will only play the spicy parts of them. In our test, after a cutscene introducing our franchise, a passage by the journalist modeled at the edge of the field, we were propelled into the second part of round 6 with the bases full to try to score 4 runs (points) or to leave empty-handed. . Because if the mode is scripted and triggers cutscenes with real actors, the player and the results obtained dictate all the story-telling around the season. It’s absolutely awesome!
In all these modes, the more time you spend in the field with certain teammates the more you will improve your understanding with them. Likewise, racking up rough confrontations with the same players will create a rivalry between you that fans and commentators alike will react to. A gameplay idea that finds its place in a sports game where competitiveness is the key word. The possibility of “challenging” a contentious action via a small cutscene where we see the manager on the phone also brings a lot of immersion and involvement in what is happening on the ground. You will also have several challenges that can be activated in the middle of a match and if you meet them you will earn rewards. To stay in the very good ideas: the return of the dynamic difficulty which will adapt the AI according to what you succeed or not in a match.
Baseball for all
Simulation requires, each match will offer you three distinct phases of play: at bat, pitch (you will throw the balls to the opposing beaters) or the fielding (you must wait for the balls that the opposing beaters manage to return to track them, them pick up on the fly if possible and send them back to your teammates on the bases, or you can directly be on one of the bases).
And to address these three phases, San Diego Studio is emphasizing accessibility this year and will therefore offer you an intelligent novelty with three game modes: Casual, which will allow you to learn the mechanics, rules and positioning at your own pace and this is where the lack of French subtitles is even more pity … The mode Simulation which transcribes a very faithful MLB experience and finally the mode Competitive in which the skill of the players is in the spotlight and all the actions are done with the joysticks.
For the phases at bat you will have several different mechanics which ultimately all have the same objective, to succeed in tracking the ball that the thrower sends you with your joysticks and to come into contact with it or to let it pass if you feel that it is in. outside the strike zone. For that it will be necessary to work on its timing match after match or in training for example. The timing differs depending on how hard you hit the ball, the « Cross » key on PS5 or « A » on Xbox corresponding to normal contact and « round » or « b » to contact with more force. This timing can also change depending on the ball the pitcher throws at you. The best pitchers have a range of 5 different pitches. A « fastball » has a different timing from a « curve » for example and you will need to locate them to successfully hit the ball.
When you will play as a casual pitcher you will have to throw the balls by simply choosing the zone in which you want to put it then confirming with « cross » or « a » and that will do the trick. From simulation mode, it becomes much more complicated to make a success of your throws. You will have a gauge going up and down and you will need to successfully press « cross » or « a » when the gauge cursor goes up and also just before it goes down completely. The other novelty concerning the throw is the “pinpoint pitching”. A mode intended for experts and which wants to be extremely precise with lines of throws carried out with the sticks.
For the fielding part, the developers have put the package with many animations, sometimes spectacular, which will allow you to spice up those moments spent under the sun waiting for the balls. In the same way each return is done with a kind of QTE or you will have to find your targeted teammate within a given time and send him the ball with R2 or RT. We really had a lot of fun throughout the fielding part, in particular with the new “off the wall” landings where the physics of the ball bouncing off the walls is handled in a realistic and credible manner.
A controlled achievement from the first to the ninth round
MLB The Show 21 excels at the achievement level. You are also offered two types of skins before each match. Either the cover created by San Diego Studios, which makes a lot of coffee and which is called very modestly « The Show », or the « MLB Network » cover which takes up the dressing that we see on television in the United States. Commentaries from Mark DeRosa, Dan Plesac, Matt Vasgersian and Heidi Watne also contribute a lot to the immersion.
The work around the sound environment is incredible. Between the crowd which can be delirious depending on your actions on the field or very calm as in a real baseball game – which can sometimes be very long -, the music, the organ or the announcers in the stadium, it feels like it really. Especially since the stadiums are modeled in a way that could not be more faithful with the possibility, for the stadiums offering it, to open or close the retractable roof depending on the weather.
Even if the facial animations are clearly dated and the faces, more generally, unrealistic, the game is beautiful to cry. The transitions between the real phases filmed in real life, and the in game phases are done naturally and we see with MLB The Show 21 that the border between reality and virtual is more and more porous. The game runs at 4K 60 fps on both PS5 and Xbox Series X.
PS5 1 – 0 XSX
The real difference between the two versions is in the loading times. Very short on PS5 since you will only need 8 seconds to go from the home of the PS5 to the main menu of the game when it will be necessary to count not less than 31 seconds on Xbox Series (we tested the S and X Series and the results are pretty much the same). If the difference is so great, it is first of all because the game clearly loads faster on PS5, we notice it very clearly from the first loading screen at the launch of the game, but also because the clip of the Playstation Studios does not. is not present on PS5 while it is and cannot be switched to Xbox. Same when you want to start a match from the main menu, count 7 seconds on PS5 between your confirmation in the menus and the moment when you will actually be in a match while this duration is 11 seconds sure Xbox series. We can also note the support for Dualsense, which without being revolutionary, really makes the throws and receptions of the ball more immersive, the PS5 clearly marks the run here. But the Xbox has the advantage of offering the game right out of the box in its Gamepass catalog. So let’s say a ball everywhere in the center? Thin, bad sport.
And if MLB The Show 21 is a very good Baseball simulation and a marvel of achievement, the least we can say is that Sony has not sprained to attract most of the world who will have understood the previous reference. The game is only intended for Americans and baseball fans as it is, and that’s a shame because the title has a lot of qualities.
MLB The Show 21 very good simulation of baseball but especially of the MLB which, thanks to the licenses, to the official dressings and an incredible sound environment, is perfectly transcribed. The gain in comfort on Next Gen is striking. However, it is highly regrettable that MLB The Show 21 is only available in English. The arrival of the game on Xbox Game Pass was a perfect opportunity to open the license internationally, and it’s a shame it was ignored.