MLB The Show 20 Review – Baseball at its Finest

Major League baseball is still in Spring Training (maybe?), but that doesn’t mean you can’t start your season off early. MLB The Show 20‘s early release is upon us and we have been running the basepaths for days. Does the game improve on its run of greatness, or is it more of the same?

Read on to find out

This MLB video game franchise has been around the PlayStation family since 1997. It has grown with leaps and bounds and it evolved into MLB The Show fourteen years ago in 2006. Developer SIE San Diego Studio has taken a simple baseball game and turned it into a full on sports RPG like no other. With MLB The Show 20, they didn’t just bring back the tried and true favorites of the series, they also improved upon aspects that we didn’t think needed improving. Lifelike graphics and animations are just the eye candy of an incredibly awesome game.

Start Your Road to the Show

One of our all time favorite aspects for MLB The Show is the RTTS mode. It’s a true sports RPG mode that has been included for a long time, and since MLB The Show 14, has allowed you to import your character to the next edition of the game. We have been doing this with both a starting pitcher and an outfielder since then, and even though both have had a long career, they’ll get another season or two out of this year’s edition. It’s always hard to tell what improvements there are in a new season of a game, so we always start new players just for that purpose.

We chose to start with an outfielder this go round and one of your first decisions will be what type of player you want him to be. You’ll have 5 choices, each with their own pros and cons. Do you want Pure Power, do you want to play Small Ball, there’s Rock Steady, Mr. Utility, or the all around beast of power and speed, The Anomaly. Your overall stats and attributes will be determined by which road you want to travel down.

Friend or Foe

One of the cool new features for this season is that attribute increases are shown live and in-game directly above your player. Your relationships to other players, whether on your team or as a rival on the other teams, is also updated live and in-game. That was pretty much only in the menus previously, so that’s a definite plus. These relationships are key to unlocking special perks that will enhance your player and your team mates. These perks can help you in key situations when you are behind in the count, behind on the scoreboard, or just want to jump on that first pitch. Key interactions in the club house will also help determine which perks are available to you and help make new friends or create new rivalries.

Diamond Dynasty

Returning again is another fun aspect of the game: Diamond Dynasty. This is a baseball card mode that will have you collecting baseball cards from the current and past seasons, to build a team to compete online with. With last seasons game, the developers gave us new content to play right up until Spring Training this year, so this isn’t a game that will be gathering dust just because the real season is over. Your team may start out with some low tiered cards, but newer and better cards are fairly easy to obtain, one just has to work at it.

There are many ways to earn new cards and the best way to earn the high end cards is through Programs. Last year’s game saw eleven different programs through the course of the season, so there should be ample opportunities to unlock some of the best cards. The 1st Inning Program has already been revealed and leads to really nice Diamond cards of Todd Helton, Roy Oswalt, and Duke Snider. Roy Oswalt’s card is a Prime card, which means it has a special program that can upgrade it to a Prestige which takes it from a 91 to a 95. This is another new feature with MLB The Show 20 that gives us even more chances to improve our overall team.

New MLB Rules Means New Game Changes

Being implemented into MLB this year is the 3 batter minimum rule, which means a relief pitcher must either face 3 batters, or end an inning. In two separate 3-inning based modes for MLB The Show, the game used a sped up fatigue mechanic that limited relief pitchers where facing even one batter would leave them out of gas. With this new rule implemented into MLB The Show 20, the fatigue mechanic allows for your relief pitcher to last a little longer without getting too wore out. This was a fear of ours going into this season’s edition of the game, but it was a fear unwarranted. Another new change to pitching is that you can choose who you want to pitch and it is no longer a pitching roulette. When playing in Conquest mode, the pitcher you face is determined by where your pitcher is in your rotation, so if you never use your ace, you’ll never face theirs.

Team Affinity and the Face of a Franchise

We all probably have our own favorite baseball team (Texas for me) and if you want everything associated with your favorite, you can work through that team’s Affinity Program to unlock icons, nameplates, their stadium (hello Globe Life Field), and eventually the all new Face of the Franchise card. These cards are all Diamonds and all are worth the time needed to earn them, even if you aren’t a fan of that team. Whether it’s the 2-way monster Ohtani from Anahein or the powerful Gallo from Texas, or anyone else, all 30 of these guys would be a welcome addition to any team. These aren’t Live Series cards, but are special edition cards just for Face of the Franchise.

Conquest and Rewards Galore

Another returning fan favorite of MLB The Show 20 is Conquest mode. This is a map based, strategy type of game that will have you stealing fans, capturing spots, and eventually capturing a team’s stronghold. Last year’s game saw 21 different Conquest maps, and a ton and a half of goodies of packs, stubbs, bonus cards, and XP. Each conquest map has a set of goals to achieve, and some are better than others, but all of them are worth your time. MLB The Show 20 starts out with 3 maps that will reward you with a silver Tim Tebow Prospect card, some Program stars, or a Gold Frank Thomas card and a Diamond Willie Mays card.  You’ll also earn Program stars just for playing through the 3 inning games, so it’s a win-win situation. You’ll need a decent Diamond Dynasty team to be competitive, so keep that in mind.

Showdown

New to MLB The Show this season is Showdown mode. In this mode you’ll draft a team that will consist of a few Diamond cards, a few Gold cards, and then filled out with Silver, Bronze, and Common cards. You’ll get to choose between Diamonds and Golds, which will determine if you’ll have a hitting machine team or a shut down team. You’ll also get to choose a few perks that can help you perform better and are the same ones available in RTTS mode. These cards are only yours temporarily, so try no to get to attached.

Showdown mode is played through multiple rounds of challenges and every time you are successful, you’ll be given more cards and perks to choose from, and you may make the Final Showdown a little easier. For example, the Starter Showdown leads to the finale of facing off against Mad Max Scherzer down by 4 runs and needing to take the lead within 20 outs to win. We were successful in all but one challenge and the final battle started out with us only down by 1. We picked up 3 runs just by completing several of the challenges making Mad Max a little easier to defeat. Having a 95 Trout, a 90 Bellinger, and a 85 Altuve helped as well.

Custom Leagues

For those that want to play online with a group of friends, Custom Leagues is here. You can set if you want to be  relaxed or competitive, how many teams, how many innings per game, live rosters of Diamond Dynasty rosters, how many games you want to play, how many teams make the Post Season, and how long those Post Season games are. This is a great way to test out your skills against a group of friends, and maybe even try out your Diamond Dynasty team against them.

Perfect/Perfect Hitting

New to MLB The Show 20 is Perfect/Perfect hitting. After going through many at bats and nailing a few of these Perfect/Perfect swings, it really is a rewarding mechanic when you can nail that perfect swing with perfect timing. It doesn’t always result in a hit or a dinger, but the ball is really moving off the bat. We have noticed that if you do square up a perfect hit and it turns into an out, you can almost expect a highlight real play to make it so.

Developer SIE San Diego Studio has taken a baseball video game and made it into the premiere sports RPG that all other sports games should strive to be. No other franchise takes that in depth look into the life of a minor leaguer or semi-professional and their progression towards the next level that MLB The Show 20 does, and that’s just one aspect of the game. Historians of baseball should flock to this title and its Diamond Dynasty mode just to meet the greats of the past, as well as the greats of the now and the future.

Every year we get a new game, and every year we are shocked at the improvements. What more can you do SDS? Surprise me!

10


MLB The Show 20 review code provided by publisher and reviewed on a PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read What our review scores really mean.