It’s April, which means its time to strap up your cleats and hit the diamond with a new with MLB The Show 20. Let’s take a look at whether or not the 15th anniversary of the PlayStation exclusive has what it takes to best previous outings.
MLB The Show 20 PS4 Review
This Year’s Big-Hitting Changes
As per usual, MLB The Show 20 manages to build upon an already stellar, polished gem of a franchise that’s known for its quality. The changes to this year’s edition are subtle yet broad enough in scope to ensure excitement from players that have been with the franchise for a while.
Namely, the game’s A.I. and underlying game engine have been completely overhauled for an all-new, much more authentic experience. Gameplay changes include revamped defensive gameplay mechanics. These mechanics take the defensive changes introduced in MLB The Show 19 a step further by improving how well the A.I. fielders react and perform in relation to the player’s statistics. A good fielder is going to get a good read and jump on a bullet line-drive, whereas a lower skilled fielder may produce and error or clumsily fumble the ball during a crucial moment.
A major improvement to the batting system this year is the brand new ‘Perfect-Perfect’ swing mechanic. This mechanic rewards players with a ‘Perfect-Perfect’ hit when the batter pairs a perfectly timed swing with perfect contact. It is very gratifying, and I think it better rewards a player’s natural skill level in a meaningful way.
Also making an introduction is the PCI Perfect Region (Zone batting only though) which is represented by three dots centered within the PCI. Lining up an incoming pitch with one of these dots executes a Perfect Flyball (top), Perfect Liner (middle) or Perfect Grounder (bottom). Physics dictate this to have always been the case when batting prior to MLB The Show 20, but now there are nice visual elements to help you dial into the perfect swing.
Finally, with MLB The Show 20 we see the inclusion of much-anticipated Custom Leagues. These custom multi-season leagues can accommodate up to eight players. If you’re creating a league, you can make the league invite-only to restrict access to just your friends, or you can leave it open for anyone online to join.
The Main Attractions Are Even Better
The Diamond Dynasty, Franchise, and Road to the Show modes, arguably the main attractions, are better than ever with notable improvements to each.
For those unfamiliar with MLB The Show’s Diamond Dynasty mode, it’s a card-based fantasy team building mode similar to the Ultimate Team Modes found in a plethora of EA sports titles. Collect packs of cards (players) and use the players in those packs to build the best fantasy team possible to compete online against other players’ teams. There are a variety of new challenges for you to complete in exchange for rewards which you then use to further bolster your lineup. You play, collect, build and repeat. It’s very addicting and wildly popular.
The notable addition to Diamond Dynasty this year is the new Showdown mini-mode within it. The new Showdown mode begins with you drafting a few key players to build your squad around. With each round of the 10-round draft you play, you’ll earn perks and players, and more draft rounds to help further grow your team. A showdown with a legendary pitcher awaits you in the final round. If you emerge the victor, you’ll be awarded a handsome sum of Program Progress points, Stubs, XP and card packs which you can then apply to your DD team.
Franchise mode is a mode that lets you create a team like in Diamond Dynasty mode, but you are in absolute control over how the team is run. You can customize everything to your liking or you can let the computer manage it all while you focus on playing ball. You are in control.
For the first time ever, MLB The Show 20 features a fully licensed Minor League Baseball roster including player names and their likeness in the game. This is sure to add to the realism of the Franchise mode by reducing the number of generic players you’ll see. Also new to the mode this year are the team and logo creation tools which have been carried over from Diamond Dynasty mode. You will need them because now you can relocate your franchise anywhere you like and use the new logo creation tools to rebrand them as you see fit. The possibilities are endless!
The Road to the Show (RTTS) mode has been a beloved staple of the franchise for years. It’s a created-player centric mode that follows your journey from the minors to the big league and, with some luck, ascension to the coveted Hall of Fame. All gameplay is squarely centered around your created player and the position they play. If you’re a left fielder, you are going to bat and field the occasional ball hit to left field. Everything else is simulated.
The only additions to RTTS this year are the new dynamic on-field relationships and inclusion of multiple dynamic challenges. Performing double-plays and the like now build up an ability to become “bros” with certain teammates. It is a nice touch but doesn’t really elevate the mode in a significant way. As always, you can import your previous year’s RTTS saved game into the latest title which has always been much appreciated.
From March to October, And Beyond!
The March to October mode is a bit of a newcomer to the franchise with its introduction in MLB The Show 19. It essentially serves as a Season mode that has always been curiously missing from MLB The Show titles until now. Yes, there is Road to the Show and Franchise modes, which are similar in ways, but it’s not the same in terms of just focusing on playing through a season.
You begin by choosing a tier (such as dynasty teams, wild card, etc.) then team within that tier. Once you choose a team, a slick hype reel breaks down the key players and highlights of your franchise. You play key moments and innings from select games spanning March to October similar to Road to the Show, but you’re typically not relegated to controlling just one player, although you could be for a particular moment.
You must capitalize on these moments to earn momentum, which influence your team’s performance during simulated innings and games. You’ll want to keep your momentum high so that even when you’re not playing, your team is still performing well on your behalf. Hopefully the overall team effort is enough to propel you to the postseason.
Making its debut is a new Trade Management hub that allows you to influence the types of trade offers you’ll receive. There’s also a much wider variety of unique game situations for your team to overcome than last year. The mode is loads of fun and fast becoming my go-to for a quick game of ball.
Rounding Out The Bases
As always, MLB The Show features several mini-game modes that round out the game. Although no new modes have been introduced this year, you can still expect to find staples such as Home Run Derby®, Postseason™, and Retro Mode. Each of these are pretty self-explanatory even if you are a newcomer to the franchise.
Challenge of the Week and Moments (which has been moved to Mini Modes in MLB The Show 20) are also back in all their glory. Sadly, they are near carbon-copies of last year’s outing without any perceivable changes, but maybe that’s because both are so much fun, they don’t need any. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right?
The aim of the Moments mode is to achieve a specific set of criteria in a unique game scenario. This could be pitching a no hitter including one strike-out over the course of an inning, or cranking a grand-slam in a two-out, bases loaded situation. It’s similar to Road to the Show mode in that you play as one specific player, but the player is a real-life player in specific real-world situation. Successfully achieving the goal(s) of a moment, unlock various rewards.
Challenge of the Week mode on the other hand, is like a modified Home Run Derby with online leaderboards and real-life rewards. You have three outs to hit as many balls as possible in an effort to rack up the highest score. You are awarded points with every hit and ball which also raises your momentum (points) multiplier. Basically, as long as you don’t strike out (but fouls still count as strikes,) you keep batting until you do. In the meantime, you’re racking up as many points as humanly possible. It’s super addicting, and the lure of real-world prizes give extra incentive to “try just one more time.”
In short, everything is largely unchanged from last year with the exception of new moments to be played in Moments mode. But, in all fairness, nothing here really needs changing. That said, all modes do benefit from the new animations and game engine, so there’s that, which is better than nothing.
It’s All In The Details
There are lots of minor improvements to this game too. For starters, folks at San Diego Studio somehow managed to add 1300 new animations. It’s instantly noticeable. Especially in the crowd where it seemed there were maybe 6-8 animations the entire crowd shared. Now, it appears to be closer to 20-30. Some fans eat hot dogs, some look behind them, others drink beers as they cross their legs. In sum, the crowd looks and sounds (more on this soon) much more life-like.
It’s a subtle change that doesn’t directly affect gameplay, yet makes gameplay more immersive. And that’s not even mentioning the new animations afforded to those on the field. Player movements also feel much more natural and fluid this time around. There are subtleties to movements and mannerisms that make everything feel more organic.
UI is a lot cleaner, easier to optically separate from the extremely detailed playing field. Could be due to this year’s flatter design language, which eschews many of the gradient’s found in last year’s outing.
Cameras throughout the game have been noticeably improved. For example, the camera will now pan and zoom along the baseline keeping the action in close view as you attempt to leg it out in a tight race to first base. Several new individual and team celebrations have also been added to give provide more flair and authenticity to the game’s already fantastic presentation.
The Ballpark Never Sounded So Good
Audiophiles will happy to hear that the ballpark in MLB The Show 20 sounds better than ever. You’ll be draped in ambient music echoing throughout the field, chants from a section of the crowd over by third base, normal omni-directional indistinct chatter.
You will even hear random cheering and booing ebbing, flowing and moving throughout the crowd like a sentient life form of its own, not to mention some indistinguishable announcements just out of earshot by the concessions. All of these sounds are constantly overlapping to great effect.
In short, the sound design in MLB The Show 20 is incredible and a noticeable improvement over the previous installments. Quite possibly the best I’ve ever heard in a sports game. It is enveloping, impactful and completely immersive. It truly sounds and feels like you’re at a crowded, lively ballpark on a Saturday afternoon instead of at home alone on your couch on a Tuesday night.
MLB The Show 20 hit the field March 17, 2020 exclusively on PlayStation 4.
Review code kindly provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment.