MLB The Show 20 review for PS4

Platform: PS4
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: SIE San Diego
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes

Even though MLB The Show is far and away my all-time most-played franchise, I?ve got to admit that I was feeling kind of indifferent towards the game going into into MLB The Show 20. Some of this, of course, is because, like every other sports league in the world at the time of this writing, we have no idea when games will start again, which makes it hard to get that excited about baseball.

Even before that, however, I was feeling kind of ?meh? on the whole thing, in part for reasons largely outside of the MLB The Show?s control. The current MLB commissioner doesn?t seem to like the sport very much, and seems set on pushing the league towards some kind of confrontation with players. The league?s treatment of minor league players is abysmal, and the way they?re trying to reduce the number of minor league teams seems counter to getting more eyeballs on the game. I wasn?t even going to be able to watch many games this year, on account of the fact my favourite team decided to black out their games across Canada. Couple all that with the fact that MLB The Show games seen to follow a pattern of only making substantial improvements every other year — with some big new modes debuting in last year?s game — and you can see why I may have gone into MLB The Show 20 with a distinct lack of enthusiasm.

What sustained my lack of enthusiasm even after I sank several hours into the game, though, is that MLB The Show 20 feels even more like a roster update than usual. This shouldn?t come as a huge surprise: after all, the top new feature on the game?s own website is ?Gameplay Engine & AI Overhaul.? That?s important, I guess (and, to be fair, the ball does seem to come off the bat better than it did last year), but it hardly seems like the kind of thing you hang your hat on.

But for the most part, MLB The Show 20 is more tweaks than anything else. You can set up a custom online league, and Diamond Dynasty has added in another mode, Showdown, to get you to spend more money in-game offer you more opportunities to build up your teams. If you?re into those things — and, truth be told, I?m not — that?s cool, but neither does anything to make MLB The Show 20 feel like the kind of really big step forward it needs.

In fact, as far as Diamond Dynasty goes, I was kind of dismayed to see that last year?s Moments mode — where you get to play famous moments in baseball history — took a step back. Last year, the game made an effort to kind of tie things in to baseball history. This year, by contrast, it just seems lazy, simply dumping one or two famous players into the modern rosters, making the screen black-and-white if it?s a particularly old moment, and calling it a day. If you were being charitable, I guess, you might see it as the game trying to settle the debate of ?What if old players like Mickey Mantle were competing in the modern era? Would they be as good?? More likely, though, you?ll just see it as the game throwing in a new mode last year and then keeping it in just out of habit.

You can see the same kind of copy-paste jobs all over MLB The Show 20. Road to the Show — which, up until last year, was always my most-played mode — is, as far as I can tell, identical to last year?s version, notwithstanding promises that this year?s version is more RPG-like than ever. Maybe I?ve just played far, far too much of RTTS over the last decade, but I can?t say that I noticed anything all that new or different (or interesting).

The Franchise mode is equally frustrating. The game makes a slight nod towards innovation by letting you replace an existing team with a new one of your own creation, but you?ll soon find that it?s nowhere near as fun as it seems. There are some tools for customizing the look of your new team, but if, say, you wanted to replace the Rays with the Expos, you?d soon see that no one in the game?s community has quite figured out how to perfectly recreate their iconic logo — and, unfortunately, the game didn?t feel like simply including a few logos out of the box. On top of that, instead of allowing you to create a new stadium, you?re stuck in the same park of the team you?ve replaced, which lessens a lot of the appeal. Personally, I?m still wishing MLB The Show would take a page from other sports games (or even one of my all-time favourite games, All-Star Baseball 2004) and let you start a full expansion mode and build your team from the ground up, but that; I guess, isn?t in the cards.

I will grudgingly admit, at least, that this year?s March to October is a step up from last year?s version. While it?s mostly the same — you play key moments over the course of a season — at least this year you get to play around with the rosters a little, setting your trade targets and identifying where you want your team to improve. It?s not exactly a huge step up, but as someone who loves roster tinkering, I appreciate that I could at least do a bit of it.

One interesting mode, however, doesn?t make for a must-play game. Don?t get me wrong, MLB The Show 20 is still very solid. I have no doubt that it?ll probably be my most-played game of this coming year, like it has been every year for the past ten years or so. It?s a good enough game this year, like it was a good enough game last year, like it was a good enough game in 2018, like I?m sure it?ll be a good enough game in 2021 on the PS5. But considering that MLB The Show was once the gold-standard for sports games, simply being good enough seems like a lot of wasted potential.

Sony provided us with a MLB The Show 20 PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: B-